Filippo Cegani’s Grazie

The word Grazie, understood to even most non-Italian speakers, means “thank you.” It also means “grace,” and by extension, the Graces, otherwise known as the Charities – three goddesses in Greek Mythology thought to embody beauty – are known as “le Grazie.” Consequently, this simple word springs a matrix that encapsulates Cegani’s new body of work on view at GROVE until October 20th. The works on view are haunting, universal symbols conjuring a sense of both reverence, and gothic horror. A pained Virgin Mary is obscured by a veil, or bathed in an ominous red hue. The paintings in the exhibition are lit by candelight alone, referencing the Italian churches in which this kind of image may be found.

Red Tears, 2023, Acrylic on Canvas, 50 x 40 cm

You’ve Been Missed, 2023, Acrylic on Canvas, 60 x 50 cm

In a development from much of his previous work, the artist trades in his often humorous, at times absurd imagery for a visual quietude that inspires reflection. Cegani himself has referred to this development as a “gentleness” that pervades the work, without acting as a true divergence from the aesthetic he has cultivated throughout the course of his career.

With that said, the series of work is not without its own humour. Cegani slyly references the commodification of religious iconography, using a combination of brushstrokes and airbrush to achieve and almost porcelain finish, akin to porcelain figurines people will use to furnish their homes. Similarly, he positions the Virgin Mary in the context of personal benefit: Cegani notes that, in Italy, one will pray to a tomb in hope for a response (a practice known as culto delle anime pezzentelle; originating in the 1600s, but officially outlawed by the Catholic Church in 1969), but if a satisfactory response is not granted, one “blacklists” this grave for being less than generous. Such is the nature of these “vessels”: our gratitude directed toward them is not a far cry from our request for more, in which the real efficacy, and thus value, of the image will be seen.

Veiled, 2023, Acrylic on Canvas, 30 x 60 cm

Sacred Blue, 2023, Acrylic on Canvas, 40 x 30 cm

Hidden, 2023, Acrylic on Canvas, 40 x 30 cm

Fading Candles, 2023, Acrylic on Canvas, 60 x 50 cm

Sacred Red, 2023, Acrylic on Canvas, 40 x 30 cm