Perfect Imperfections was the title of an exhibition at the Dundas Street Gallery curated by Kim Canale, a painter and visual art promoter from the north-east of Scotland. As well as selected paintings from Canale’s own work, the show also featured pieces by Italian artist Mauro Betti, a graduate from Florence’s Accademia di Belle Arti. The Italian connection goes further than this however: Canale herself is from part-Italian descent; Richard Demarco and the Italian Consulate General were due to attend the day after I visited; and – as co-sponors The City of Edinburgh Council point out in the exhibition programme – Edinburgh itself is twinned with Florence, a subject matter that features in both artists’ works.
Although both artists exhibit stylistic similarities in terms of Lyrical Abstraction and Abstract Expressionism, each produces works that are unique and individual. Indeed, Canale in particular is keen not to be labelled or attributed to any particular movement, expressing a desire to let her works speak for themselves.
Her pieces are more than capable of doing so, and those exhibited here fall into two distinct categories. Firstly, her small and medium-sized mixed media work, which she explained is inspired by cracked and crumbling stucco in old Italian buildings; or – as in her Verdi’s Requiem series – by the emotion she feels when listening to classical music. These latter pieces in particular are fascinating, with subtle swirls of paint, scratched out areas of canvas and textured imprints of fabric vividly and powerfully echoing subtle movements, stanzas and refrains from their aural counterparts.
Works which fit into the other category of Canale’s work on show are larger pieces, more impressionistic and representational in style, and convey architectural details with an effective, limited palette and economic, sweeping brushstrokes; or – in pieces which she described as ‘mememto mori’ – evoke raw and powerful emotion with large streaks of paint that give stark, emotional mood to boldly-composed floral studies to which she has given romantically resonant titles such as “Libera Mi Domine”.
Betti, on the other hand, has a more colourful, almost playful style. Although not present at the exhibition when I attended, Canale explained his work is in part a reaction against Florence’s artistic “old guard”, those that revel in grand old Florentine pride in past glories and achievements which Betti feels the city struggles to move on from. His work, therefore, turns this notion on its head and features bold, multi-textured canvases covered with vibrant colour onto which he has daubed a few words or letters and graffiti-style motifs.
As such, his large, square format pieces resemble sections of medieval Florentine palazzo walls which have been knowingly defaced by an anonymous hand and are both profound and mischievous at the same time. Displayed together, Betti’s paintings work particularly well, each large block of colour calling to its neighbour in a clipped, stacatto manner to create an ensemble that speaks in a distinct but clear voice.
Perfect Imperfections worked well as a joint exhibition with a cohesive subject matter and a complementary visual style. Although Canale admitted she had received mixed reactions from some of Edinburgh’s more conservative art-lovers, I for one was impressed by the emotion, lyricism, wit and uncompromising vision of both artists and I hope she returns to Edinburgh soon with either more of her own work or another curated exhibition as part of her Wall Projects art and design company.