Francesco Clemente: Winter Flowers
Opening 20 May 2021
40 Albemarle Street, London W1S 4TE
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 this enterprise since the earliest days of Clemente’s career, be it in the form of ornamental vegetation or symbolically redolent perennials.
The Winter Flowers series comprise large-scale representations of flowers, whose 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, for which a careful selection of plant and vegetable pigments were used. This choice of materials mandated a slow execution in several phases, impregnating the works with a contemplative, spiritual energy. Taking form, the paintings’ relation to the winter season would become consonant with a deliberation by the artist on old age—evoking the traditional use of the flower in vanitas paintings as objects of temporary beauty. Yet, decay plays no role in Clemente’s affirming images and philosophy, which linger instead on the irreducible joy that characterizes all stages of life.