Summer Art Chronicles: Arles, Puglia and Milan – Virginie Puertolas-Syn

Arles - Ouka Leele

I love summer not only because of the weather but although because it’s a great time to venture to new territories to discover and to encounter new talents, fresh ideas. As the Autumn season begins in London here are some highlights from my Summer travels.

So I started my summer art journey in Arles, for the opening week of Les Rencontres Photographiques.

It was the 50th anniversary this year. Being the largest photography festival in the world, Arles is always an enchanting destination. It is a firework of artists from all countries and multiple generations, with both iconic or new talents. During the opening week – the first week of July – Arles becomes an Art village where everyone meets at cafés and restaurant terrasses. Le Galoubet is always my favourite spot. This year again Arles did not disappoint me.

At the gothic 15th-century church des Frères Prêcheurs, I was taken by the sensitivity of Philippe Chancel’s exhibition exploring the ecological trauma.

At the Movida exhibition in the Palais de l’Archeveche, I absolutely loved the creative and playful work of Ouka Leele (Top Photo). With her surrealist touch, the flashy and saturated colours, the Madrilene photographer offers us a breath of fresh air, full of life and poetry.

I first discovered Mohamed Bourouissa at the Dynasty exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo in 2010 and really liked “Free Trade”, his exhibition at Monoprix in Arles. It encompasses 15 years of research on economic relationships in society and challenges the stereotypes on unemployment in the suburbs.

Arles offers lots of opportunities to discover young talent and this year, the Prix de la decouverte Roederer had an excellent selection of young artists including Mate Bartha whose Kontakt series explores military-themed summer camps in Hungary. There is a strong tension in each picture between violence and aesthetics.

Arles - Laure Tiberghien winner of Prix de la découverte Roederer
Arles – Laure Tiberghien winner of Prix de la découverte Roederer

Laure Tiberghien won the 2019 Louis Roederer Discovery Award with photographs obtained without a camera, by combining chemicals, light and time – they seem to capture the non-visible world and have a strong painting feel to them.

Later in July, in another beautiful part of Europe, I attended the opening of Progetto, a newly-opened Artspace in the Baroque city of Lecce, Italy. The New York artist Jamie Sneider raised over US$16,000 on Kickstarter and decided to open a 2,300 square feet residency/ exhibition space in a historical building from the 16th century in an ancient Jewish palazzo. Ektor Garcia from Mexico and New York was the first artist-in-residence. Garcia spent a month’s residency in Puglia and put together a stunning yet delicate show “ Fortaleza”. He bridges the Mexican and Pugliese tradition of ceramics and textiles. Garcia’s copper crocheted sculptures seem to reflect the labyrinth of his thoughts and meditations, following him from one city (he started making them in New York) to another, Lecce. He explored different materials such as the clay from Grottaglie, a ceramic village, to make fragile and metaphorical terracotta sculptures like his piece, Cadena Perpetua II: clay chains, an oxymoron, fragile yet full of strength.

Progetto - Ektor Garcia
Progetto – Ektor Garcia

Chefs are artists in their own right and I did not want to leave Lecce without a dinner at Bro’s restaurant run by the glamorous chef couple Florian Pelligrano and Isabella Poti. It was creative, delicious and truly artistic!

Further south, Domus is another exciting project in Puglia. The not-for-profit project is run by the Italian artists based in Paris, Romina De Novellis (performance artist) and Mauro Bordin (painter and photographer). Both work around the theme of the Mediterranean, political, sociological and anthropological issues. Domus is a space dedicated to female artists where artists and curators meet and work on a common research project. The central theme of the residency is the study of the phenomenon of “Tarantismo”: women bitten by tarantula who suffer from hysteria, crystallising the suffering these women face in a patriarchal society. Romina and Mauro have built up an incredible network of artists, curators, collectors, academics and supporters who meet in the heat of the Salento summer to exchange, investigate and initiate a creative encounter. While sharing the delicious food of Puglia, we discussed the Tarantismo and how it still is a theme for contemporary artists. I enjoyed the discussion with artist Nadia Kaabi-Linke, a Tunisian-Ukrainian artist based in Berlin. Domus offers a rare opportunity to explore and reflect on the artistic journey of both an artist and a curator without the pressure of the production of a physical art object. It is an artistic oasis.

I finished my Italian adventure in Milan at the Prada Foundation, which presented the complete retrospective of films by Ryan Trecartin following the exhibition project “Whether Line “ by Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin. I had discovered their work at Massimiliano Gioni’s Venice Biennale in 2013. Witty, terrifying and full of dark humour, their work investigates the impact of social networks, reality TV on today’s world, our behaviour and language. I was fascinated, slightly worried and genuinely disturbed by their parody of our society. There is something uncompromising and uncanny in their work that reminded me of Louise Bourgeois, who was also exhibited at the Foundation.

“Tout à une fin” and I had to leave the Italian’s sun to go back to London and get ready for the Istanbul Biennale.

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