'Alessandro Papetti: Dynamic Space'

by Marius Gombrich

Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Tokyo

Closes June 17

Since being featured at the Venice Biennale in 2003, Italian oil painter Alessandro Papetti has started to gather a critical mass of interest in the art world, leading many to see the 52-year-old as the next big thing. Now, Tokyo’s Italian Cultural Institute is joining in, devoting its entrance hall to a free exhibition of Papetti’s large canvases.

A self-taught artist, Papetti’s most obvious references are the Italian Futurist movement and Francis Bacon. Like the Futurists, there is a sense of dynamism to his work, even in his depiction of postindustrial decay — “Inside a Moscow Factory” (2008). But this kinetic sensibility is better served by street scenes, like “Milan” (2008). This shows a typically ornate avenue in the fashionable metropolis whizzing by as blurred lines converge on a vanishing point, creating the artistic equivalent of wind in the hair. His treatment of paint and his readiness to distort to achieve an effect evokes Bacon, but Papetti prefers to stay closer to perceived reality: His pictures of children diving actually look like children diving.Papetti says he concentrates on the space around his objects and figures. This gives his canvasses a sense of space, light and motion that helps the ancient art of oil painting to compete with more up-to-date visual technologies.

Appropriately titled “Dynamic Space,” the exhibition presents nine paintings, under the three themes of water, abandoned factories and cities; although, unfortunately, none of the artist’s astounding pictures of underwater scenes are included. Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Tokyo, is open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. For more information, visit (Japanese only)