Curated by: Elena Volpato
Michele Tocca_Studio di Stratocumuli_dopo acquazzone_foto Gonella
Michele Tocca_Mura Aureliane Porta Labicana_2020 foto Sebastiano Luciano
Michele Tocca. Repoussoir. Installation view GAM Torino
Michele Tocca
22 June – 5 November 2023
10:00 – 18:00
La mostra

GAM Turin is pleased to announce the exhibition Michele Tocca. Repoussoir, event realised as part of the winning project winner of the PAC2021 - Piano per l'Arte Contemporanea, promoted by the Directorate-General for Contemporary Creativity of the Ministry of Culture.


The exhibition, curated by Elena Volpato, stems from the desire of the GAM, Turin, to acquire a group of works by Michele Tocca (Subiaco, 1983), a painter capable of observing the world with the immediacy of an inner ‘first-timeness’: with the candour of a gaze that knows how to see everything as if it were the first time, yet cultivates a profound knowledge of the mechanisms of vision, the structures of thought and the legacies that art has handed down to us. This ability of his to be entirely in the present moment, to feel the motif of each trace and, at the same time, to see himself seen, to oversee his every decision, to ‘unlearn by heart’ in his own acts the pictorial matrices that belong to past centuries, led us to imagine an exhibition that could hold together these two tensions made up of present-day unaffectedness and knowledge of history.


A few small, carefully selected pictorial studies made directly from nature by artists such as Antonio Fontanesi, Massimo d’Azeglio and Giovanni Battista De Gubernatis, have been taken from the GAM’s nineteenth-century collection and arranged high up on the walls, as if they were ideal notes, accents, or the spirits of the Greek language, while Michele Tocca’s pictorial series are located at the line of vision. A chromatic distinction also separates the painting of the present from that of the nineteenth century on the wall, just as in the artist’s mind, at times, a more or less intense nuance of colour, the slightly closer perspective on the object or the more or less pushed synthesis of a brushstroke, separates his own doing from the living memory of what the plenairists were discovering between the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, giving rise to a real revolution in looking and the emergence of a historical awareness of landscape.


Repoussoir is the title of a work in the exhibition by Michele Tocca, and also part of the acquisition that GAM has made thanks to the PAC2021 tender. The term repoussoir belongs to the history of landscape painting. It indicates an element placed in the foreground with the aim of constituting an obstacle, a frame, a wing to an unhindered vision. It is an obstacle that thrusts the gaze deeper into the work, determining its trajectory towards the visual focus of the painting.


Tocca’s entire painting oeuvre can be read through the visual mechanism of the repoussoir: everything that is apparently marginal, that is apparently just a frame, a disturbance, a distraction, a filter, everything that is evanescent, everything that stands out from what we expect by habit to find at the centre of attention, acquires full prominence and new meaning in his works. Condensation, in his Vapours, blurs the view of the mountain through the window pane, but becomes an iridescent mantle, a metaphorical image of painting understood as the impalpable dimension of the instant.

His Muds, with their muddy imprints on the ground after the rain, are works made of almost nothing, and yet they appear to us as meditations on the entire history of painting of matter: they are a paradoxical encounter between the memory of action painting and a meticulousness worthy of a faux marble of the early Roman style.


Through the elliptical holes of an orange construction site net and through the thick frames of his sunglasses in Alba (Dawn), Tocca rethinks nineteenth-century spyglasses. His Aurelian Walls, fragments of a landscape forgotten by the very city that has encompassed them, become high screens on which the centuries fade away and with them the different feelings of painting that have been projected onto them over time.


The gloves in Pelle fiore and The painter’s rain-jacket, laid out to dry after a day’s painting outdoors, represent nothing more than simple accessories, yet they are self-portraits, painted by the atmospheric elements, by the raindrops, no less than by the inevitable specks of oil paint that fell during the work. They have the power of self-portraits and are, in equal measure, the painter who wears them and the landscape that imbues them. By portraying his work jacket from behind, Michele Tocca makes a repoussoir of himself, a device of pictorial vision, turning his work into a reflection on the physical and metaphorical ‘actuality’ between painting and phenomena.


This exhibition stems once again from the desire to affirm the full continuity between the history of art and its present-day evolutions, in a web of meanings, thoughts and techniques that only museums such as the GAM of Turin have the possibility of recounting, continuing to graft the tale of the present onto the solid trunk of its own collections.


GAM - Torino
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