Jodice / Canova

Mimmo Jodice

12 May – 28 May 2022

Novalis Art Design, 197 Hollywood Road, Hong Kong

Vera Canevazzi

“Who looks at my works is looking at my thoughts”, narrates Mimmo Jodice in a 2009 documentary by Giampero D’Angeli. The works by Jodice are not born by chance, they do not materialize from impulsive shots on unexpected subjects but they are the fruit of enduring projects the artist reaches after long consideration, selection and elaboration. This is why his photographs “taste of long periods, of waiting”. They are shots that live in a timeless dimension where images are “born long before they are seen” and the connection to reality is canceled.

At the beginning of the 1960s, Mimmo Jodice (Naples, 1936) tries out various arts before landing on photography, that he approaches technically and conceptually with an experimental attitude, nurtured by his association with avant-garde artists, that in those years collaborated with the Neapolitan galleries of Lucio Amelio and Lia Rumma, such as Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, Joseph Beuys, Josef Kosuth and Vito Acconci.

From the beginning Jodice does not utilize photography as a means to capture reality but rather as an actual language, with the same power as the spoken word and writing. The themes he develops make him shift in space and time: from the social inquiries at the end of the 1960s (dedicated to hospitals, prisons and factories), to Neapolitan and Mediterranean urban and marine views of the 1980s, to the musings on still-life of the mid-nineties.

His photographic series on the sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822) is the result of a more extensive project on sculptures and classic art, on the roots of the Mediterranean culture and on the connections between past and present. Jodice’s interest in antique art and archeology derives from and is strengthened by his professional relation as an art photographer with important archeologists such as Fausto Zevi and art historians Eugenio Battisti, Giulio Carlo Argan and Giuliano Briganti.

Through these collaborations, at the beginning of the 1990s Jodice develops some important publications: Michelangelo Sculptor (1989), Paestum (1990) and Pompei (1991-1992).
In 1992 it was critic Giulio Carlo Argan who invited Jodice to engage with Antonio Canova in occasion of the upcoming grand exhibition dedicated to the sculptor at Museo Correr in Venice and at the Canovian Gipsoteca in Possagno. The celebrated exhibition gathered for the first time 130 works by Canova, including 37 marbles coming from the most important European and Russian museums, eleven of which from the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg. It was an exhibition that illustrated the journey of the sculptor, from his first youthful Venetian works, such as Orpheus and Eurydice (1774-76) and Daedalus and Icarus (1779), to the commissions for Napoleon and his first wife Giuseppina Beauharnais, such as Dancing Girl with Her Hands on Her Hips (1811-12), Paris (1812) and the Three Graces (1816).

The photographic exhibition Jodice Canova, here in the space of Novalis Art Design in Hong Kong after various stops in Bassano del Grappa, Milan, Arezzo, Mexico City and San Marino, puts in dialogue two Italian artists from different eras: one of the greatest sculptors of the European Neoclassicism and one of the major interpreters of Italian and International contemporary photography; a union that combines in itself ideal and real, body and soul, matter and image.

Mimmo Jodice interprets 17 sculptures of Canova with 52 shots, four or five of which dedicated to each work of art. He selects glimpses, points of view, keeping a scale of 1:1 between the sculptural detail in focus and the dimension of the photographic print. He searches for a visceral connection with Canova, with his vision, his creative process and in approaching the sculptures he revives the natural body, he exalts the softness of the flesh, bringing them back to life. Jodice recounts in an interview an aspect about Canova that had particularly fascinated him: when the artist presented the finished works to his commissioners, it is said he would do it in the dark and with just the light of a candle he would trace the shapes of the sculptures, exalting their natural beauty. In the same way Jodice tries to return this close-up vision and the “carnal” to the spectator, with a masterful placement of light sources and an attentive research of chiaroscuro tones («Rai News», 2018).

Canova in his works tries to achieve the absolute idea of “Beautiful”, conceived according to the Neoclassical principles of pure form, devoid of any type of passion, torment and excess. Jodice through his pictures not only manages to repropose this ecstatic tension, the beauty and lightness of the characters, but he emphasizes these elements by focusing on some features and zooming in on the faces, breathing new life into the works of art and making them very contemporary. In the choice of details Jodice does not look for beauty as much as the intensity: as he writes “I don’t have any credible notion of beauty. It’s the least of my problems to get to know something because it is beautiful. The aim of my job is the intensity. It’s from here that emotion flows. I don’t know other genuine routes” (interview for «Repubblica», 2016).

So the sinuous folds of Hebe’s dress in movement, the hand hiding behind Paris’s back that holds an apple tightly, the sweet embrace of the Three Graces conceal within stories of moments, actions and passions that go beyond the representation of the myth to reach a universal narrative. The pathos of the myths and of the characters becomes, what the critic Roland Barthes defines the punctum of photography: that particular sign of a photo that leaves a wound in the observer, a mark that completely fills the shot becoming an essential element (“The Light Chamber. Notes on Photography”, 1980).

In the photographs, the works of Jodice and Canova really become a duo, a pairing and mirroring of two great artists that together crystallize the ability of art to be eternally emotional.