"In the dense psychological landscape, where rays of light pass through a maze of tentacles, where irises glow like spots of light crossing the materic space in the night, and where the duel goes on without end, is Fabio Modica's great theater. " | Giovanni Stella
Sicilian painter Fabio Modica is among the most passionately collected young artists of our time. His seductive work is characterized by an operatic use of color to cinematically depict the faces of hauntingly beautiful women. Modica’s artistic virtuosity has earned him acclaim from critics, curators and collectors around the world.
Modica’s most recent exhibition, Communion: The Defeat of Absence, is a tour de force in which he makes manifest his mandate to avoid the fall into an anarchist “everything is art” construct. His blunt, luscious application of paint in a kaleidoscopic array of color presents the human visage as a topography of the soul. Fabio’s process and pictorial language rebuke vacant vocabularies that have long dominated contemporary art, and further underscore his fundamental belief that the artist should take a moral responsibility toward the recipients of their artistic creation.
Like an artist-scenographer, he lays down multi-layered coats of vibrant paint spread over a tortured canvas with rigorous spatula strokes as if he was “action painting”. Fabio’s colors are to be considered as phantom, that is, sheer visual specters deprived of any physical reality and, insofar as one can imagine – to be deemed as pure emotions (Isaac Newton). The artist makes sure that his figures look beyond the viewer’s gaze by projecting them into the metaphysical dimension of the whole of time. . .”incorruptible time” – which is past, present and future at once.
Fabio Modica’s painting is a kind of devotion, a reverent homage to “presence”. It is rooted in the Gnostic idea that we are, indeed, prisoners of matter – needing some means of liberation from the biological constraints of the human spirit. Human creativity is one of the traditional means by which we slip the surly bonds of Earth (John Magee) without benefit of divine intervention. This body of work acts as a delivery system to facilitate a “communion” between viewers and this transcendent dimension.
Fabio Modica was born in Catania in 1978. An apprentice to well-known Italian painters Alberto Abate and Antonio Santacroce, he was soon inspired by the classical Renaissance, occasionally drawing on Greek and Latin mythology. In his early years as a painter, the human figure wrapped up in a Caravaggesque light was his major subject matter and oil paint his favorite medium. His versatile spirit has led him to incorporate many different styles and mediums into his later works, including watercolors, acrylics and chalks. The encounter with Santacroce in 2002 marked a departure from the representational style towards a semi-abstracted texture. Modica's enduring realism was gradually dismantled by a compelling drive for sheer lines and thick smudges of color.
Over time, Modica has grown a genuine passion for nude art, which has recently inspired a series of black & white paintings on the commodification of the human body and its spiritual decay. In this series, called "Mercification", the absence of color enables the painter to rely entirely on the force of his brushstroke and the gesture of scratching and carving the pictorial surface. Modica's distinctive mark is seen in his ability to lay down "multi-layered coats of vibrant paint spread over a tortured canvas with vigorous spatula strokes, as if the painter were action painting".
His most celebrated artworks are close-in portraits of female faces whose gaze "directs itself to the viewer like a darting arrow". As it has been put, "the meaning of everything is condensed in faces inhabited by beauty or imbued with suffering, all tied up together by a thin red string: the eyes. Hypnotic eyes, of a persistent crystal blue in the intimate fabric of matter and thus as deep as the soul. Eyes, guardians of truths, capable of pulling in the viewer in the fullness of their openness. Eyes interrogating and scrutinizing. Eyes speaking to us. Fabio Modica's "faces" shape fragments of memories, enigmatic moods, and modernist "moments of being". They have become part of two parallel series titled "Gnosis" and "Prisoners of Matter", both widely acclaimed in the US art galleries where most of Modica's artistic output has been shown since 2013. The term "Gnosis", Greek in origin, means "knowledge", but not so much theoretical as embedded in action and experience. The painter strongly believes that Art is the most effective means to enhance self awareness.
The Gnosis series captures individuals experiencing a state of epiphany and self-revelation which suddenly generates a truly eye-opening emotion. The feelings explored are: wonder, oblivion, eagerness, elevation, regret, self-denial, loss, composure and liberation. In the Prisoners of Matter series the subjects are constrained within the material world, symbolized by the painting "matter". Modica skillfully catches the brief instant in which a kind of illumination, which film director Werner Herzog calls "the ecstatic flash, from which Truth emerges", breaks his subjects free from their self-made traps and barriers, so they can awake into a higher level of consciousness.
Fabio Modica has frequently partaken in art events promoting the importance of recycling in Art. A successful cycle of works entirely made of trash materials earned him the third prize at the 2012 international competition called “STOP ALLO 048 degli oggetti”and hosted in his hometown, Catania. Here Modica's portraits arise out of multicolored nails, screws, pins, plastic tools, clipped wires and whirling cables, all of which contributing to a more vivid imagery. His latest artwork of this series is a massive three-piece portrait of a woman’s face forged with used-up denim. Fabio Modica is currently teaching painting and interior design at the Nike Academy of Fine Art and Restoration in Catania. His artwork has been included in many solo and group exhibitions throughout Europe, especially in England, Spain, France and Italy. Up to 2011 he cooperated with two noteworthy Modern and Contemporary Art Galleries in London, East End “Brick Lane Gallery” and Covent Garden “Opus Gallery”. In Italy he was represented by “Il Borgo” Gallery in Milan, "Spazio d’Arte l’Altrove" in Ferrara, and by the "Side A Gallery" in Catania. The Catanian Galleries named “SpazioVitalein” and “Ideattiva” association have promoted him in 2013, the latter being especially active in the field of recycling. In Nice, Fabio Modica’s paintings are permanently displayed at the “Villa Magdalena” Art Gallery.
In the USA he was represented by Sorelle Gallery in New Canaan and Albany up to 2016. At present, in the United States, he is represented by Bill Lowe Gallery, leading contemporary art gallery located in Atlanta (USA), by “Aberson Exhibits”, Tulsa, (OK), and from 2016 on, by Bender Gallery, which is involved in several American Art Fairs. The Arionte Contemporary Art has been promoting his art in Italy and all over the world, participating at several Art Fairs, Auctions, and prestigious exhibition projects. In Italy, he is also represented by the Simon Bart Gallery of Costa Smeralda, and Mirabilia Art & Culture of Reggio Emilia.
University of Bologna – Master’s Degree in History and Preservation of Works of Art, Bologna- Ravenna, Italy.
Palazzo Spinelli Fine Art and Restoration Institute, Master’s Degree in Drawing, Painting and Trompe l'Oeil decoration, Florence.
Nike Academy of Fine Art and Restoration, Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Art and Restoration, Catania.
Nike Academy of Fine Art and Restoration, Training Course in Restoration of old books, drawings and printed images, Catania.
Nike Academy of Fine Art and Restoration, Training Course in Restoration of paintings, Catania.
Il Gusto dell’Arte – Banca Generali – Palazzo Pancari – CT - IT
Art Dubai – Contemporary Art Fair – Dubai – Arionte Art Gallery – CT - IT
Sicilian Contemporary Horizons – Arionte Art Gallery – CT - IT
Modern Primitive – Aberson Exhibits – Tulsa – OK - USA
Art Madrid – Contemporary Art Fair – Madrid – Arionte Art Gallery – CT - IT
HEART - Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria "Policlinico | Vittorio Emanuele - CT-IT
Anartomy – Mirabilia Contemporary Art – Reggio Emilia – IT
SOFA Chicago Art Fair - Chicago - Bender Gallery - NC - USA
Art MArket Art Fair - Budapest - Arionte Art Gallery - CT - IT
Poltu Quatu 2016 - Costa Smeralda - Sardinia - Simon Bart Gallery | Galleria il 900 – IT
MACS Collection – Opening of the MACS Museum Collection - IT
Kosmos – Palazzo della Cultura – Catania – Italy – Apr 16th – May 11th
Carnaval – A New Exuberance” ” – Bill Lowe Gallery – Atlanta – GA - USA
Glimpses of Light – Aberson Exhibits – Tulsa – OK - USA
Gnosis – Galleria Civica “Pippo Giuffrida” – Misterbianco – (IT)
Prisoners of Matter – Bill Lowe Gallery – Atlanta – GA - USA
Listening Life, for a Civil Commitment - Auditorium Nelson Mandela -Misterbianco – (IT)
“Materia e Luce” – Officina della memoria e dell’immagine – Fiuggi – (IT)
Percezioni Nascoste – Studio A Gallery – Catania - (IT)
Mediterranean Portraits - Officina della memoria e dell'immagine - Fiuggi (IT)
Sperlinga Castel - Mediterranean Portraits - Sperlinga, Sicily
Sicily Outlet Village – Dittaino (EN) Mostra collettiva “Jeans d’Autore” 7 Giu – 14 Lug.
SpazioVitalein Art Gallery – “Face not only”, 11-22 May, Catania.
SpazioVitalein Art Gallery - “Le forme reciproche” (tr: “The Mutual Shapes”), 2-12 Feb, Catania.
Le Ciminiere Art Gallery - “Stopallo048degliOggetti” - Competition on Recycling Art & Group Exhibition, 17 Nov-6 Dec, Catania.
Opening of the Museum of Contemporary Art (Museo del Presente),13 Oct-13 Nov, Nicosia (Enna, Sicily).
MAS Art Gallery - “Il Colore Demiurgo” -8 Set – 3 Oct, Catania.
Pennisi di Floristella Castle - “Symphony of Lives”-27-28 July, Acireale (Catania).
Artisanship Fair,4-5 Agosto, Acireale (Catania).
CAL CAUCADE - “Peintures & Poesies aux couleurs de l’Italie”- 16 Oct - 30 Nov, Nice.
Brick Lane Gallery –“Art in Mind” – 26 Nov-10 Dec, London.
Nike Academy of Fine Art and Restoration, 12-26 June Catania.
ESART Gallery – “Art Nou - XII Salone d’Inverno” – 18 Jan-1 Feb, Barcellona.
Art Nou – International Group Exhibition of Contemporary Art – 16-30 Dec, Leon.
L’altrove Art Gallery – “Ritratti di memorie” (tr: “Portraits of memories”) – Ferrara.
“Celeste Prize”, Selected for publication (painting: “Abandoned Circe”).
“Art Gallery Prize” Finalist at the first Edition – Milan.
Brick Lane Gallery , “Art in Mind”, 24 Nov–7 Dec, London.
Villa Magdalena Art Gallery – “Couleurs de l’art, Couleurs de l’ame” – Permanent Exhibition
Il Borgo Art Gallery – “The Art of Nude” – International Exhibition of Contemporary Art, 27 April – 10 May, Milan.
Il Borgo Art Gallery – “Fuori Salone 2010” – International Exhibition of Contemporary Art – 13-26 April, Milan.
Villa Magdalena Art Gallery - “Voyage Dans la Couleur” - 4 April-3 June, Nice. France
by Prof. Salvo Russo - Academy of Art of Catania
"...from the brain, and from the brain only arise our pleasures, joys, laughter and jests, as well as our sorrows, pains, griefs and tears. Through it, in particular, we think, see, hear and distinguish the ugly from the beautiful, the bad from the good..." - Hippocrates of Kos (V century BC)
Fabio Modica, born in 1978, is undoubtedly a worthy disciple of a Catanian school of excellent painting which, in my view, has not yet been given sufficient consideration and whose historical and artistic features have not been studied enough. Within this school, among its main protagonists, there can be numbered such outstanding, world-renowned personalities as Alberto Abate, the brothers Nino and Tano Brancato, Francesco Scialfa, Antonio Santacroce, Antonio Sciacca and so many others that it would take too long to mention. Artists tied up together by a common "fil rouge" of rigour and a methodology of "learning to think" for "learning to do". There is no doubt that art is a unifying core value continuously shaping our world and our way to relate to others, and is, by its own nature, transgressive (at times in an excessive and deliberately provocative manner). However, this quality cannot dismiss knowledge and learning in their theoretical-practical forms, and this is to avoid falling into the anarchist "everything is art" construct.
Fabio Modica has gone down the path of a rigorous training as wisely indicated by his Masters and today, in his paintings, he proves he has understood the essence of being a disciplined artist. Not too concerned about being bound by the painting tradition or the past, Fabio Modica's artwork fully experiences the contemporaneous and develops an approach firmly relying on the idea that there is no progression in art (art is not a science, hence it is not affected by its rules and bias), but only a core difference between good and bad art, good and bad painting. In Fabio Modica's painting the pictorial matter is skillfully laid upon the canvases to shape faces whose loud colours resemble Matisse. Colours are to be considered as phantom, that is, sheer visual spectres deprived of any physical reality and, insofar as one can imagine as well as dream of them, to be deemed as pure emotions (Isaac Newton). Those miscellaneous subjects and figures observe us in a continuous interplay of expressive echoes, resulting in a strong emotional impact. The artist makes sure that his figures look beyond the viewer's gaze, by projecting them to the metaphysical dimension of "the whole of time",… incorruptible time which is past, present and future at once. Hence, the artist triggers a delightful, estranging mood as we continuously go through the physical features of the shapes in quest of unlikely resemblances, but confident that bits and pieces of those faces belong to us. The painter's eye scrutinises the portrayed faces in the foreground, almost as if it wanted to go into and beyond the physical matter to pursue and describe the soul of the subject, its deepest feelings, its innermost thoughts, knowing for certain that each and every one of these is "unique" and should be considered as a magnificent exception. Nothing is left to chance and, although matter is created by fast strokes, the result is a perfect chromatic balance between the parts. These works ensure that the beholder inwardly experiences the immediate and intuitive relationship between the subject and the object, which only art can create through the physical forms the artist is able to conceive. And this is to arouse in all of us, and in the artwork’s viewer, greater self-awareness.
The chromatic perception offered by Modica's works can be defined with the eastern word "imaginalis", which refers to a specific faculty of the soul. Thus, the colour is not just a physical element, but it becomes art of memory. Reds, yellows, purples, blacks ...etc., blend together into a harmony that makes one forget what colour a face really is, resulting truthful in their "lie" (art has always had the merit of making visible what is not,... a lie in order to tell the only possible truth). Often, certain criticism has smugly and fondly indulged in philosophical theories which, despite their historical value being undeniable, are, in my view, rather questionable. Theories prophesying the death of art (Hegel) or the overcoming of the artistic artifact in the name of a conceptualization “tout court” which most of the time has concealed incompetence, amateurism or, even worse, deceit. Unfortunately, nowadays such vision is organic to an art system supported by the weak thinking and the crisis of moral values. In fact, the concept of the work of art has been replaced by that of a commodity and the language of literature by the language of advertisement. Conversely, Modica's artwork shows how one can deny all this and assert, with confidence stemming from the quality of his pictorial research, that the artist will never give up the primary instinct of tracing marks, making shapes, giving life to faces that did not exist before and will outlive their maker. "Art is a cognitive experience, certainly mediated and culture-bound, but it is also an aesthetic and emotional experience." (Semir Zeki)
Translation: Simona Agata Giuffrida
Extract From: "PRISONERS OF MATTER - May 2015" at Bill Lowe Gallery
by Prof. Jerry Cullum - Art Critic
I have long expressed my bewilderment (it goes beyond bemusement) at the incapacity of theorists to understand the dialectic between personality type, historical circumstances, and cultural conditioning. Anyone who wants a shorthand look at this dialectic might consider the artistic career of Francis Picabia, who shifted seamlessly from Impressionism to Cubism to Dada to figuration to, bewilderingly to some critics, paintings copying photographs from pornographic magazines, then abstraction. The bewildered critics fail to note the dates during which Picabia produced paintings that reportedly adorned Algerian brothels during the dark Occupation years of 1940 to 1944, and the other extraordinary shifts in style and subject matter likewise reflect the response of an extraordinarily fluid and trickster-minded personality to the major cultural and political shifts of the twentieth century.
I bring all this up at the beginning of an art non-review (I shall, as I increasingly do, reserve ultimate judgment because I am not sure whether I have any) because I deeply regret that we apparently do not have anything resembling a reliable personality test. It would be incredibly useful if we could say openly which personality types from which cultural and historical circumstances would be most likely to respond to a given body of work. The greatest art bridges centuries and circumstances, but even there, there are people who will never enjoy certain types of art no matter how much they come to understand its importance, and who will enjoy other types of art even after they understand why they should not find it enjoyable.
All of this is more or less a necessary preface to any reflection on the extraordinarily titled duo of solo shows that Bill Lowe Gallery has, in the wall text, combined into the title and subtitle “Biology and the Baroque: Prisoners of Matter.” I attended the opening after an afternoon of perusing an online summary of the arguments made in a two-day conference at Rice University about “Gnostic Counter Cultures,” so I was primed to read the art and its ideas in a certain way. The conference dealt with the inheritance and persistence of Gnostic ideas that we are, indeed, prisoners of matter, needing some means of liberation from what Emory University anthropologist Melvin Konner, who may be upset at being cited in the same sentence as Gnosticism, once called “biological constraints on the human spirit.” I use the subtitle of Konner’s early book The Tangled Wing to make the point that it is possible to believe that we have a spirit that is biologically constrained without believing that there is a transcendent dimension into which we can escape from those constraints.
Human creativity is one of the traditional means by which we slip the surly bonds of earth (if I may quote John Magee’s treacly poem) without benefit of divine intervention. Those theorists who sneer at the notion that creative imagination exists are just plain being silly; it is an obvious behavioral fact even if one chooses to believe that it is a response to physical environment or history.
Having said all that, I can finally start talking about the strange pairing of Fabio Modica’s paintings with Claire Begheyn’s assemblages. Two more different commentaries on biology and culture can scarcely be imagined. Modica’s paintings portray the faces of beautiful women semi-obscured by bluntly applied layers of paint. We are told that Modica regards this as a commentary on our imprisonment in bodily circumstances, but also as a commentary on the physicality of paint itself, and I see no reason to doubt this. However, the metaphor of prisoners of the body also suggests the imprisonment of beautiful women in the traditions of painting and in the male gaze generally, and after three generations of feminism it is difficult to read these paintings any other way. Modica approaches his subject matter from so many startlingly different stylistic angles, however, that the work eludes interpretation.
TOPOGRAPHIES OF THE DEPTH
by Giovanni Stella - Art Critic
If it is true that the entire output of Fabio Modica unequivocally addresses the viewer, then not only is his work driven by solid aesthetic motives, but it also originates from the fundamental, undeniable assumption that translates into the artist taking moral responsibility towards the recipients of his artistic creation.
This stance has been dismissed by current criticism to the advantage of a libertarian understanding. Hence, the anarchical, self-referential idea of art whereby the sign is the meaning and the consumer is relegated to marginal status. In Fabio Modica's opus everything tends to establish a dialogical relationship with the recipient, seen as a subject no less active than the artist-demiurge. The gaze of his characters directs itself to the viewer like a darting arrow triggering a no-holds-barred duel, in the fashion of a Balzacian Rastignac throwing down the guantlet to Paris from the tower of Saint Jacques : "Et maintenant à nous Paris”.
None of us, once imprudently caught in the challenger's range of combat, can elude the rough dialectical game of that merciless gaze. From that moment, with his startling images, the artist fulfills an emotional relationship whose outcome remains open.
In rendering the human face, with the unmistakable authority of the sign which is distinctive of our time, the artist builds on the great Antonellian lesson of a bilateral, binding relationship, resulting in a transfer of energy between the mysterious subject, surfacing from the dark, and the enticed viewer, unaware of what is to occur.
In Fabio Modica's imagery there is, however, something more: the unmistakable presence of the great Viennese, investigator of dreams and of the appaling depths of our being. Thus, the human face becomes a topography of the soul, a field of investigation for the artist-detective, who never settles for just exploring the grey areas, the intricate paths under track, or the drives escaping the control of consciousness.
In the dense woods, where rays of light pass through a maze of tentacles, where irises glow like spots of light crossing the materic space in the night, and where the duel goes on without end, is Fabio Modica's great theater. Like an artist-scenographer, he lays down multi-layered coats of vibrant paint spread over a tortured canvas with vigorous spatula strokes as if he was "action painting". His texture echoes the American street art methods, which account, among other things, for his success overseas.
This materic quality is the result of a visual culture the artist has taken in due to the fruitful developments of the twentieth century and the last three decades of the new millenium. These years were marked by tenacious experimentations aimed at innovating at any cost by shocking and burning with iconoclast rage even the original language. Fabio Modica has kept himself from such excesses through relying upon his humanistic universe, at whose centre is placed the man, with his load of uneasiness and contradictions. A threatening human figure lends itself to be examined by those who are accidentally or forcedly passing by: having given up their states of atrophy, their reassuring and christallising truths, and their common places, the onlookers are now asked for seeking adventure across the land of the beyond, where everything is unprecedented and hazardous.
After meeting "vis á vis", nothing will be the same ever again. Instability will replace a heavy stagnation, doubt will dismantle every preexisting balance, the straight line will break into pieces and the colour, nervously cut into sharp, regular tiles, will account for the living chaos. This fragmentation, in its early expression, can be traced back to Tiziano and later to Rembrandt's "The Jewish Bride", and finally to Modica's current interpretation of Burri. This is to prove how one can be contemporary without repudiating history.
Translation: Simona Agata Giuffrida