VICTOR MAN :
:IF MIND WERE ALL THERE WAS
7 October – 15 November
Romanian artist Victor Man’s paintings and arrangements of found objects meditate on memory as a faculty concerned not with a faded past, but an elusive, yet keenly felt, present. For the artist, the precise origins of his source material remain unimportant. No specific personal or political history is being archived here; indeed the prevalence of shadows, masks and averted visages in his work suggests a turning away from the careful (re)collection of facts.
In Man’s exhibition If Mind Were All There Was, the artist’s recent sighting of a piece of graffiti high up on a Piero della Francesca fresco in a church in Arezzo, Italy, operates as a springboard for a murky set of possible narratives about artistic paternity, failure and flight. Reading simply ‘Giuseppe Sacchi’, this graffiti may refer to an obscure 17th Century Baroque painter of the same name (son of the more famous Andrea Sacchi), who gave up art to become a mendicant monk, before dying young.
The surface of the concrete slab dominating the Project Space is pitted with holes that have been carefully filled with bird droppings, a substance that was traditionally used to split stone. Along the walls, Man’s dark paintings disclose a series of ambiguous, sometimes erotically charged scenes – a figure wearing a pantomime horse’s head, a man raising a woman’s skirt to reveal the stark whiteness of her underwear, a back fixed with a pair of makeshift angel’s wings – while the sculptural assemblage Faust (2008) suggests a unhappy pact made, as Goethe wrote in his play Faust (1806), in pursuit of ‘the true essence of life’.
In the back room, Man presents a projected found text, purporting to be ‘The True Confession of Giuseppe Sacchi, Sinner’, which gives an account of how Piero della Francesca’s fresco came to be vandalized. As with the motifs that feature in his paintings, the provenance of this text is left deliberately cloudy. Man’s work is an amnesiac vision, pointing to how loss and change may give rise to an awareness of the connectedness of all things.
Curator: Tom Morton
Victor Man (b.1974) lives and works in
Artist's pages at gladstonegallery.com
frieze magazine feature on Victor Man
Hayward Gallery / Southbank Centre website
Extract from: The True Confession of Giuseppe Sacchi, Sinner
…I was born the bastard son of Andrea Sacchi, painter of
Of my mother, I have little to say. A woman of peculiar piety, she sought to turn my father from Infamy, and in so doing sacrificed her own good name, in this life and the next. This, though, was not sufficient to direct my father towards a different path. Following my conception he returned, as he always did, to his beloved mentor Francesco Albani, dauber of lyric sweetness and fat-bummed cherubim. During my early years, it is rumoured that the two men conspired to create for themselves a son from stone, the child of their mutual artistry, and secreted him in some hidden spot high up among the rooftops of the City. Nothing more is known of this still boy (and I have searched for him, through patient enquiry and mad sweeps of moonlit streets), but those who credit his existence claim for him a beauty far in excess of that of mortal youth. No matter. If carve him my father did, he is now lost to History, familiar only to
My boyhood passed without great incident, save for odd waking dreams in which I would imagine myself borne up into the air as though by an invisible hand. Believing myself some new species of Angel, I consulted the images of these Beings that graced the City’s churches, and found that I shared neither their serenity, nor the proud wings that sprang from their backs. This was not to shake me in my conviction. The pigeon is needful of wings to fly, I reasoned, for it is a creature of our fallen Earth, but the Host is not comprised of pigeons, and visits us from a quite different realm. (Much later I would read the Hebrew Maimonides, and concur with him that an Angel is nothing but a bodiless Mind that sets the spheres in motion). The artist paints feathered Seraphim because he fancies himself a Natural Philosopher, or because he is a fool. These two Estates, I have learned, often walk hand in hand, fingers knotted, knuckles bloodless and bone-bright…