Artist Julia Cavalieri.
Artist Julia Cavalieri.
Image: Supplied

Joburg artist Julia Cavalieri’s upcoming exhibition pries the deepest recesses of the mind in an installation that is sure to move you.

Cavalieri’s work often draws on themes of time and space. During a visit to her studio, at the back of a Ferrari garage in Wynberg, she unveils large-format canvasses of 1.5x2m that would look equally at home in Japan or in Joseph Turner’s England. They have a soft, watery, expressionist quality that seems to belong in the memory, and are at once moving and cerebral.

Largely self-taught, Julia threw herself into being a career artist after returning from Paris where she lived for many years with her husband. She then trained with Ricky Burnett, who she says broke down her style and helped her to paint more instinctively. Since then, her artworks became progressively bigger, requiring her to take up space in her current studio where much of her painting is done over a disused (and filled in) garage pit.

Studying her oil paintings, among the generous brush strokes, dribbles, daubs and scant pencil markings, a nest appears here, a tree there. For Julia, the nest has become a central subject in her work. Her previous exhibition, Nests of Time, was an exploration of life, from first breath to last, with the nest a metaphor for the tapestry of memories.

“We weave these dreams and memories that are so evocative, intangible and layered… it’s quite spiritual,” she says.

Shadow Nests Installation.
Sculpture nest detail 11 Shadow Nests Installation.
Image: Julia Cavalieri
Shadow Nests Installation.
Sculpture nest detail 8 Shadow Nests Installation.
Image: Julia Cavalieri

Opening this week, Shadow Nests is an extension of the theme but further explores Jung’s theory of our shadow selves, the most primal part of our being hidden in the subconscious, with Cavalieri turning her attention more to sculpture. The concept is materialised in her mammoth installation - an enclosed and blackened room in which the viewer has an intimate relationship with Julia’s nests.

Shadow Nest Installation.
Sculpture nest detail 12 Shadow Nest Installation.
Image: Julia Cavalieri

Formed from heat-warped Perspex, each nest cossets a clay figurine within. “The figurines are rooted in the idea that we are shaped and sculpted by society and by life, but nobody really has access to our subconscious, our inner nest,” explains Cavalieri.

Once through the heavy, carved double doors and inside the quietened space among her suspended nests, doused in shadowy light … that’s when you’re granted full insight into Cavalieri’s probe of space, memory, shadow theory and the mind’s innermost quarters.

Cavalieri’s exhibition is part of a larger joint show titled Illusion/Allusion. Her work will be exhibited together with that of Sue Martin and Sharon Sampson with all three artists exploring the concept of space in their own unique languages.

Don’t miss Illusion/Allusion, running from Wednesday 11 to Sunday 16 September at GIBS (Gordon Institute of Business Science), Illovo.

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