Francesco Clemente: Winter Flowers
Lévy Gorvy, London
May 20 - June 22, 2021
Informed by such diverse practices as Beat poetry, the Tantra traditions of India and Tibet, the ritualism of Joseph Beuys, and Greco-Roman art, Francesco Clemente has forged a singular career that seeks intercultural resonance. Throughout his oeuvre, the artist combines the commonplace and the fantastical, contemporary impressions and ancient mythologies, using figurative imagery that interweaves the natural and the surreal, personal experiences and collective imaginings. Botanical motifs have been central to his creative energies since the earliest days of Clemente’s career, continuing through Winter Flowers (2021) at Lévy Gorvy, London.
The Winter Flowers series comprises large-scale representations of flora. Petals fill the space of the canvas in an oscillating display of color and texture. Painted between 2010 and 2016, this cycle of ten works was born through a collaboration with the artist’s wife, Alba Primiceri, an actress and choreographer. One winter, Alba brought an assortment of flowers to the studio in New York, plucked from parks and flowerbeds despite the cold. Inspired by the resilience of their beauty, Clemente embarked on a new series of paintings, carefully selecting plant and vegetable pigments to employ. This choice of materials mandated a slow execution in several phases, imbuing the works with a contemplative, spiritual energy. The relationship of the works to the winter season would become consonant with the artist’s reflections on aging—evoking the traditional use of the flower in vanitas paintings as symbols of temporary beauty. Yet, decay plays no role in Clemente’s affirming images and philosophy, which linger instead on the joy that characterizes all stages of life.