Acquired from the above by the present owner
Paolini is frequently associated with the Arte Povera movement, and, at the invitation of Germano Celant, he participated in a number of their exhibitions from 1967 to 1972 alongside artists such as Michelangelo Pistoletto, Giovanni Anselmo and Alighiero Boetti. Whilst Paolini similarly sought to exalt everyday materials in his practice, his artistic concerns were fundamentally distinct from the avant-garde group, for he was not so much interested in breaking with the past as acknowledging and exploring its intrinsic and inevitable impact on the present and the future. “Paolini strongly believes that the artwork is not necessarily rooted in personal expression of the self,” writes the curator of the Whitechapel Gallery Daniel Herrman, “but much rather a consequence of the history and the conditions of art that bring it about. He constantly questions our relationship as a beholder to the artwork and his relationship as the artist and author. He was one of the formative figures in the 1960s to question and overcome concepts of authorship” (Daniel Herrman cited in: ibid). Shrouded in mystery, Paolini’s self-reflexive practice contends with what it is to see, to understand, to reflect, and to create, shattering pictorial illusion to reveal the very artifice of art.
In Souvenir (V), the stretcher is adorned with a number of photographs taken on 16mm film which repeatedly depict a slim, male figure against a stark white background, his back to the photographer. Paolini often embeds subtle visual clues pertaining to his own identity in his work, and indeed the photographs pinned to the present work represent the artist himself: he appears as a faceless and shadowy presence reminiscent of René Magritte’s seminal painting Le Fils de l’Homme, 1964. The work is indeed Surrealist in nature, and its title, Souvenir (V), is a double entendre, referring at once to a holiday keepsake such as a postcard and to the French verb for ‘memory’. It is filled with snippets of fractured and dreamlike recollections: torn tourist postcards, ripped pages of books on art, photographs of outdoor spaces, and a haunting absence, bar the portraits of the artist, of human figures. In the centre is a list detailing a number of Paolini’s exhibited works, onto which one of the photographs of the artist has been playfully pinned, as if he were intently studying it. At the bottom right corner is a ripped print of a photograph taken by Paolini, its caption – the original title of the artwork – still intact. A borrowed quotation from Nietzsche, it becomes a poignant metaphor for Paolini’s artistic quest: “Et quid amabo nisi quod rerum enigma est?” it sonorously questions; “And what will I love if not the enigma of things?”
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