The key image that I had in mind was the image of the shifting line where the water touches the land, the shifting line of separation, the ambiguity of the shore. The equivalent of twilight, a time where the light is uncertain, the light is undefined. The place in between, which has always been a subject, maybe the subject of what I make. The space in between, the gap between identities, the gap between stylistic solutions, the gap between soft and harsh. . . . The body as the gap between the inner world and the outer world. —Francesco Clemente
Titled by curator Carlos Basualdo, who described Francesco Clemente’s most recent body of work as 'una bellezza senza testimoni,' or 'a beauty without witnesses,' Lévy Gorvy’s online viewing room features twelve watercolors painted by the artist at his MacDougal Street home in New York during this time of self-isolation. These richly colored and intimate works depict seascapes populated with shells and toys washed ashore, evoking fantastical worlds and childhood memories. Here, as throughout his celebrated oeuvre, Clemente has used color as a conduit of emotion. His saturated palette enhances the element of nostalgia in these works and calls attention to the poignancy of this moment—a time of loss and discovery. Further heightening the effect and inspired by Japanese ukiyo-e prints, Clemente has dated each work in a bold, stamp-like rectangle, a new motif in his decades-long interaction with watercolour.
In a recent conversation with his long-time friend with whom he co-founded Hanuman Books, writer Raymond Foye, Clemente discussed his exploration of what the artist calls the 'in-between,' symbolised by the subject of the shoreline as well as the blurred lines rendered by the aqueous medium of watercolour. This is a theme to which the artist has continuously returned: the gap between the internal and external worlds of the mind and body. At a time when many are confined to their homes, this connective space is especially relevant. It reappears when comparing his use of vivid hues over the past weeks in New York with his approach to colour in India, a country in which he has also spent long periods in solitude; while the saturation in these works seems to defy the transparency inherent to watercolour, Clemente considers that it emanates from a need to ground 'this space in between where we are sitting.'
Beauty Without Witness, April 2020 is part of an ongoing series of online presentations benefitting #FirstRespondersFirst. An initiative of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Thrive Global, and the CAA Foundation, #FirstRespondersFirst helps provide essential protective equipment, accommodations, childcare, food, mental health support, and other resources to first responder healthcare workers as they serve on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. A portion of the proceeds from the sales of Clemente’s works will be donated to the cause.
Press release courtesy Lévy Gorvy.