Santiago de Paoli: Lieber Nebelkopf, die Blaue Brücke is open

Santiago de Paoli: Lieber Nebelkopf, die Blaue Brücke is open

Meyer Riegger

Santiago de Paoli, First steps, 2023. Oil and candle on copper, two panels, each 81.5 x 51 cm, overall 81.5 x 102 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Galerie Jocelyn Wolff. Photo: Alon Koppel.

April 18, 2024
Santiago de Paoli
Lieber Nebelkopf, die Blaue Brücke is open
Gallery Weekend Berlin 2024
April 27–June 15, 2024
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Opening: April 26, 6–9pm
Meyer Riegger
Schaperstrasse 14
10719 Berlin

For this year’s edition of Gallery Weekend Berlin, Meyer Riegger shows works by the New York-based painter Santiago de Paoli (b. 1978, Buenos Aires) for the first time in Germany. The public opening takes place on Friday, April 26, from 6–9pm at Meyer Riegger in Berlin.

Words, it seems, are hardly the best intermediaries when it comes to capturing Santiago de Paoli’s paintings. A critic went so far as to describe them as “beasts”, noting that they “escape any readymade classification or description”.[1] Perhaps de Paoli’s paintings are better grasped in terms of temperature and weight, states of aggregation and compositions of materials, than description in words—words evoking meanings that can only lead us away from the reality of the painting itself, as opposed to toward it. Towards a reality that wants to be felt.

It is a closeness that de Paoli’s paintings demand. They arch, pulsate, rear up; they fever, stagger, bud and surge. They are erotic, intimate, warm—and yet they are never just one of these, but always already something else as well. They are metamorphoses. Unconventional formats and unusual materials (copper, felt, plaster, recycled textiles or wood) often lend them the look of sculptural objects in space.

Take copper, for instance: the metal has been used as a painting support since the 16th century and evokes Christian iconography. And yet its materials carry no symbolic significance for de Paoli; his use of it comes down to other, more down-to-earth characteristics. Firstly, copper is easy for him to obtain. The artist has been based in Upstate New York for the past few years and can find the material at the local hardware store. Copper exudes warmth, reflects light, is inherently dynamic and changes colours. “The material responds in a way that is both magical and unexpected”, says de Paoli.

The shapes within his paintings encapsulate a myriad of potentials, occasionally actualizing, or materializing, as distinct forms. A recurring motif in de Paoli’s paintings is the rounded buttock—so round, in fact, that it is inherently inclined to change into something else: it can morph into a vase, a genital, a halo, a hill or a muscle. Butterflies populate the picture plane, embodying the essence of natural metamorphosis. Their wings can take the guise of hip bones, lungs even. Meanwhile, the spiral, another element that appears again and again in de Paoli’s pictures, becomes a snail, a phallus, a flower pistil. A phallic shape can be spotted in a butterfly, although it could just as easily function as a neck, a spine or part of a steering wheel; the roundness of a head transmogrifies into a breast, a testicle, a halo. Ribs ripple and gather like skin.

In 1933, Meret Oppenheim drew the ear of her friend, the painter Alberto Giacometti, as a Gothic body-window—an ear as window to the inner self, an artwork as conduit between inner and outer worlds. Yet de Paoli’s painting Nebelkopf (Fog Head) from 2024 offers a contrasting perspective: one in which the cross of a window frame no longer marks the boundary between inside and outside but instead serves as a connection between the two.

In de Paoli’s oeuvre, painting is a link to what lies beyond the visible—which is not to say the invisible, but rather what we see with our eyes closed, what we feel as we vacillate between sleep and wakefulness, between unconsciousness and consciousness.

[1] Devon Van Houten Maldonado, “Suárez Londoño and de Paoli”, Flash Art, November/December 2017, p. 98.

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Meyer Riegger
April 18, 2024

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