Leonardo Meoni (Florence, 1994) is a young, emerging artist who has developed a visual language that borrows from the figurative tradition as well as the media. This exhibition gathers a selection of recent works belonging to the Velluti and the Concrete Tapestry series, both realised between 2019 and 2020. The artist’s exploration of the relationship between time, memory, and the image, together with the use of tapestry as the main medium for his work are the recurring features in all of the works displayed.
In the series of Velluti (Velvets), Meoni’s experimental approach to painting goes beyond the pictorial context to express itself in a very original way. The artist works directly with his fingers on the soft and shiny surface of large monochromatic textures. The dense pile bends under the calibrated pressure of the palm and of the fingertips, opening into bold lines and iridescent shadows, which come alive with the passage of light. Impressions of faint, intimate, latent images - with an aesthetic reminiscent of vintage negatives - effuse beyond the fabric with great emotional resonance.
In works such as Palms and Trees, Meoni reiterates sources taken from the mass media’s universe, however, he strips them of attributes and references that allow clear identification. Snap-shots of places that no longer exist - torn apart or completely destroyed by the ravages of war, environmental destruction, natural catastrophes, or due to the passing of time - are turned into nebulous portraits and rarefied atmospheres, where chromatic richness, details, and nuances have been softened in favour of a compositional synthesis that leaves ample room for the emotional impact of the image.
The great architectures of the past also capture the artist’s attention and become the subject of his investigation into the permanence of memory in a post-medial era saturated with images. The remains of decorative elements developing into beautiful geometric and floral motifs are depicted in the works titled Ruins, using bright yellow, pink and green. While a deep blue velvet has been chosen for the splendid Palmira. One of the main symbols of the ancient Syrian city, The Monumental Arch stands in all its grandeur. Suddenly, we find ourselves in front of a mirage in the open desert, a night view of ghostly remains, staring at this imposing testimony of magnificence and ancient splendor. Its recent and dramatic devastation has not been able to diminish its great fascination, which is lasting for over a thousand years.
The compelling experience offered by the medium of velvet continues with the works Rainbow, Raining, Mud e Fireflies, characterised by greater freedom and immediacy of line, that results in drawings reminiscent of medieval depictions, cave paintings, or that seem to draw from the alchemical repertoire. Even in these works, however, the emphasis does not seem to be so much on the narrative potential of the depiction as on the visual fascination caused by the images.
The Concrete Tapestry series consists of fifteen readymades, in which Gobelin tapestries displaying bucolic scenes are covered with a thick and lumpy mixture of cement. Meoni applies the concrete to the fabric in different ways, sometimes covering large portions of the scene represented, in other cases following the outlines of the figures or, again, spreading the cement in wide horizontal bands, that reveal only a few details of the original composition. The use of the concrete as a metaphor for the constant advancement of urbanisation, which characterises our present times, invites the viewer to reflect not only on the loss of those places that guard the physiognomy and the morphological identity of our recent past but also on the consequent loss of memory and values embedded in that rural identity.
The irreversible, unbridled dynamics of the urban expansion that engulfs the countryside into the city crystallises into the magmatic grey present of the peripheral non-place, where the greatness of the past at times still breaks the monotonous decadence of the alienating building. Meoni’s Concrete Tapestries are poetic portraits of an incipient post-modernity, a temporal limbo where the past is slowly eroded by a future under construction.