Cooke Latham Gallery is delighted to present Voyage and Return, a solo exhibition by Siro
Cugusi. The gallery space is dominated by three monumental paintings that explore the
landscape genre and its symbolism. Untethered from any known reality, the paintings portray
the dream-like topography of the unconscious. In many ways Arcadian vistas, the serenity of
the subject matter is continually thrown into disarray; smooth ornamental imagery confronts
painterly abstraction. As the viewer one is delighted by the balance of the compositions and
yet unsettled by their continual disruption.
Cugusi has constructed a highly personalised visual language of new and archaic forms
which he reconfigures continually to create his arresting imagery. The water is tufted into
stylised waves, while the drama of the rocks dissolves into loose brushstrokes. The paintings
are fleshy, pink proliferates, while red spheres like cherries provide surrealist punctuation to
the compositions. Enigmatic shapes emerge from the painted surface and are subsumed back
into it. "Reality is left behind and the rules of the universe bend."(Siro Cugusi, 2022)
The artist's practice also encompasses sculpture, and the organic and machine-like forms of
Cugusi's sculptural works inform his painting. There is a chiselled weight to the trees, the
waves, the hills, while the impasto of the paint's application has the tactility of a sculpted
surface. On occasion rocks morph into mathematical forms, trees ape geometry, merging or
contrasting with the voluptuous Biomorphism of the landscapes.
Like the backdrops of the early Renaissance the works have a studied naivety. The craggy
horizons and sculpted edges to the water are reminiscent of a stage set, the platform for the
action within an Uccello or Giotto, except here, of course, the action is uncannily absent. The
viewer has the impression of an artist who has mastered the pictorial rules of the genre only to
purposefully abandon them.
In an era in which figurative painting proliferates Cugusi creates landscapes that feel radical
within a genre often considered obsolete. Terrifyingly animate, his landscapes are portraits in
their own right, 'living landscapes' rather than inert backdrops for human endeavour.