Project Room: Davide Balliano
For his first solo exhibition in the United Kingdom, Davide Balliano has brought together a selection of recent paintings and ceramics produced during a 2014 residency at Nuove, in the Bassano region of Italy.
Drawing references from architecture, nature, monuments and icons, Balliano’s work is the product of an ongoing investigation into the relationship between the individual and the macrocosm. Using geometry as a tool of translation, these paintings and sculptures take their form through a process defined by structure, repetition and reduction. For Balliano, the act of removing all excess offers the possibility of reaching an equilibrium between presence and absence where the object can exist in its most essential state.
By employing gesso, plaster and lacquer as his materials, Balliano develops his paintings as if they were the surface of a wall; layering plaster onto a wooden board, sanding it back, and drawing out geometric forms in gesso. The process is repeated until the work arrives at its resolution, where the image has become ingrained in the surface rather than placed upon it.
When encountering Balliano’s work it is hard to dispel visual associations with the masters of the Early Renaissance, specifically the frescos and altarpieces of Masaccio and Fra Angelico. Balliano’s paintings and sculptures evoke their use of Classical architectural elements and compositions designed according to golden ratio geometry as a way to relate the human figure to the universe at large. Equally, there are echoes of religious icons and altarpieces, which were constructed on wooden boards and framed with arched borders in raised relief. In anticipation of rendered sophisticated perspective, the three-dimensionality of these works meant that the depicted image (and therefore its spiritual content) was extended into the immediate surrounding environment. Balliano’s work reflects upon this transcendence of an intangible omnipresent force into the realm of the physical, although his content relates to a universal condition as opposed to religious reverence.
Within a more contemporary framework, Balliano’s work extends to the language of Minimalism and its discussion of spatial conditions. As in Robert Morris’s Untitled (1965/1971), comprised of mirrored boxes, Balliano’s sculptures act as anchors which serve to activate the space around them. Striving for a site of ‘openness’ in the interpretation of his works, Balliano considers these ceramic sculptures to be as important in their encasement of a void as in the positive forms that they occupy. As he states, “it’s like creating a donut to be able to talk about the hole in the middle”.
Davide Balliano was born in Turin in 1983 and currently lives and works in New York. Recent solo exhibitions include Four o Four at Room East, New York (2014), No Flock for Blind Shepherds at Galerie Rolando Anselmi, Berlin, and Picatrix at Michel Rein Gallery, Paris (both 2013). His work has been included in group exhibitions at Sean Kelly Gallery, New York (2010 and 2014), Madre Museum, Naples (2012), the Quadrilateral Biennial in Rijeka, Croatia (2011), The Watermill Centre, New York (2009 and 2011), MoMA PS1, New York, the Tate Modern, London and the Espai d’Art Contemporani de Castelló, Castellón (all 2010).