The Last Stand
The Last Stand is an exhibition of new abstract works on monumental canvases by Gianni Politi, made over long lockdown hours in his studio in Rome. The largest work, The Last Stand (2021), is a work consisting of five panels. The title refers to a painting of the same name by English artist William Barnes Wollen (1875-1936) depicting a scene from the first Anglo-Afghan war (1842), during which a handful of English soldiers were decimated by Afghan forces in the mountains following their retreat from Kabul. How can an abstract painter speak of our current reality? Politi responds by reinterpreting the codes of religious and history painting — of which Barnes Wollen’s painting is an excellent example, while maintaining the monumental dimensions typical of such genres.
In this sense, Politi’s The Last Stand preserves a narrative clue only in the format, while the combination of pure and rich colors inspired by great Venetian masters such as Titian and Veronese brings the viewer’s attention back to the essential visual joy of looking at good painting. While The Last Stand originates from the tradition of battle paintings, Unsustainable (2021), the other monumental work in this exhibition, refers to both the physical size, as well as the psychological impact on a young artist, of the imposing religious canvases that crowd the history of Italian art.
Behind Politi’s reflections there is a personal experience. He remembers his first encounters with art as a child: seeing the large history paintings by Michele Cammarano at the National Gallery in Rome, and kneeling at the altarpieces of numerous churches in Roman. The exhibition questions the relationship between artistic practice and contemporaneity, reflecting on complex issues: from today’s geo-political situation to the social responsibilities of the artist in society.
The Last Stand
Galleria Lorcan O’ Neill, Rome
16 November 2021 — 19 January 2022
All image courtesy: Galleria Lorcan O’ Neill