Paolo Gioli: Finestra Davanti ad un Albero (Window in front of a Tree)

23 Feb-6 Apr 2024
PV 22 Feb 2024, 6-8pm

Amanda Wilkinson
London EC1M 3JB


Paolo Gioli (1942 – 2022) was one of the most innovative Italian artists of recent decades in terms of his experimental approach to photography and film making. This exhibition presents a film Finestra Davanti ad un Albero (Window in front of a Tree) 1989, and a series of polaroid botanical studies.

The film pays homage to the early photographic pioneer William Henry Fox Talbot (1800 – 1877) and opens with an image of Fox Talbot’s famous window, thought to be the first ever photographic image. Gioli invokes this canonical image with various shots through the window of his own studio outside Venice. One of the effects of the film is to suggest rapidly sequenced photographs, alluding both to Fox Talbot’s experiments and more generally to film’s debt to photography. Shots of Fox-Talbot’s book The Pencil of Nature (1844) also appear, including images of his botanical studies. In one of his notebooks Fox-Talbot commented

If an object, as a flower, be strongly illuminated, & formed in a camera obscura, perhaps a drawing might be effected of it, in which case not its outline merely would be obtained, but other details of it.
William Henry Fox Talbot, from Notebook ‘M’[2]

In 1977 Gioli began working with the Polaroid SX-70, testing the possibilities of the Polaroid medium so radically that the manufacturer eventually rewrote instruction manuals to acknowledge the expanded potential he had revealed. Gioli made botanical works from the late 1970s through to the 1990s using leaves and flower specimens from his back garden for his experiments with polaroid film. The unconventional methods Gioli deployed included printing the film on drawing paper, on black film sheet or on silk; and at other times peeling back the layers of the polaroid film itself. His images of plants result from improvisation rather than scientific observation. Historically, botanical drawings were analytical in nature, immaculate illustrations showing each part of the plant. Gioli’s studies reveal something different, both about the plant and about the possibilities of the polaroid film. As Michael Charlesworth suggests in his essay accompanying this exhibition, ‘Gioli creates a meditation on materialism, on one side, and soul on the other’.

Solo exhibitions include Anthological/Analogue, Lecce, Museo Castromediano / Bisceglie, Palazzo Tupputi and Beijing, Three Shadows Photography Art Centre (2021), The Nude in the work of Paolo Gioli, Amanda Wilkinson Gallery, London (2018) Anthropolaroid, American Academy, Rome (2018), Gioli e i pittori, Museo Poldi Pezzoli, Milan, Italy (2018), Museum of Contemporary Photography in Cinisello (2008), Paolo Gioli. Fotografie, dipinti, grafica, film, P.zzo Esposizioni in Rome (1996), P.zzo Fortuny in Venice and at the Alinari Museum in Florence in (1991). His works are in the collections of many important European and American museums, including the Pompidou Center, the Art Instritute of Chicago and MoMA in New York.