Isabelle Cornaro at Francesca Pia
In her films, paintings and sculptural works Isabelle Cornaro (1974) explores the construction and deconstruction of narration, history, and culture. The impetus for such works are frequently found objects – including anything from coins and textiles to toys and jewelry – whose symbolic potential and emotional significance sets her artistic process in motion through their specific forms of representation and their translation into new material contexts. Cornaro does not regard her motifs with sentimentality; rather, the artist follows an analytical interest in the relationships between perspective and meaning, artifact and copy, staticity and movement.
Silent films, which are shot in 16mm format and are projected as digital copies in a loop, represent a constant in Cornaro’s artistic work. To stage the objects in the pictural context, Cornaro employs traditional forms of representation such as landscapes, spatial perspectives, and organization systems, which are typically filmed in simple, horizontal shots. Her films aesthetic qualities recall structuralist cinema of the 1970s, on the one hand, while simultaneously appropriating the fetishized gaze of advertising aesthetics elsewhere. Using the representational techniques of slow-motion and close-ups, as well as light and color effects, Cornaro abstracts the view and understanding of familiar objects, revealing the subtle shifts in meaning that emerge through reproduction and translation processes.
Cornaro achieves a similar effect in her sculptural works. In particular, her series Streams (2019), consisting of casts executed in metallic resin, refers not just formally to the filmstrip motif. The linear structure of the objects suggests a clear narrative direction, depiciting a metaphorical cultural history that leads from the raw material of the stones via the human hand to the coin. Upon closer inspection, however, these Streams appear fragmented, ripe with motivic interruptions and repetitions. As in cinematic montage, Cornaro singles out an excerpt from a broader context with each of these “motif strips.” The arrangement of the works in space takes up the cinematic process of framing, the image-compositional transposition of the immobile three-dimensional environment for the two-dimensional image. The solid materiality of these excerpts retains their formerly fluid state, revealing the kinship to photographs and film clips, as images taken from the flow of time and petrified.
Cornaro’s works affirm both this ambivalence inherent to a fixed form and structure as well as the fluidity of narratives and connotations. In her moving and fixed or static images, Cornaro continually gives form and meaning to the multiplicity and ambiguity of things.