A ceramic sculpture and two works on paper by Salvatore Arancio have been acquired by the Contemporary Art Society for the Harris Museum in Preston, joining a display of 18th and 19th century landscapes, sculpture, ceramics, historic books, and an important but underused collection of prints from the 16th century to the present day.
The three works are a significant addition to Harris’ collection and will play an important role in their contemporary art programme – Harris Inspired – which will display works in and around the building.
Salvatore Arancio’s work explores beauty and the sublime in nature. He is fascinated by the merging of myth and science, exploring the state of suspension between the real and the fictional through an emphasis on construction and staging. Playing with images, shapes and symbols using found geological illustrations as a starting point, he suggests a sense of human inefficacy against nature, creating juxtapositions that are both beautifully evocative and deeply disquieting.
For his photo-etchings, Arancio scans images from scientific books dating back to the 19th-century. Editing and combining elements from different illustrations and reworking them in Photoshop, Arancio creates his own image and turns it back into an etching. The combination of new technologies with ‘outdated’ techniques creates a new hybrid of communication. The resulting images are bereft of human presence and depict nature in its most extreme manifestations, presenting us with a strange temporality: they could be depicting a distant future or a vision of a remote past. Titles for his etchings, such as Volcano Emitting Rapidly Expanding Gases Containing Millions Of Tons Of Rock Reduced To Powder By The Deflagration, sound scientifically convincing but they are completely made up; Arancio takes elements of existing scientific terminology and puts them back together in different configurations, playing with the inaccessibility of this language.
The form of Arancio’s sculpture Untitled is informed by the petrified trees of the Lava Tree State Monument in Hawaii which preserves lava moulds of the tree trunks that were formed after a volcanic eruption. By using a natural material like clay to recreate the lava trees’ totemic presence and by toning the resulting shapes with iridescent, metallic glazes, Arancio creates a link to his ongoing fascination about nature as a theatre for rituals, worship and self-induced trance states. De-contextualising the forms that have inspired him, Arancio makes apparent their mystical side and emphasises the strangeness and the evocative power of these natural elements that may recall phallic symbols and esoteric signs.
Salvatore Arancio (b. 1974, Catania, Italy) lives and works in London. Recent solo exhibitions include Whitechapel Gallery, London (2018); Artissima, Turin (2017); Museo Civico di Castelbuono, Palermo; Kunsthalle Winterthur; Camden Arts Centre, London (all 2016). Recent group exhibitions include Ferens Art Gallery, Hull; Centre d’Art Contemporain La Halle des Bouchers, Vienne (both 2019); 57th Venice Biennale (2017).