Voyage and Return

My thoughts wavered: my memories drifted by in quick succession: that delightfully seemed to submerge

and reappear in the distance now and then lucidly beyond the human, as if through a deep  mysterious

echo, within the infinite majesty of nature. Slowly gradually I was rising to the universal illusion: from the

depths of my being and of the earth, across the paths of the sky I followed mankind’s a dventurous 

 journey toward happiness through the centuries. Pampas, Dino Campana

 

Cooke Latham Gallery is delighted to present Voyage and Return, a solo exhibition by Siro Cugusi. The gallery space is dominated by three monumental paintings that explore the landscape genre and its symbolism. Untethered from any known reality, the paintings portray the dream-like topography of the unconscious. In many ways Arcadian vistas, the serenity of the subject matter is continually thrown into disarray; smooth ornamental imagery confronts painterly abstraction. As the viewer one is delighted by the balance of the compositions and yet unsettled by their continual disruption.


Cugusi has constructed a highly personalised visual language of new and archaic forms which he reconfigures continually to create his arresting imagery. The water is tufted into stylised waves, while the drama of the rocks dissolves into loose brushstrokes. The paintings are fleshy, pink proliferates, while red spheres like cherries provide surrealist punctuation to the compositions. Enigmatic shapes emerge from the painted surface and are subsumed back into it. "Reality is left behind and the rules of the universe bend."(Siro Cugusi, 2022)


The artist's practice also encompasses sculpture, and the organic and machine-like forms of Cugusi's sculptural works inform his painting. There is a chiselled weight to the trees, the waves, the hills, while the impasto of the paint's application has the tactility of a sculpted  surface. On occasion rocks morph into mathematical forms, trees ape geometry, merging or contrasting with the voluptuous Biomorphism of the landscapes.


Like the backdrops of the early Renaissance the works have a studied naivety. The craggy horizons and sculpted edges to the water are reminiscent of a stage set, the platform for the action within an Uccello or Giotto, except here, of course, the action is uncannily absent. The viewer has the impression of an artist who has mastered the pictorial rules of the genre only to purposefully abandon them.


In an era in which figurative painting proliferates Cugusi creates landscapes that feel radical within a genre often considered obsolete. Terrifyingly animate, his landscapes are portraits in their own right, 'living landscapes' rather than inert backdrops for human endeavour.