As seen in different sources, the pathosformel of the Hermaphroditus has been haunting pictorial representation for millennia, appearing in painters’ imageries throughout history in often subtle ways. Drawing on the immense methodological legacy of Aby Warburg, this exhibition reflects on the persistence of the image of the Hermaphroditus between past and future. The need to exhibit amongst nine new artworks by contemporary artists different visual sources, spanning from various centuries, points out that this timeless figure has survived until today, through unconscious, but tangible manifestations.

To Be Both, and actually being both, turns out to represent not only a binary perception of the world, but also a spectrum of possibilities given by the current progress of gender studies. In the practice of the selected artists, there has always been a certain interest for the aforementioned topic, and the exhibited works intertwine dialectically not only with each other, but with the iconographical sources. 

Catelli, Celin and Filomena are part of a cutaway in the contemporary figurative research that deals with a constant and dynamic update of specific past sources, a practice that is therefore indulged by their distinctive style. While Catelli and Filomena’s paintings are imbued with an idyllic atmosphere, Celin’s paintings depict contemporary figures from a world in which the characters loudly assert their presence and their dignity to exist outside gender stereotypes. This investigation results in an iconological update and a complete abolition of any barrier between genders. Nevertheless, this quest is still ongoing and there as there are innumerous possibilities to how this image can be reconfigured.

Stylistically, the lines and shapes of Catelli’s intimate drawings engage the white surface of the paper to create new narratives. Imagining a dialogic sequence in which the Hermaphroditus is at first in a room, then lying at a spring, and finally united with the nymph Salmacis, these drawings pose no importance on disclosing the gender of the characters. Whilst instead, Filomena’s paintings depict new symbolic combinations that reinterpret the meaning of the term ‘androgynous’: there are figures with both feminine and masculine attributes, but in the end symbolic features become stimulus for the sight and an urge for reflection. Last, but not least, Celin’s two characters are presented with a powerful chromatic range and are caught in emphatic, kidnapping-gaze poses, reclaiming their status within contemporary society and making the figure of Hermaphroditus part of everyday life. 

- Nicola Nitido

1. Aby Warburg, La rinascita del paganesimo antico, contributi alla storia della cultura raccolti da Gertrud Bing, Firenze, La Nuova Italia, 1980

2. Erwin Panofsky, Il significato nelle arti visive, introduzione di Enrico Castelnuovo e Maurizio Ghelardi, Torino, Einaudi, 1999

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Elisa Filomena (Torino, 1976) graduated in painting at the Albertina Academy of Fine Arts in Turin, where she lives and works. Her practice and continuous research focus on the human figure and nature, both experienced as perennial and delicate forces in contrast and harmony with the transience of existence. The works are often made up of unnatural images that make up dreams and tales of what is hidden from the visible.

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Giorgio Ermes Celin (b.1986, Barranquilla, Colombia) currently lives and works in Barcelona. He creates vibrant works that explore human relationships: the longing for intimacy and the tenderness and melancholy of living in a lonely world where individualism is rampant. He aims to celebrate the beauty, the queerness and the complexity of the latinx-diaspora.

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Giulio Catelli (Rome, 1982) lives and works in Rome. His research in painting is related to the traditional genres of landscape and portrait. The subjects and the atmosphere come from everyday life, like an autobiography or a visual diary where models and iconographies are revisited tending to spontaneity and lightness.