Nino Mier Gallery is thrilled to announce The Fool’s Dream, an exhibition of paintings by French-Italian, Belgium-based painter Giulia Messina. Throughout her marker and ink on paper works, the artist reckons with the shifting self-conceptions that characterize coming into adulthood. The exhibition – her first with the gallery and in Los Angeles – will be on view from January 5 - February 17, 2024.
Messina’s visionary presentation reveals coming of age to be a hypnagogic fever dream. Long engaged with performance and masquerade, the artist represents not only figures but also interior still lives with theatricality. The Fool’s Dream represents the artists in an Alice in Wonderland themed party, wherein questions about oneself and one’s place in the world have reality-warping force – a force that can pull her work into pure abstraction, as in the multicolored textural striations of stop grinning start strip(e)ing.
Amidst identity-shifting experiences and reflections on adulthood, Messina retains an urge towards unrestrained play. Each of the works in the exhibition are made with marker and ink on paper, materials that testify to the artist’s sense of childlike wonderment. Despite these materials, she still characterizes the works as painting, the medium in which she was trained, as she uses markers and ink in a painterly process. Furthermore, water-based markers penetrate the paper’s fibers, better creating a sense of transparency that matches many of exhibition’s thematic interests.
Messina has a storyteller’s disposition, weaving narrative threads throughout The Fool’s Dream. here I go again, turning 24 (la selva oscura) acts as a kind of preface to the exhibition, articulating both the formal and conceptual stakes of the presentation. A self-portrait of the artist on her 24th birthday rendered in a high-contrast color scheme and with slightly warped perspective – stylistic decisions common to all her paintings – the work presents Messina as both a guide and a figure trapped on the threshold of perdition. She stands before a bar, offering a drink and an ashtray to the viewer with solemnity recalling Renaissance religiosity. The work’s title quotes from the first canto of Dante’s Inferno, where the narrator finds himself lost in a dark forest representative of his wayward station in life. Messina transposes such themes onto a more contemporary interior, one filled with food, drink, and other bacchanalia.
The self is constructed not solely through internal contemplation for Messina, but also through engagements with narrative archetypes and cultural texts. Allegorized through psychedelic still lives and portraiture, Messina’s emotional and analytical reflections on this life stage are both singular and engaged cultural history. Her works invoke Dante’s wandering soul, Alice’s topsy-turvy adventures in Wonderland, and the stock character of the fool, among many others.
References in The Fool’s Dream range from the premodern to the hyper-contemporary. A focus on screens and surfaces, for instance, riddle her compositions. In They are paying for your brain soup, a face is nearly pressed up against a series of glass bottles and jars. Concave, reflective surfaces magnify, reverse, and twist images depending on the viewer’s perspective, an apt image to describe how reality can deform and re-form depending on the subject’s perspective in daily life. Interiority and exteriority are muddled: “that’s what interests me in the reflections,” she says, “the reflection of the reflected is not always reflecting.” Messina’s many reflective surfaces also consider the alienating force of screens, an element of contemporary life that both shapes subjecthood, both positively and negatively. These dualities – deformation and magnification, interiority and exteriority, reflection and blockage – are both what make Messina’s work so visually compelling, and so uniquely posed to capture what coming into adulthood feels like in our current moment.
Giulia Messina (b. 1998, Milan, IT; lives and works in Brussels, BE) graduated from ArBA-ESA, Brussels, BE. She has had solo exhibitions with Villa Olmo, Como, IT; Lupo, Milan, IT (forthcoming); Martos Gallery, New York, NY, US; and Garten, Como, IT, along with group exhibitions at Stems Gallery at Volery Gallery, Dubai, UAE; Carl Kostyal, Milan, IT; SB34, Brussels, BE; Komplot, Brussels, BE; and Como Contemporanea, Como, IT; among others.