The Billowing Flag
Span Gallery, Melbourne, Australia, 2004
Giuseppe Romeo’s constructions are no different from other human constructs if perhaps a bit more honest. Ever a voyeur he places the viewers in his looking glass. These are the moving figures in his soot landscape. He reflects rather than represents. Each work mirrors another and catches the audience in doing so. Enter the room and there is an immediate complicity. Willing or otherwise. Original sin. Artifice.
Romeo brings his own cultural framework to an examination of the current world situation. This in turn gives occasion for retrospective evaluation of past transgressions as part of a living heritage.The only comment extended is a sixteenth century inquisitor’s reminder to his colleagues. This work is global, not situation specific, though its interpretation/application can be. And while their presentation suggests a particular political orientation the works themselves are neutral. The audience is allowed its own value judgement – but not without firmly being placed in the picture. The blood seeping between the blood brothers’ lines is equally that of the Anzac history as it is of the more recent conflicts. Equally that of the “enemy” as it is our own. Blood is blood.
Romeo contrasts “clean” lines with vague impressions, greasy fingerstains and scrawls. White colonial window frames close on the grime ostensibly shutting it out of the sanitised gallery/personal space. Meanwhile a faceless, handless yet manipulative non-presence pulls at the strings of the screen. Only a malignant visual lullaby keeps the bogey man out.
Step close enough and…looking out -looking in- through the cracks, is not the bogeyman, but the viewer. A glimpse of ourselves in the alienated other.
Giuseppe Romeo reminds us that life –and death- are messy. The ideologue’s antiseptically drawn lines cut into blood and soot. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, the grime of our remnants, our carbon backbone. What’s left of smoke is not fire but charred remains.
Mediaeval theologians railed against the mirror as an invention for fear that it was able to house the devil and that people, mesmerised by their reflection would be committing a cardinal sin. A fairy tale from the same period recounts the loss of reflection by a man who has sold his soul to the devil for material gain. Whichever the case perhaps there is reason to be afraid.
Being in no man’s land places the viewer in the crossfire.