Domenico de Clario, MARS Gallery, Art Guide Australia

Domenico de Clario, MARS Gallery, Art Guide Australia

Domenico de Clario’s current solo exhibition at MARS is a raw, affecting and poetic exhibition that meditates on the nature of journeys, death and notions of zen-like nothingness through painting, performance, video and objects. De Clario’s practice is predominantly conceptual and performative and draws on his personal history. While continuing this modus operandi this exhibition focuses on present events, most notably his mother’s final days, which form the impetus for black and lush large–scale abstract paintings. 
 
De Clario sees art as linked to the personal transformation of the self. In this project change is explored through the notion of “gorgeous nothings”, a term coined by 19th century poet Emily Dickinson. These are paradoxically states of “nothingness” and “moments of light filled inspiration” that force focus onto the present moment and aid the unknotting of our entangled lives.
 
These can be seen across the various strands of the exhibition: Sleep (Shakespeare), 2015, a video work of de Clario’s mother in her final days, located downstairs; a selection of seven objects in glass vases given to de Clario by his mother; a performance involving walking down the Murray River; a singing performance at the exhibition opening; and seven large paintings in the main gallery. De Clario outlines each component of the project, observing incidences of “gorgeous nothings” with literary flourish, in the exhibition’s catalogue.
 
There is rumination on death and dying in Sleep (Shakespeare), for which de Clario filmed his mother on his iPhone as she slept in a nursing home, surrounded by her television and personal possessions. The viewer is placed in a confronting encounter with the fragile rhythm of the final stage of life, which is heightened by the works’ presentation of multiple views on a screen that oscillates between diptych and triptych. In the exhibition catalogue de Clario discuses his intention to walk the length of the Murray River as a “beginner” without “a priori knowledge” of what he will encounter – similar to what he imagines will be the final journey of his mother.
 
The paintings, the main focus of the show, are material responses to the other components of the exhibition. In the middle of the gallery seven seemingly banal objects, including packets of seeds and a playing card, sit within glass vases, which were gifted to de Clario by his mother over the course of her life. De Clario sat with each object and recorded the impressions conjured by them on blank canvases. Each painting was also constrained by time increasing in increments of seven hours with each object: with the packets of seeds he sat for seven hours; the seven coins, 14 hours. They have luscious and black bases, overlaid by white and silver abstract scribblings, vaguely prismatic forms and smudgings. They take on the form of night skyscapes, abstract renderings of the universe in which nothingness also resides.
 
Death and mortality are trying subject matter, frequently veering into reductive tropes of the macabre or the sensational. In western culture the course of every day death and dying – as opposed to its depiction as spectacle by the media – remains largely undiscussed in popular discourse. De Clario navigates this topic with sensitivity and complexity demonstrating how art can aid attempts to grasp the unfathomable nature of death, and in the process stumble on catharsis and transcendence.