Breath and Ashes Two very differing cultures, the West and the East, come together in an exhibition that wishes to ask questions about the topic of life and death, breath and ashes. The western perception of the topic is seen through the photographic eye of Master photographer Franco Fontana whilst the eastern spirituality is discovered through the sensitive approach of Sylvie Xing Chen’s series of installations.
Franco Fontana’s approach to the theme is marked by historical and subjective intersections. The two constant moments of existence, birth, and death are compared becoming two equal and opposite drives. Franco considers death with the eyes of love, the subtlest of passions, and captures the sense of love within death. To see, to wish and to want are therefore three verbs that imply a state of permanent mutation, which are collected, and captured, through the sense of memory and the semantic codes of an existence. Eroticism and memory of existence are the two main themes that can be found within Franco Fontana’s shots, resulting in an absolute sense of Eros and Thanatos, or fragrance of the garments, of the lightness of the transparencies, of soft voluptuousness of the curves.
Through the connotation to Dante’s Vita Nova, Franco gives new life to the female subjects of the Monumental Cemetery of Staglieno in Genoa, to which he dedicated the entire photographic series. Apparently unthinkable is the original effect of meaning that is born from this project of cemetery statues of the late nineteenth century – early twentieth century. Yet, there is no stiffness nor decay in their bodies, rather a sense of softness and warmth in which the dust of time perfectly blends into the curves.
In Vita Nova, the vanity of life emerges from death with the same force as within the paintings of Egon Schiele, resulting in photographs that behold Schiele’s conception of existence: ‘everything that is alive is also dead’. This is the meaning of the Sein zum Tode (to be for death), which signifies how life evolves in a never-ending parable.
With this project Fontana captures the most intimate reflections of the game of seduction and becomes an adolescent, discovering with enchanted eyes the beauty of women.
Sylvie Xing Chen approaches the subject of death with a restless look due to her young age and with the spirituality typical of the eastern world, which invites us to compel the subject as a complete and complementary process. There is a close relationship between life and death: one requires the other; they exist together. Therefore, life is death and death is life. There is no life without death and there is no death without life. It is a spiral which holds all the primordial forces of existence. The circle is care, is the balance, is life.
Her installations merge mixed Zen cultures, paintings on rice paper, photography, video art, and performance. Her harmonic gestures are expressed in the calligraphic sign, in which the circle, the origin, and the end, binds in a precise path each her work and in which the strength of the Zen culture summarises human existence in a dance of symbols.
Ashes and breath are the common denominators of these two cultures. The power of life, the passion and the awareness of the end.
For both artists death is Life, Eros and Thanatos expressed in perfect balance. In life, we can find the instrument through which experiments are carried out with truthful actions.