Galerie Gregor Staiger is pleased to present Sonia Kacem's fifth solo exhibition with the gallery and the artist's first in its Milan space.
Kacem’s exhibition in Milan follows the artist's recent stay at Fonderia Artistica Battaglia, the famed metal casting foundry established in Milan in 1913 by Ercole Battaglia, Giulio Pogliani and Ricardo Frigerio. The foundry developed a renowned reputation from producing numerous works by the likes of Alighiero Boetti, Giannino Castiglioni, Arnaldo Pomodoro, to the bronze doors of the Milan cathedral and the restoration of Rodin statues. Today, the foundry and it's Open Studio programme are regarded as an important platform for retaining and nurturing the tradition of bronze casting. Fonderia Artistica Battaglia remains intrinsic to Milan and the history of Italian 20th century sculpture. The residency also holds great significance to Kacem, and her practice's constant engagement with both the history of sculpture and craft techniques.
Kacem's new series of sculptural works are a direct result of her time at Fonderia Artistica Battaglia earlier this year. In her work, Kacem has always been interested in the notion of the fold – a gesture that can be seen to evoke both the presence and absence of the body. Kacem applies this recurring position of the fold in three new bronze-cast sculptures to be shown in Milan. In its instinctive approach, the new body of work can be seen as a natural development from her textile and ceramic works. Kacem notes that metal was previously more frequently employed by her as a base or skeleton for construction rather than the defining medium itself. Working with bronze sees Kacem engage with a traditional sculptural technique whilst bringing her contemporary take by casting these spontaneous and ephemeral-like arrangements in solid metal– we can almost imagine the fold toppling over itself, despite its solid materiality. A friction between the mercurial and the set are present here within the objects.
Further on the sculptures, a rippled pattern covers the surface of the overlaps created by the crease. A clear connection can be made between the patterns appearing on the sculptures with the new site-specific wallpapers Kacem has produced for the exhibition. The shapes and lines on the bronzes echo to those printed on the wallpaper. Installed in the arches and the upstairs mezzanine of the gallery, Kacem intentionally chooses to underline the more distinct architectural features with aforementioned wallpaper whilst also responding to the uncoventional character of the gallery interior. It is perhaps not incidental that Kacem has selected a material synonymous with domesticity.
The five coloured patterns on the walls that bare loose geometric shapes and natural forms have been taken from Kacem's 'colour books', which the artist began whilst in Cairo for a six-month long residency in 2019. The books originated as a response to her environment, as well as a study and research of colour palettes, pattern, calligraphy and the ornamental (and to an extent, an exercise in visual pleasure). Kacem's subsequent location changes, including Brussels and Amsterdam, and the onset of the pandemic further shaped the direction and tone of these pictoral studies.
With her presentation in Milan, Kacem eloquently translates her lexicon of references and aesthetics into materials and forms new to her practice while adhering to an ongoing exploration of sculpture as a medium.