The art of Piranesi

Entering this exhibition is like walking into one of Piranesi’s works. Dark, moody, extravagant – I am not really sure where to look first or what I will discover. Walls upon walls of his etchings hang in soft pools of light. They draw me in close, into Piranesi’s world of antiquities and what a place it is. Ruined and overrun, it is still beautiful, fragile yet enduring. Piranesi’s works capture my imagination because he has taken the fragments of great and wondrous civilizations and extrapolated upon them to create a body of work that can be viewed both as documentary evidence and artistic creation.

At the centre of the first room, I sit in front of an animation of Piranesi’s ‘Carceri’ series. It is like entering the mind of Piranesi. It is an exhilarating experience. Continuing into the second room I discover a selection of Piranesi’s more elaborate and creative design objects realised to his exact specifications. A fireplace, teapot, candelabra… The technology used to create these works is worthy of an exhibition of its own.

The upper level of the exhibition finishes with a series of photographic works by Gabriele Basilico. Iconic images of Rome are contrasted with those created by Piranesi. Images of the same iconic ruins, one created now and one 250 years ago – not only does this allow me to see the simultaneous creativity and realism of Piranesi’s work but forces me to contemplate how time is inconsequential for the great structures of humanity.

More often than not, recent exhibitions I have visited have left me feeling like I have not been satisfied – I am hungry for more and disappointed that the exhibition did not go to that next level, whatever that might be. To see such a complete collection of works from one artist is inspiring. Piranesi was extremely prolific and each one of his works is worth investigating. This exhibition gave me the opportunity to explore his works through numerous means and left me feeling like I had actually inhabited Piranesi’s world for an hour or two.

Exhibition location: Sale del Convitto, Isola di San Giorgio Maggiore, Venezia 2010.

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