The Museo d’arte della Svizzera italiana, in collaboration with the Centraal Museum of Utrecht, devotes a major monographic exhibition to the work of Craigie Horsfield, a British artist who has developed sometimes influential ideas of social relation and “slow” time as well as conducting outstanding research into the nature of the photographic image itself. Portraits, still lifes, as well as moments from everyday life, rites and ideas concerning society and individual being and relation are the recurring images in his work, explored by using innovative techniques that erase the boundaries between the various artistic disciplines. Indeed, photography is just one of the many overlapping genres in this artist’s output: starting from a negative, or a photo still, Horsfield produces large-scale works made by using a surprisingly wide range of techniques, such as tapestries and frescoes.
The narrative structure of this exhibition evolves through a passage of attention focusing on Horsfield’s most emblematic works; these are often monumental works, for instance, the majestic tapestry devoted to the apocalyptic scene at Ground Zero, or the one depicting the Gulf of Naples in an ambiguous night-time vision. The remarkable trajectory that is brought about casts light on the relations that occur in between events that transpired in places and moments that are apparently far apart, between the people who took part in them and the viewers who are discovering the exhibition.
The idea of relation – intended both as the connection between individuals and as a narrating, a recounting – lies at the very core of Horsfield’s work. In the projects he has produced specifically for this exhibition (as he has done over many years, throughout Europe, in Naples, Madrid or Barcelona to cite just a few examples) this is particularly manifest. According to Horsfield, a work of art is realized fully thanks to the active role played by the public: “What happens here is the recognition of a passage of understanding, of thoughtfulness and recognition, the sense of giving time and of profound attention to the world and to others, and to a deep present. […]These passages are sometimes fluent in their interrelationships and at other times angular and discordant, and there are within the structure layer upon layer of association, quotation and allusion, within the works, within the narrative, and across history, history imagined as the deep present.”
Craigie Horsfield has made since the late 1960’s soundworks, structures of found sound and music, and here the exhibition itself is arranged like the movements of a musical composition. Alongside the tapestries, frescoes and prints the display also includes a new soundwork, an acoustic installation constructed and mixed with his long time collaborator, the composer and musician Reinier Rietveld. This sound element exists in conversation with the other works and like them contributes to the elaboration of new and particular meanings.
The display presents a series of portraits made in Lugano and in Utrecht expressly for this exhibition project. What prevails through these images is the exploration of the ways in which we understand each other and in which we exist together. At the same time the images testify to the particularity of the people who work together with the artist and their singular and unique being in the present, as recognized in the attention of the viewer, in thoughtfulness, sensibility and empathy. It is precisely with this open and generous attitude that the viewers are invited to discover the exhibition.
Craigie Horsfield was born in Cambridge, in 1949. In 1968 he enrolled in London’s prestigious Saint Martin’s School of Art. Initially interested in painting, he then went on to adopt an interdisciplinary approach – which still distinguishes his work today – that focused on the study of photography, cinema, and music. He made his first photographs in the course of the 1970s. However, these would only see the light a decade later in the form of generally large-scale prints made in a single edition. These photographs were displayed in several major travelling, monographic, and group exhibitions held between 1988 and 1994, which brought the artist into the limelight of the international art scene that was beginning to show an icreased interest in photography. Since the 1990s, Horsfield’s work has involved several social projects aimed at exploring the specificity of different places and communities like Barcelona, Brussels, El Hierro (Canary Islands), and Naples, among others. In 1996 Horsfield was among the finalists for the Turner Prize, and during the 2000s he participated in the 10th and 11th editions of Documenta.