Barbara De Ponti and Jens Risch “FORMA MENTIS” at Viasaterna, Milan
The Viasaterna Gallery presents Forma Mentis, an exhibition project which brings together the work of Barbara De Ponti (Milan, 1975) and Jens Risch (Rudolstadt, Germany, 1973). For the first time in Milan, the exhibition presents, the latest project by Barbara De Ponti, Clay Time Code, and a series of works by the German artist Jens Risch, produced between 2011 and 2016. The two artists, similar in age and artistic practice, are the protagonists of an original dialogue which stems from the recognition of a single sensation which is implicit in their respective careers, characterised by an extreme rigour and coherence of method. As the title suggests, Forma Mentis is an exhibition which orbits around the central theme of Form, seen on the one hand as an inherent principle of the very matter from which it is released, and on the other as a mental structure. Form, in fact, guides the production of both artists, moved by the will to reach as perfect a harmony as possible between content and representation, between the underlying concept of the work and its realisation.
Clay Time Code, produced by Barbara De Ponti in 2016 and shown at the International Museum of Ceramics, the Carlo Zauli Museum and the Civic Natural Science Museum in Faenza, is a series which has been created from the land of a particular geographic area (that of Faenza), characterised by the presence of a specific material which dates back to 400 million years ago: the blue clay of the Pleistocene sea. Through a journey back in time, based on geological and micropalaeontological studies which allowed her to widen the traditional time scale measurement, De Ponti has identified a number of fossilised micro-organisms and has made them the protagonists of a series of ceramic sculptures which depict them in an enlarged scale, using the same material from which they were originally formed. A number of paper drawings accompany the sculptures, once more attempting to formalise a Time which is conceptually unimaginable as it is so far removed from the daily experience of mankind.
Similar to the work of De Ponti, Jens Risch’s work can also be read as a tribute to slowness. Since 2001, the German artist has focused exclusively on the creation of a series of sculptures made up of threads of silk about one kilometre in length, knotted to form an inseparable tangle. Through a method characterised by rigour and discipline, Risch has spent the last fifteen years knotting silk threads, meticulously noting all the steps (or as he defines them, “generations”, an allusion to the field of biology and the idea of “parentage”) of his works on a series of tables. Nothing is added, nothing is taken away. The material used remains one and only one, from start to finish. What changes is not the thread of silk, but its appearance, thanks to a practice which finds a single trace of the artist’s formal intentionality in the repetitiveness of the gesture.
Through a range of forms which are simple but never predictable, the works exhibited are capable of provoking a series of surprises which end up distorting the natural perception of things, stopping the viewer from fully recognising the objects they have before them. Like connections, they behave as such: they cause short circuits, provoking movements which are at times minimal, often unperceivable. They are silent revolutions, bearing witness to how intuition can be concentrated within a similarly defined portion of space. Mystery, ambiguity, stratification: these are the terms that unite the work of Barbara De Ponti and Jens Risch, and which dictate the layout of the exhibition. While the methods and results differ, both artists seem to question the viewer’s ability to examine. Both of them present and reveal, approaching and taking their distance from that idea of Time which silently governs the world and things.
at Viasaterna, Milan
until 16 March 2018