Chapter Gallery, Market Road, Canton, Cardiff, CF5 1QE

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Maurizio Anzeri: But It’s Not Late It’s Only Dark
Chapter Gallery, Cardiff

1 May - 30 June 2013
Review by Catrin Davies

Maurizio Anzeri’s embroidered photographs both reveal and conceal layers of identity. Using coloured threads to add a three-dimensional texture to found images, Anzeri suggests an alternative evolutionary path for his veiled subjects.

Marking his first solo exhibition in Wales, Italian artist Maurizio Anzeri creates his own headline in the form of a lightbox installation over the entrance to Chapter; a sprawling sketch outlines the interior of a building where, around a corner, just visible, is a window onto the outside. The walls of the building itself look like threads or strands of hair, and through this imaginary window it still looks light outside.

Inside the gallery, a short animated film reverses a similar image, flipping into a negative, over and over; one moment it appears to be dark outside that window, then it’s light again. Perhaps (although it is never explicit), there lies the crux of Anzeri’s title for the exhibition; everything is subject to perception, it’s only what you make of it.

While there is no obvious, aesthetic connection between this introduction to Anzeri’s solo show and his more familiar work with found photographs - save for the strand-like sketch-strokes - there is a sense throughout that he is toying with an idea of perception and the pay-off between what is concealed and what is revealed.

Anzeri’s medium of found photographs provide both a canvas and a context for his work. Anzeri creates a new, three-dimensional artwork over the existing image; adding another layer of meaning and history to the subject and, in some cases, totally distorting the original to create something that feels intrinsically darker. The photograph is a landscape; a starting point for exploration and for tracing a path of thread, which allows Anzeri to distort features, gender and meaning. The eyes and teeth that peer out from the canvas feel completely detached from the human subject beneath the layers of embroidery.

The narcissism of hiding behind a mask - the contradictory act of veiling the true self - is explored further in a series of new sculptural works. Figurative profiles, some of which look like slices of agate under a microscope, toy with the idea of private disordered psychological states and confused internal monologues being made public.

Hanging in the final room of the exhibition are three coloured synthetic hair sculptures suspended from the ceiling like totemic weaves. Inspired in equal parts by Versailles, Virginia Woolfe’s Mrs Dalloway and haute couture, the tumbling hair curtains (one red, one black, one blond) continue this foray into disembodied gender.

On a purely aesthetic level, Anzeri’s work is infectiously tactile. His art of using coloured threads to create surface texture over black and white photographs provides plenty of literal inspiration for the design industry, and taking the exhibition purely on this measure, there is a lot of commerciality to Anzeri’s work. But it is the underlying darkness that seems to continually push through. His needlework is delicate and skilled, but the finished work can feel conflictingly unsettling. As such Anzeri has found an aesthetically pleasing way of subverting the subject and unnerving the viewer, masking, veiling and revealing in one fell swoop.

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