Fears and False Aspirations
Muka Gallery, Auckland New Zealand, 1999
Giuseppe Romeo’s latest exhibition features works, which physically as well as metaphorically operate as mirrors. But though he holds his mirrors up to his audience he refuses to grant them the expected full reflection.
If we are to see ourselves in these mirrors we will have to look through, not in them.
Humans have an unequalled fascination with mirrors, the opportunity to check one’s reflection is rarely missed. If our external projection is cause for obsession and insecurity our internal being is all the more so.
The “mirrors” we look to for reassurance in the latter case may be religion, institutions, the Sunday morning horoscope, or perhaps, art. “Is my soul in place?”
Romeo bounces back an image of the physical-spiritual mirror whether it be through a covering of soot or, more subtly through appropriation and subversion of familiar symbols.
For this exhibition Giuseppe Romeo, has used actual mirrors, blackened with a velvety layer of soot. Latin and Italianate phrases are inscribed on these, allowing just a glimpse of the reflection beyond. The writing – unintelligible to most of us- draws on the security of an authoritative Scripture, yet through it we see only what? Our own reflection.
The works suggest that the answer we find is in fact the reflection of self we ourselves place there and perceive.
The two sculpture/installations reflect in a different manner. The first of these – “The Victory of Darkness over Light” – appears to be a softly poetic, quasi-religious piece. Burnt out candles are lit by a light source from beneath. It is easily interpreted as reflective of a religious faith; the superiority of spiritual existence, light shining on though the candle has been extinguished.
The title is the reverse of what we would expect. This boxed in light is contained within the wax of others’ “lives”. This is an imprisoned spirit, not a free one. The light is small in relation to the surrounding darkness. Eventually darkness wins over light.
The second piece – “Fears and False Aspirations”- features a table clad in wine-stained cloth crossed by similarly clad ladders extending both above and below.
The table is immediately reminiscent of the “Last Supper” except that there are no participants to this supper. Te scene is eerily deserted. Only traces of an act of Fait are left, and these traces lead down as well as up. The installation appears to suggest that the sacrifice led equally to Hell as it did to Heaven with no distinction but gravity, convention and the viewer between them.
Romeo’s message is provocative but presented in such a simple -almost Puritan- aesthetic manner as to be undeniably compelling. The works impress themselves concretely, they pose a physical reality that challenges the existence of a single objective truth.