NEVVEN is proud to announce that it has inaugurated a new gallery space in Bologna, Italy. Keeping unchanged its mission and form as an international non-profit hybrid art project, this second venue will expand NEVVEN's program and will run in parallel with our Göteborg space in Sweden.

Mikael Lo Presti: Home as a Silhouette
Jan 25 — Mar 24, 2024
NEVVEN, Bologna

Having lived as an expat in Scandinavia for most of my adult life, I have learned to deal with a complex idea of identity. Each country has their written and unwritten social rules, each has their own David, or Vitlyckehäll,(1) and when belonging to two or more places, the idea of what home is becomes a less defined and blurred concept. One night a few months ago, I was crossing on the side of piazza Maggiore going towards via Clavature, and I realised for the very first time that I was looking at the city with the fascinated eyes of another culture. The estranging sensation did not come from the fact that I perceived this square as far and exotic to me, but from realising that it should have felt mine instead (I am from Bologna). Mikael Lo Presti is Swedish, although his father moved to Södra Sandby from Sicily more than thirty years ago. Sweden is the place where Lo Presti was raised, and it is also the place where he has learned about Italy: watching Italian football on TV, listening to his father’s stories, traveling each Summer to meet relatives in the sunny and warm South. His experience shrinks my personal one to a superficial hint of what might be his cultural confusion: Lo Presti speaks a bit of Italian, yet he has never lived in Italy, has roots here, albeit belonging to another culture. He looks at piazza Maggiore as I have seen it that night a few months ago. This sense of eradication, of trying to make sense of these contradictions, is probably one of the best ways to access the paintings by Mikael Lo Presti. Savvily composed, in their use of different picture planes which often results in an interplay between an inside and an outside, these very large and sometimes extremely small canvases are infused both literally and metaphorically of this duplicity, of this feeling of being able to appreciate only the surface of something that one should instead deeply know. This way of painting images and histories, which appears as using iconic images as an instrument to help distill and make sense of this complexity, has been righteously compared to postcards.(2) But differently from a tourist, Lo Presti is both their sender and recipient. Postcards have a peculiar way of presenting reality to us, one that could be seen as intrinsically phenomenological: they extract emblematic images from their context and tell stories and experiences through them which are other than their own. It is in this way that we might see the often lonely characters in Lo Presti’s paintings, like the Pisa tower or a view of the Coliseum, with brief memories of a trip, a greeting, a love word scribbled on their back. The scenes and figures of his recent paintings have a simplicity and a stillness which reminds of Metaphysical Art, and, as for the Italian movement of the 1910s, in the eeriness and strangeness of the juxtapositions Lo Presti wants to point to an otherness, a further layer to what we see.(3) These paintings demand the viewer to transcend their surface to find more, and read each of the objects, animals or figures as significants and symbols for something more. Still lifes, even when inserted in a portrait, have a crucial conceptual role for Lo Presti and have an important narrative aspect. Peeled oranges are memories of Lo Presti’s father complexly folding orange peels after meals, sardines and stray dogs inhabit the Sicily of the artist’s childhood. In the same way the houses recurring through the paintings on show, seen only as far away silhouettes, embody the image of Italy which Lo Presti is trying to negotiate and understand. An Italy which is very far, yet so very close to him, and that this first exhibition on Italian soil is encouraging him to look further into. The result are these silent, still and elegant paintings, postcards from a memory that stands suspended between belonging and extraneity.

Mattia Lullini

(1) The Vitlyckehäll is one of the largest rocks of Nordic Bronze Age petroglyphs (at 22 meters tall and 6 meters wide) and contains nearly 300 carvings. It is located in Tanumshede, Bohuslän, Sweden.
(2) On this topic, the beautiful essay by Eivind Furnesvik “I Wish You Were Here (But Also Wish I Was Elsewhere)” included in M. Lo Presti, Greetings from the Whereabouts, STANDARD(BOOKS), 2021, p. 88.
(3) Fittingly, in his most recent paintings, Lo Presti seems like stylistically quoting from Italian painting of the early 1900s, as Metaphysical Art did with Classicism. In a similar, and more sombre tone, Europe nowadays also reminds of the years 10s and 20s.

Mikael Lo Presti’s (b.1989, Södra Sandby)
holds a BA from Oslo Art Academy (2015) and he has been exhibited at Astrup Fearnley Museet (Oslo, 2023), STANDARD (OSLO) (2023), Galleri Magnus Karlsson (Stockholm, 2023), Heerz Tooya (Veliko Tarnovo, 2023), Bureau (New York, 2019), Kunstnernes Hus (Oslo, 2016), Hamburger Bahnhof (Berlin, 2015), and Kulturgjuteriet (Borrby, 2014) among others. Lo Presti lives and works between Stockholm, Sweden and Oslo, Norway.