In Elio Ticca’s paintings, ancient and contemporary, sacred and profane intermingle, creating new variations of style and content. Through recognisable tropes, which are manipulated and adapted by the artist, his enigmatic works defy all logic from the point of view of the onlooker, yet leave us room for interpretation and imagination.
Homage to surrealist painting remain an important aspect of his work. His images, like many surrealist artworks, deceive the eye; what looks normal at first is overturned and altered, until we get caught up within the realm of oneirism: the dimension of the dream and the subconscious.
In “Ringkomposition” at La peau de l’ours gallery in Brussels, his largest solo show to date in Belgium, Ticca presents a new series of paintings, made between 2020 and 2021, along with works produced from 2017 to 2021. In all paintings it is possible to recognise references and homages to some places dear to the artist, which are at once personal and collective, illusory and real. Since we remain grounded in an identifiable reality, Brussels, the city where the artist works and lives, emerges as one of the main sources of inspiration for the show. Brussels, the city of surrealism, of art nouveau, of René Magritte, is evoked by the sinuous and elegant shapes of its maison de maître. These buildings, which often hide a masonic past, are evoked in some of Ticca’s paintings, along with their decorative esoteric elements.
Another pivotal focus of his new series is the dream: the living reality of dream. Dreaming is an experience we all live, which we recall, once awake, to varying degrees. Yet, dreams remain subjective, ambiguous, fragmentary, opaque. Dreams are at once fantasised and reliable, merging sacred and profane, magic and reality. It can also be, symbolically, a manifestation of an “elsewhere” in which to believe or be wary of. The dreaming experience can also be an unconscious manifestation of desire, a reality that remains hidden and protected within us, nurtured by thoughts that are unknown to others. Such illusionary reality remains also a private space, a personal dimension, created by and for us.
In Ticca’s paintings, such metaphysical and oneiric spaces merge with real places, which belong to the everyday life of the artist: for instance, the Église Royale Saint-Marie, or Villa Empain in Brussels. In both places, referenced in his paintings, surrealist elements are embedded in the very composition of the works, metamorphosing such locations into the mirror of the artist’s unconscious. Other paintings revisit the classical art-historical genre of still life. And it is thanks to these works that we can recognise some objects of our everyday, domestic life, immersed in twisted, exotic, metaphysical locations.
A typical characteristic of the dream is also the coincidence between beginning and end, past and present. The end of a dream coincides with our awakening, and the end of the day coincides with our sleep: this cycle is repeated every day. The dream is actually only the momentary end, or suspension, of the “rational”, before connecting with the dimensions of the unconscious. A passage similar to the dichotomy, as theorised by Friedrich Nietzsche, in his The Birth of Tragedy, of the Apollonian and the Dionysian: the realm of order and rationality the former, and the realm of chaos, desire and intoxication the latter.
According to Nietzsche, the cycle is extended, and is applicable, to existence all at once. Such eternal return, more extensively explained in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, is a philosophical theory, where time is interpreted as a cyclical experience. According to such theory, the universe dies and comes back to life, following fixed and necessary time cycles. For Nietzsche, time thus repeats and eternally stays true to itself. Such intuition struck the philosopher’s mind, while taking a walk. Since the world is composed of an infinite number of elements, and such elements are neither created nor destroyed, then all components of reality must aggregate each other repeatedly, endlessly and cyclically.
The title of Ticca’s exhibition, “Ringkomposition”, evokes Nietzsche’s theory of the eternal return. The ringkomposition is also a rhetorical technique, mostly characteristic of the oral tradition of ancient Greece. This device consists of the repetition of sentences and rhetorical figures along the text, with a ring-like structure, or mirror-like, chiastic feature (A-B-B-A). A ringkomposition can be, for instance, the repetition of a literary topos, already mentioned at the beginning, within the conclusion of a text or speech.
We find such repetition of key elements also in Ticca’s works. The exhibition aims at evoking a narration, along which its different elements lose their single importance, and become altogether a metaphor of an elsewhere, and otherness, without beginning, nor end. At the same time, the represented places and objects remain suspended in a non-time, where past and present, dream and reality coexist and follow each other.
Starting from this reflection about art and life, Ticca’s work questions the dichotomies of the everyday, and of an imaginary permeability between dream and wakefulness. Such works eventually incline more towards the sphere of dream and the irrational, rather than the one of reality as we know it. Dream, oneirism and the unconscious are celebrated, in the exhibition, as a dimension where we can still find a space for freedom: the possibility to be simply ourselves and, at the same time, the “other”.