Florilegium at Projektraum London
The Latin term Florilegium is the seed for the English “anthology,” or the more poetic German “Blütenlese”–literally, a harvest of petals. Medieval anthologies consisted of a fine selection of plants, and even cherry-picked writings or passages and excerpts (many of which had been textually altered) that were arranged alphabetically or systematically in one volume. Sara Rossi’s exhibition at Projektraum London uses paintings themselves as the entries of a Florilegium, introducing the reader to a creative process in which the perception of the act of painting becomes a writing practise, comparable to the slow growth and development of plants. Such a painting, originating from the act of seeing, is not simply an abstract painting. It represents–as Florilegia do–a seed from which plants will grow: paintings in which Rossi’s internal response surfaces through the work’s meditative nature. These responses are not only generated by emotional interiority, but are rather practices and awareness sheathed in hints through their visual language. They exist in permanent tension with a distant hand operating slowly, meticulously transferring a close memory, intimacy.
Rossi’s usage of colour and forms is analogous to how handwriting visualizes words on paper, and opens up to a way of immediacy that gets more complex by the addition of time and process. One can shift the expectations and the prevailing understanding that a beholder generally has of what a painting can or should be. Analysing the genesis of her visual outcome, Rossi describes herself as extremely close to the fundamental elements of archaic abstraction: a style of painting in which colour is effortlessly applied, launched through the natural muscle memory of the body on canvas, rather than executed carefully through the development from a detail. The resulting work emphasizes the almost poetic layers of a situation.
Her artistic practice is strongly influenced by ideas of interpretation and subjectivity. Rossi elects to use Untitled in place of a title for her paintings–a deliberate attempt to counteract the impetus of offering a lens for reading the works. Following Susan Sonntag’s essay “Against Interpretation,” which argues against the dominance of verbal hermeneutics in discussions of art, Rossi’s work operates as the residue of thoughts-and-memories, akin to a photograph of a mental process or a meditation that has been transferred through the hand onto canvas. Her modus operandi eschews sketches based on figurative elements of the external world, which could be interpreted as unresolved forms of abstraction; instead, Rossi sees her approach as a sort of “mental metabolism,” in which psychological forms are made manifest on the canvas. Less interested in the illusionistic representation of reality, and more in the way paintings and image are able to convey a system of thinking, Rossi’s paintings draw an allusion to writing, in visualizing words on paper through the hand. The anthology she thus creates is reminiscent of this medieval world referencing florilegium by enclosing the bi-dimensional and anti-perspectival character of the works. The elements obtained act as a support for a second phase of creating signs on several levels. All at once the allegory becomes a ritual, a visual potion in its intertwining of layers.