The Spirit of Japan
at Gordon Ramsay's Lucky Cat, private dining rooms, London
London-based Italian artist Marco Bettoni presents a suite of photographs that celebrate the quirky and highly-stylised illuminated signs on the roofs of Tokyo taxis. Each sign is highlighted against the darkness, a familiar
and recognisable symbol in Japanese culture, but a distinct and enigmatic object from the Western perspective. These signs appear to float in space, a mesmerizing object set apart from the urban frenzy of the Tokyo streets. Bettoni explores the idea of the signs as a contemporary version of the traditional ‘lantern’. With a long tradition of lantern festivals in Asia, Bettoni pays homage to this local culture, and alludes to the reach of globalisation, where he has memorialized these electric signs as symbols of the new age.
Curated by Melissa Digby-Bell,
Offshoot Arts in partnership with A Space for Art
Marco Bettoni showing in the Window Galleries, Canary Wharf, London
Marco Bettoni is a London-based artist, formerly a Camberwell School of Art MA Graduate. His photographs are displayed as large photographs or lightboxes.
Having travelled extensively abroad, and most importantly for this series, in the Far East, his unusual and contemporary works of Art are inspired by the history, philosophy and the culture of the places he has visited. This series is based on the wonderful and sometime odd and funny signs used by taxi firms to advertise their companies, entirely unlike in the UK.
His work is featured in numerous public & private collections, both on the UK an abroad, including Virgin Atlantic, Matrix Chambers in London, and Fondazione Teseco in Pisa, Italy.
Curated by Keith Watson
Tokyo Nocturne, Scream Gallery
Bettoni's latest body of photographic images are an extension of his ongoing series Tokyo Lights. His fascination with contemporary urban Japanese life is manifested here through fine prints/light-boxes of striking illuminated signs isolated from their original setting of speeding Tokyo taxis.
Bettoni obtained each image with not inconsiderable agility and fearlessness, as traffic raced by in the city streets of Tokyo. But in each image, all movement is stilled and absent, with intense colour and light in freeze frame against the black of night.
Marco Bettoni's work becomes a beautiful example of the way we can discover traces of local culture in features of globalised culture, enriched by the artist from a certain sense of wonder in something taken for granted by locals. We may see this as the mysterious workings of what is often mistakenly dismissed as exoticism, but which is in fact a universal phenomenon, an inevitable component of the renewal of perception.
Art Critic, Curator, Lecturer and Writer, London
Drawing the Sky, Galleria Vanna Casati, Bergamo, Italy
Bettoni's hallmark approach to art is evident in Drawing the Sky. This time he has drawn his inspiration from koinobori, the carp-shaped kites that flutter in Japan's skies. Bettoni's photographs capture the moment and freeze the transitional as it rapidly evolves. The Japanese element, which is where the whole process began, has become vanishingly muted in these invented vedutas which, to borrow the words of the poet Hashin, are "neither sky nor earth". They are neither abstract or figurative either. They are worlds apart that the artist has created, using a fisheye lens to form rounded worlds because each circle is a finite world; together, the circles make a constellation of finite worlds. Exhibited in this form, they become the creation of a universe composed of self-contained parallel worlds. Also on view in the gallery is a second series of photos that focuses on architecture and its ability to create new landscapes.
As a whole, Drawing the Sky is an enrichment of Marco Bettoni's body of work. It broadens his path of enquiry, yet at the same time it is a continuation of the artist's sensibility, his ability to seize details from reality and use them to redraw reality with his own personal signature; to craft a new reality out of the equilibrium of harmony, and a balance between the figurative and the abstract. He personally and directly participates in creating the conditions that allow the idea to fly. Once again, he shows that his creativity is strong enough to make us forget the starting point – in this case, the koinobori – without in any way betraying it. Indeed, by retaining its framework of reference in the finished work of art, by achieving this distance, he amplifies the potential of the reality that prompted the idea in the first place.
(Translation by Adam Victor)
Jizo Project, Dieci.Due!
(...) Jizo, or at least the statues from which the artist drew inspiration, are baby-faced figurines that are very common in Japan, especially in temples. In the afterlife, they protect infants aged two and under who have died, and unborn children too. Family members who have suffered such a loss cover a Jizo's head with a little cap, put bibs on them, and bring them baby games. Bettoni has trodden the extremely fine line between individual grief and tradition, and reinvented the statues by weaving little caps right onto canvas, reprising the immobile expressions of their stereotypical little faces, and transforming them into mini totems which, in a calm and repetitive aesthetic gesture, are both reassuring and, because of their totemic arrangement, disquieting at the same time (...)
(...) I Jizo, almeno quelli da cui si era inspirato l'artista, sono statue di aspetto infantile, molto comuni in Giappone, soprattutto nei templi, che proteggono nell'aldilà i bambini morti precocemente, sotto i due anni, o anche non nati. I familiari che hanno subito la perdita coprono la testa dei Jizo con cappellini, mettono loro i bavaglini, portano i giochi d'infanzia. Bettoni si è mosso in equilibrio su quel filo labilissimo che è il dolore individuale e tradizione e li ha reinventati dipinti con i berretti ricamati direttamente sulla tela, con le stesse espressioni del viso stereotipate, immobili, trasformandoli in piccoli totem che, raffigurati in un gesto estetico pacato, ripetuto, riescono a essere rassicuranti e insieme, però, appunto come i totem, inquietano (...)
(Translation by Adam Victor)
Crossing, Platform Projects,
Crossing brings together work by Marco Bettoni and Mariella Bettineschi.
This exhibition was proposed by the two artists who have been in dialogue for a number of years.
In both their work there is a common interest in the investigation of light where the light crosses the boundary between elucidator (that which illuminates) and subject (that which is shown). Both works in Crossing have a symmetry which comes from the use of the sphere in Bettineschi's case and "mirroring" which Bettoni seeks to capture in many of his photographs.
Bettoni's work is a meditation on a place while Bettineschi's is a meditation on a form. Writing about Bettoni's work Stella Santacatterina offers us her own meditation:
"The work offers movement and repose... And it is there, suspended in a moment of time, that the work is absorbed in the expectation of creating a place where a human being may dwell poetically. The forms immersed in a play of light and shade express the idea of quietness. It sets itself up as the horizon, as a screen that alludes to a potential space. It is an apparition which gives to things without a name the property of form and to the image a language with which it may recount its own shadows."
Platform Projects, London
Seijaku, Galleria Vanna Casati
Bergamo, Italy / Matrix Chambers, London
The Vanna Casati Gallery presents the work of Marco Bettoni, an artist born in Bergamo but long time resident in London. The title of the show is Seijaku which literally translated means immobility, that is, calm and quiet.
The work takes for its subject the exploration of Japan, a country which the artist knows very well, both because of a spiritual affinity and because of frequent visits there.
A series of photographs, some hand-printed, some in high-definition digital print, documents an intriguing aspect of daily life. There are small divinities in stones (Jizo), protectors of the world of infancy, which is evoked by the curious little caps with which they are covered; these objects of popular devotion far removed from the European stereotype of the Japanese robot create a charming gallery of reassuring images. On the other hand the study of certain cultural phenomena, such as the dynamic of gesture and communication, and the difference between reality and representation, form the theme explored in the video Seijaku. It was filmed in the old quarter of the Geisha of Kanazawa and in Nagano,from which emerges the ritual of everyday events such as the tea ceremony.
The last group of works in the exhibition is Tokyo Lights, a series of light-boxes whose strong impact is created by the brilliant contrasting images which recall contemporary life in Tokyo. They have been described by the London art critic and writer, Guy Brett, as “Beautiful: calm amid chaos”.
Vanna Casati Gallery
Passage of Thoughts/ Il passaggio dei pensieri
Courtesy Galleria Continua, San Gimignano, Italy
The works assembled for Marco Bettoni's solo exhibition in San Gimignano have been developed from the materials and processes of printmaking: acid on aluminium, the press of metal on damp paper, the collation of prints into the form of a book, the fascinated observation of variation with repetition. (...)
The installation Reflections reveals the extraordinary beauty of paper and of oil. The paper, in a form that now looks familiar, stands like a book open all the way around, between blades of untreated aluminium. The rectangular black frame in which the tray of oil is assertive and serious. The paper, drawing up oil by capillary action, becomes potentially a lamp to show the combustibility of the oil. The oil holds the light more perfectly and steadily than we can believe. The beauty is achieved not in spite of, but because of the proximity to danger and insidious pollution.
Bettoni has made more overtly political works, such as Rainbow War, a black wooden box in the form of a television, that shows only one image. Embossed by arcs of wire, stained by oil, it is a television on which one cannot change the picture. But in Reflections and in Passage of Thoughts (an archive of worlds too numerous to count , made by the press of a rusty washer on paper: printmaking of the most simple and fascinating kind) he pursues the sometimes methodical, sometimes dramatic transformations of an artist preoccupied by a form or a material. (...)
Art Critic and Writer, London