Francesco Clemente on His ‘Inspired by India’ Retrospective at the Rubin Museum of Art

Francesco Clemente is beguiling.  Born in Naples, Italy, Clemente has had a long, passionate affair with India for many years which not only resulted in he and his family living in Southern India, but is also wildly emblematic in the cross-cultural exchange in this body of work.  Living in India has shaped and informed Clemente’s creative vocabulary expressing itself in a deeply rich, personal and complex tapestry riddled with Clemente journey of enquiry. 

The latest exhibition opens September 5  (until Feb 2015) at the Rubin Museum of Art and marks the first New York retrospective of Clemente’s  in over a decade.  Featured is a  series of new sculptures created for the exhibition as well as rarely exhibited works  from Clemente’s early practice displayed alongside his fresh new pieces – approximately 20 iconic works, paintings, sculpture.  From  massive Pop-inflected paintings evoking Tamil signboards; to large-scale sculptures created in the Rajastani metalworking tradition  to canvasses that draw on the erotic iconography of the Orissa temples- each piece has the imprint of Clememte’s deep connection and engagement with the multifarious nature of India. The “Black Book Watercolors” are some of the most sensual and stunning erotic paintings drawing us in with the languid and detailed intimacy. I know I’ll be returning to sit quietly in this precious collection.

Over a simple chai and still-warm samosas, Francesco Clemente and I chatted about his latest exhibition. 

In this survey of new work,  I get a sense of modernity as well as your continuing engagement with Indian artistic traditions.  

It’s a blend of my hand and also the somehow, iconographic language that is different…I want to go past the boundaries.

Where there boundaries before that?

I wanted to make it more literal, but everything I do is about the fragmentation of the Self. 

FRANCESCO CLEMENTE​ from BlackBook on Vimeo.

Is that part of your journey and “story”?

There is always more than a story no? Yes there are always layers. I mean, you have come from this background. You just look at the same place from two different directions.  Really, you can’t look at any place in the world from the place itself. You have to look from somewhere else to see what is there.

“Francesco Clemente, a mingle of the two worlds, artist of spiritual cynicism and erotic chastity, or perhaps cynical spiritualism and chaste eroticism, his face hanging hugely above his dreamscapes like the moon.” — Salman Rushdie

16Sixteen Amulets for the Road (IX) CopysunsunSun Copy

hand The Four Corners Copy

franFrancesco Clemente with Sun Copy

Donna D’Cruz, Rasa Living, consults businesses and individuals on Spirit, Senses, and Style. She is a DJ/Performer, Designer and leads regular Meditation events, “DIP INTO BLISS” (R).” 

Follow Donna on Twitter at @DonnaDCruz and Instagram @DonnDcruz1

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