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Paesaggio Urbano Italiano Rogues Gallery - Robert Habel

The series of paintings are based on photographs taken in Italy of political posters and graffiti. Layers of political posters, plastered to walls, caught my attention as soon as I arrived in Rome. These particular images of the posters are from Palermo in Sicily, where the critical mass of these images inspired me to start documenting them. The posters in Sicily were incredibly thick, weathered, deformed and were hanging off buildings and walls like relief sculptures. They were heavy, torn, gaping, and looked like a work, health and safety hazard. They had had years of additions and subtractions, looking like a mad game of snap. They seemed to mirror the decay, heavy history, grittiness, violence, and not so successful attempts to clean up the local environment. Aesthetically the posters matched the run down, neglected historic buildings and the streetscapes in the poorer districts. The faces on the posters are generic; images of mainly middle-aged business men aspiring to a political career. The original posters fresh from the campaign offices were slick, kitsch, and photo shopped; but through human interference and weathering have become tardy, misrepresented, alien, wilfully distorted and corrupted, most likely like the roles the men are aspiring to. The distorted images create an instant cubist appearance which fluidly leads to multiple readings and juxtapositions. From a design point of view these are handsome experimental sketches ripe for the picking and use in painting. The series Rogues Gallery focusses on the head and face and incorporates images based on Italian graffiti. The series is part of a larger set of work about travels in Italy titled Paesaggio Urbano Italiano. The graffiti paintings, like the political posters are alien to me as a visitor and while they read as figurative and visually intriguing, they are a foreign language and their symbols and meanings are not decipherable. There is also something liberating about viewing these images and not being swayed by any cultural/social meanings, whose tribes or gangs they represent, or what their party-political policies are. The posters and graffiti make up a decorative part of the urban landscape where cultural layers of historical baggage, corruption of power, self-serving promotion and tribal identification hide behind these aesthetic fronts. 


Thursday 6 July
6.00 PM
Sunday 30 July
Paesaggio Urbano Italiano Rogues Gallery  - Robert Habel