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Updated: May 25, 2023

Breaking boundaries and overcoming borders. Julian Schnabel is an artist with an exuberant personality, who has always loved challenging himself to break out of categories and schemes, experimenting with many different types of art. From painter to filmmaker, from musician to writer. Each of his works is the result of a way of living: there are no formal rules, the important thing is to express what he sees, feels and thinks. To visit one of his exhibitions is to be invested with emotions and to watch him paint can be even more impactful. Imagine observing a man dressed in pyjamas or only in an overcoat who, in the middle of winter, spreads a huge tarpaulin on a lawn and starts to spread paint in an apparently random way, totally estranged from the surrounding world. "I don't feel the cold. When I work it is as if I forget about the body, as if I forget about everything,' he says in an interview.

Julian Schnabel - picture from "Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait"

Many prominent artists and personalities from the art world have spoken and written about him. Laurie Anderson in a small Youtube video sweetly and ironically says, for example, that she admires his sense of adventure. Because for Schnabel, every painting, every project is to be experienced instinctively and with all possible enthusiasm. And this side of his character is well told in the documentary 'Julian Schnabel: A Private Portrait' by Pappi Corsicato. You can find it on Netflix, but we leave you the trailer here.

His monumental works are often produced from discarded materials that he salvages from different places. In the 1980s, Schnabel became famous above all for his plate paintings: works that acquire three-dimensionality from the use of broken plates, which, when reassembled, become new canvases to be painted in order to create shapes, profiles and human faces.

In fact, Schnabel is above all attracted by the re-interpretation of objects, signs, shapes giving them new meaning. And it is also clear when he uses an old car tarpaulins recovered from a warehouse in Mexico or when he superimposes inscriptions or stains of paint on maps and photographs, transforming them into new symbols of something that is and perhaps cannot be seen.

Today Julian Schnabel is one of the artists on show in the sixteenth-century space of Fondazione Made in Cloister for INTERACTION NAPLES. His work consists of five maps that draw the borders of Ukraine, smeared with brushstrokes of red and purple clutter, or overlaid with writing that says: nothing to be gained here.

"Schnabel's works become vessels of a poetics that is, at the same time, personal and universal. The fact that he intentionally paints something that is not tangible generates a representation that is much more faithful to experience than any possible attempt to portray the physical world realistically."

In his case, the fact that he intentionally paints something that is not tangible generates a representation that is much more faithful to experience than any possible attempt to portray the physical world realistically."

Max Hollein, current director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

The five maps encircle a human figure, a drawing depicting an intimate moment between the sleeping, perhaps dreaming artist Laurie Anderson and her dog Lolabelle resting on her feet. A sentimental work therefore, recalling the relationship of great affection between the artist and her animal. And it is the serenity conveyed by Laurie Anderson that contrasts with Schnabel's works full of restlessness.

It is not easy to admire Julian Schnabel's works in Italy, but until September you can find him in Fondazione Made in Cloister. We look forward to the next in-depth look at artist Laurie Anderson. Leave a comment to let us know how you liked it and what else you would like to read. See you soon!

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I was deeply attracted to this ancient city when I first arrive in Naples on January 16th, 2018. Surely what’s more important is the long and rich artistic and cultural history and the great civilization that has flourished here.

Since 2017, when the curator Demetrio Paparoni and the co-founder of Fondazione Made in Cloister Davide de Blasio invited me to hold an exhibition in this non-profit space, I have been considering how i could make something new but still alone the thread of my artistic .

In the picture Davide de Blasio, Liu Jianhua and Demetrio Paparoni at the cloister

The value of art is embedded in the fact that allows people to feel and re-interpret the world, which the space for independent a thinking and freedom.

I felt the impulse that I should do something for the city with this work created for Fondazione Made in Cloister. That was where the idea of this work was originated. Personal value and identity is one of the topics I have been focusing on over the years, especially while we are going through this complicated transformations resulting from rapid globalization.

The exhibition Monumenti by Liu Jianhua, 2018

Monumenti consist in 23 monumental structures as the bases and the live performance by immigrants who travelled from all parts of the world to Naples and now live and work here. After the opening the live performers were replaced by life-size, papier-maché sculptures with the same features of immigrants. Building monument for the lower class and displaying their lives and attitudes in a public space trigger conversation between different social classes. While nowadays the social context under rapid globalization has long become cross-cultural and mixed, are identity, class and nationality still impenetrable boundaries?

Monumenti from the left:

Liu Jianhua with the main characters of the exhibition;

Face scan of the immigrants to realize their faces in paper-maché ;

Immigrants Live performance:

Monumenti aims to present the broad, extensive spiritual level of human being. The faced of the monument bases are covered with monochrome ceramic tiles, which together with mosaics first emerged in ancient Weestern churches and provate spaces of noblemen as decorative elements with ceremonial connotations and symbols of nobility. The production and use of ceramics tiles in Naples have a long and rich history, and we can still see some of those fantastic decorations in Pompei.

I hope to continue this remarkable work with Monumenti, and to overthrow the stereotyped image of monument. The pure white porcelain flowers scattering in the exhibition space was incorporated in my work fo the first time as early as in 2001, but every time the implication behind is unique. These randomly scattered white biscuit porcelain flowers create a sens of solemness and fragility, while at the same time resonate with the displaced lower-class immigrants and their drifting lives.

Picture of Liu residency in Naples and of the making of the exhibition:

1)Liu Jianhua in Ceramica Francesco de Maio‘s factory while he was choosing the Vietri ceramic tiles for the bases of the monuments

2) artisan from the Istituto Caselli di Capodimonte for the production of the bisquit porcelain flowers

3) Bisquit porcelain flower on the column of the cloister

The performers standing on the monument base and the form of the monument bases create resonance and contrasta s well between the figurative form and the abstract conception. -Where are we from and where are we going? – Is the ultimate philosophical topic that keeps interrogating our mind. The answer remain unknown.

Liu Jianhua

For Interaction Napoli 2022, ongoing exhibition at Fondazione Made in Cloister that is focused on the interaction between 28 international artists and the cloister space, Liu Jianhua selected the artwork Trace.

Trace is an installation comprised of black shiny ceramic droplets which, placed upon the white walls of the exhibition space , resemble large drops of ink on a sheet of paper.

Instagram screenshot of Liu Jianhua and the artwork Trace by AD China

Trace allude to the ancient technique of Chinese ink painting known as Wu Lou Hen,, a term that describes the brushstrokes applied like stain left on the wall by water leaking from damaged ceiling.

The Who Lou Hen technique has existed in China from the times of Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.). The spontaneous surfacing of these organic traces incited painters and calligraphers alike to find a source of inspiration in these phenomena provoked by nature and develop a technique that was regulated by a particular rhythm of ink-bearing brushstrokes.Liu’s ceramics, which are reminiscent of large droplets of ink-shiny and black like the brushstrokes of a painter on a sheet of paper – place the spectator in an illusory space that unites painting, sculpture, craftsmanship and calligraphy.

Just as in old works by painters and calligraphers, the relationship between the blackness of the markings and the whiteness of the support is fundamental to the installation. In Chinese aesthetics this dichotomy finds one of his leading motivations in the relationship between emptiness and fullness, between the whiteness of the support and blackness of the traces – a required relationship for an action to take place. The emptiness allows the markings and shapes to appear in all their implications. Put differently, the blank space nourishes the potentiality of infinite forms, perpetuating the idea that reality is variable.

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