Nov8 - Dec 10 2022
A collaboration with Gallery Kiche
According to the 3-phase iconological method of analysis of art presented by Erwin Panofsky, the symbolic meaning of a painting consists of three levels: the primary, the conventional and the intrinsic. The process of deciphering an image level by level is to probe into the cultural and social contexts behind the two-dimensional schema and to imbue it with comprehensible contents and connotations as a subject.
In Giovanni Motta’s work, a little boy known as “Jonny Boy” with his peculiar facial expressions appears recurrently, turning into a core imagery of the artist’s exploration in the realm of painting. As a hyper-realistic artist, Giovanni Motta’s artistic style is under profound influence of Katsushika Hokusai and Egon Schiele. The former, being one of the most known representative artists of orientalism, exerted influence upon Motta’s way of seeing the world through unique observation of details as well as highly emotional colors; and the latter inspired the artist to embark on a path of self-discovery through emotional intensity and unique narrative approach. Born out of these sources of inspiration, “Jonny Boy” reminds people of anime in terms of style; while aesthetically it strongly alludes to “self”.
“Jonny is the child of all time, the child of everyone”, Motta once said. As an anthropomorphized collective imagery, “Jonny Boy” conveys three primary types of human emotions: “wonder” (the positive), “fear” (the negative) and “amazement” (the neutral). The various objects surrounding “Jonny Boy” in different scenes imply the different mental states of the protagonist, which in turn evokes viewers’ feelings and emotions from within. The image of the kid, innocent yet with a glimpse of pain, is captured for good through the artist’s brushstrokes. Despite the colorful cartoonish images and building blocks, Jonny’s eyes always give out the impression of void. He seems to look at somewhere beyond the image, somewhere unknown; and in the meantime, he seems to be murmuring to himself, talking about uneasiness. The ambiguous and ambivalent ambience seems to denote the ever-changing reality world in which the viewers live and the illusory nature of Jonny’s very existence, which in turn stifles viewers’ expectation for “eternity”. Despite all these, the desire for staying young forever, embedded in the very depth of our soul, and for seeking for the origin of the self still persists in the collective subconsciousness. “My Jonny Boy is always alive and alert”, as the artist put it. To constantly look back upon “authenticity” constitutes the source of nostalgia in Motta’s work.
Although Motta doesn’t reject the ideas of trying something novel like NFT, AI or VR, “nostalgia” remains a fundamental motif in his practice, which could be sensed from the fact that Motta entitles his upcoming exhibition “Origins”. The word “origin” is derived from Latin, referring to the beginning of everything and the moment when things are created. “My artistic research focuses on the theme of rediscovering the inner child through recovering emotional memories”. In order to go deeper into the “beginning” of consciousness or memories, Motta tries to awaken the brain to ponder upon the origin of humanity through meditation, and to explore the private narratives between memories and emotions, memories and objects by resorting to the images generated in meditation. “Nostalgia” indicates a desire to return to someone or something once we deeply cherished – a desire that will stimulate the brain by making use of everything around it: colors, ambience, objects, people or animals… It is in those instants that inspire strong emotional experience in us that we seem to more likely to feel “presence”. In this exhibition, Motta manages to demonstrate a more sophisticated mastery of this kind of emotional narrative through the further refinement of aesthetic schema.
“Game over” means the end and “Origins”, the beginning. The artist seems to be in a constant state of flux, going through crisis moments of self-doubt one after another. The continuous reflection imbues artistic exploration with inexhaustible momentum it takes to carry on. One work after another, Jonny Boy leads audience onto a journey of self-awareness, letting the latter to connect and reconnect with it. “We are only at the beginning”, of all time.
Text Chen Wenyi