Jannis Kounellis Sees


Quite a lot of the drawings I have seen by Jannis Kounellis appear to be made in relation to interior architecture, they seem to each embody a room of sorts, which in most cases represents a gallery, and perhaps they are ideas for the installation of exhibitions by Kounellis, formulations of what goes where, that sort of thing. In fact after looking at more of his drawings they are nearly always plans, ideas for different spaces in which he will later place more physical, three dimensional, sometimes even living objects, as well as drawings. In Kounellis’s work the room/space/gallery is a kind of stage on which he places the components/characters of his art. The room in his drawings as a space for thought and reflection has been comprehensively examined in an exhibition in 1991. Curated by Rudi Fuchs and titled ‘La Stanza Vede’ (translated, The Room Sees) the exhibition presented over 100 of Kounellis’s drawings spanning a twenty year period between 1970 and 1990. In the catalogue essay Fuchs articulates Kounellis’s room drawings brilliantly, ‘The room is the place of action,’ he compares the drawings to writing, ‘because while drawing the artists imagination enters into the space and texture of the room.’ Fuchs R. H. (1991) The Hague. This drawing, Untitled, 1985, Charcoal on Paper, however is different, it feels more observed than imagined its subject is external rather than internal space. It clearly represents the kind of arcade of shops and cafés you might come across in a street in Rome, where Kounellis has spent most of his working life, and where in summer the heat can be so stifling that the simple act of moving around is only made possible by the existence of these shade giving walkways. There are the familiar arches, there is even the suggestion of a shop window with items displayed and the extreme shadows cast by a high sun. Unlike the room drawings which are more atmospheric, dreamlike and nebulous, this vigorous depiction perhaps gives us the artist seeing rather than writing, placing him in the world rather than the gallery. I have always thought that drawing is a fundamental aspect of arte povera; a movement Kounellis is associated with, its simplicity, its economy of means, its relationship to the everyday and to the basics of child development all align drawing with the ethos of the movement. It’s refreshing to see drawings from someone with such a varied output and to see how drawing has continued to play a major role throughout his development as an artist.

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