The alcoves of Southwark hold a nice little gem, The Underdog Art Gallery, which is presently hosting DWAM, a solo show by London-based Sardinian artist Gianluca Pisano. The gallery sells this as a display of paintings that “acknowledge the ‘old masters’ but with a mindset firmly planted in the 21st century” and it is certainly a collection that adheres to the older principle of technical mastery that seems an absent theme in the loose and chimerical term ‘modern art’.
Arresting for its strangeness
The paintings have an innate fleshiness to them, cast in waxy hues and with immaculate detail on the folds and flaps of skin. Pisano does do landscapes and still life but the images on display here are largely dedicated to strange and symbolic figures. There’s a variety on offer amongst these painting which include classical references with Icarus and oracles amongst others, symbolic archetypes with the seasons rendered as four nudes, and characters from the pagan Sardinian traditions.
What is recurrent through all of these is an element of the grotesque. Whether it be subtle, like simply the emphasis on the creased and worn skin of an elderly angel, or explicit, like the impossible dimensions of bulbous and contorted bodies, the characters on display often have something of the carnival freak about them. The appeal in looking is to see something not often on display and arresting for its strangeness.
A carnival of bizarre and beautifully rendered figures
Talking to Pisano himself, he revealed that he viewed himself more as a ‘painter’ than an ‘artist’ per se. His paintings are not an exercise in statements, though you are of course welcome to interpret as you see fit, but attempts to capture images of fascination and above all to paint them well. Pisano is quite self-effacing on his art, he always wants to go back and fix something as none of his paintings are ever perfectly finished, just simply abandoned, but his ethos of technical mastery does shine through and his choice of subject matter certainly does arrest.
The Underdog Gallery is currently replete with a carnival of bizarre and beautifully rendered figures that Pisano has provided and it is outside the typical wheel-house of modern pictorial output.
The DWAM show is on at the Underdog Gallery until 28th Feburary.