Mattia Barbieri

The Butter Monk

Opening reception: Wednesday, January 9th, 6-8pm
Exhibition dates: January 10th - February 17th, 2019

Pablo’s Birthday announces the second solo show of Mattia Barbieri at the gallery, The Butter Monk.

The new works of Mattia Barbieri can be read on several different levels. Expressed in flat and vibrant colors on soft modulating backgrounds, the surface story is one in which we see elegantly balanced still life’s - various containers are staged with arrangements of stems, branches, and leaves in a mannered way. As we continue to look, the displaced staging of the scenes, along with the repetition of the motif, lead to a more metaphorical reading. This is where we meet with Barbieri’s true intention.

In the making of the these works Barbieri was inspired both by the Japanese Zen practice of Ikebana, and that of Medieval Alchemy. These traditions commonly share the essential use of the vessel, both as a tool in their practice, and as a potent metaphysical symbol. 

Ikebana, translated as, “Giving life to Flowers”, is a Zen Flower arranging art of refinement dating back to the 7th century. More than simply putting flowers in a container, Ikebana is a disciplined art that expresses Buddhist philosophy, aesthetically and symbolically. For Barbieri, his understanding of this practice serves as a touchstone for his own expression, placing himself into the monks’ perspective to translate his intention into the action of painting.

While Alchemy is a practical science and forbearer of modern chemistry, its symbolism is understood by psychologists such as Carl Jung to represent esoteric spiritual principles. Transmutation of lead into gold is presented as an animistic analogy for personal psychic transformation and purification. All the processing taking place within a vessel that can be seen as a metaphor for consciousness.

Since the beginning Barbieri has deemed his practice as research into the pictorial medium, a reflection about the image and its potentialities. What is the meaning of the artistic act? Of making a mark or representing a story? Therefore his investigations look to the process itself. In previous series, a more overtly Meta position was evident in that he was in part directly painting about painting - making references about the process, materiality, history, and forms - thus, about seeing, about representation, or about expression.

Here, with these paintings of The Butter Monk, Barbieri’s fascination with artistic agency takes on a new aspect as the act comes via the embodiment of a way, to which the painting is in service. 

Mattia Barbieri was born in 1985, Brescia, Italy, and graduated from The Academy of Fine Arts of Brera, Milan. He currently lives and works between Milan and New York. Barbieri is the 2012 winner of the Premio Lissone Award from the Museum of Contemporary Art Lissone. His work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions widely in Europe.