Louisa Gagliardi’s images, which emerge from simple drawings, digital remixes, Photoshop, and applied glosses, make themselves heard through their topicality. Through the exploration of the material, the artist expresses a being-in-the-world that merges with today’s integration of virtuality and physicality. This strange digital filtering system, in which people become aggregates of technological interfaces, forms the environment in which Gagliardi composes her images. These works masterfully encode the time and place of the artist’s production.
Gagliardi’s representational style transforms the immediacy of a paintbrush on the screen to the inherent distance between users and networks off the screen. A mouse becomes the driving element of the molds – under its direction, the old technology is replaced by a new one. She layers digital processes between traditional ones, prefacing each image with a grouping of sketches and painting over the digitally rendered “flesh” with gels, acrylics, and nail polish. Her finishing techniques give the images a glow that radiates back to the viewer. This glossy coating also accentuates the perception that one is moving through a painting, as the gel surfaces only catch light from certain angles. This process also emphasizes the -materiality, which makes these works appear even more clearly as works of art. Gagliardi explores textural features that have been passed down, with her varnishes replacing traditional oils and tempera.
This “end-time online culture” and its ever-expanding conditions provide a foundation for Gagliardi to address. Their visual world is therefore always inextricably linked to digital technologies. In her imposing work, Gagliardi references a number of historical precedents, borrowing elements of Italian Futurism and retaining a surrealist appetite for the dream world. Strands of Ivo Pannaggi’s industrial formal language are woven between Kay Sage’s sparse borders and Remedios Varo’s opaque narratives. Gagliardi sums up today’s age of surveillance and spectacle while nodding to Renaissance idealism. She refers to the impossible postures and proportions of Sandro Botticelli’s motifs; her more populated, “legible” scenes evoke memories of those by Giotto.
A variety of sculptural objects have also been created in -Gagliardi’s mind. Her penchant for illusion manifests itself in strange objects, as the artist imprints her signature on the surfaces of polyester couches and machined aluminum. In Permission (2021), the viewer encounters a Flat Stanley-like figure sitting behind a dog chained to the wall. Chains and candles decorate the scene with nebulous effect. Just like her painted figures, these objects strive for autonomy. The situation at issue here thus becomes one in which the rupture between dimensions raises a fundamental question of presence.
In her monumental presentation for Art Basel Unlimited 2022, Gagliardi stages a relatively depopulated scene. There are two completely clear figures, while the rest are only hints, either made of silver chroma or materializing as fragments in scattered glassware. In the artist’s work, exorbitant impulses manifest themselves in the form of opulent place settings and high-heeled shoes. However, this is the emptying after the party. Salt has been spilled and cherries are scattered. Tête-à-tête shows the cold aesthetic of digital rendering, but ultimately supports Gagliardi’s penchant for theatricality. Their narratives are cultivated by floating signifiers thrown into the terrain of perception. Isabelle Graw supports this sentiment, writing that “the signs of painting can be read as traces of the producing human being” and submit to the viewer’s evaluation.
Under the Breath (2021) strongly resembles Tête-à-tête, but in a disturbing green color palette. A misty round table with green figures is here shrouded in ominous fog, and the seated people seem to drown in the milky haze. Doves embellish the scene and witness the strange gathering that takes place around the central table. A disastrous change of hands, with the cuticles and knuckles particularly prominent. Gagliardi regularly interferes with the act of gesture, her -interest being in the semiotics of the hands. The sheen and idiosyncrasy of the nail beds of Palm Reader (2019) and the defined hand folds of Blood Moon (2020) represent Gagliardi’s fascination with the expressive possibilities of the subject.