Que j’ai gardé la Forme et l’Essence Divine
Photo diptych in two versions
photographic print on pvc banner 157x217 cm each / print on satin photographic paper applied on Dibond 55x40 cm each.
Text by Maria Chiara Wang
Faro Arte Gallery, Marina di Ravenna
28 June - 21 July 2019
Que j'ai gardé la Forme et l'Essence Divine' is a photographic diptych. In the first version - 157x217cm - the two photographs are printed on banners; in the second - 50x70cm - they are printed on satin photographic paper applied on Dibond.
The title is a quotation from the last sentence of Charles Baudelaire's poem Une charogne, a composition in which the French poet, comparing his own woman to the carrion he met on their path, recreates and reconstructs beauty from decomposition. The disfigured form is thus recomposed and its intrinsic magnificence is brought back to light and elevated to a work of art.
Alors, ô ma beauté!
Dites à la vermine Qui vous mangera de baisers,
Que j'ai gardé la forme et l'essence divine
De mes amours décomposés!
And so, my beauty,
tell the worms,
that will eat you up with kisses,
that I have preserved the form and divine essence
of my rotting loves!
The diptych has two Carogne. The first, with its limbs wide open, as shameless as the one described by Baudelaire, offers the viewer its sex and entrails. The new form attributed to it by the artist recalls the tail of a mermaid, thus reconnecting to the element of water. The air, on the other hand, recalls the second one to which Vale Palmi gives angelic wings.
In Que j'ai gardé la Forme et l'Essence Divine we find some recurrent elements and themes in the production of Palmi: from the use of tin and zinc, to the Sexualisation of Decomposition, to the Elevation of Death.
Zinc is a material used in slaughterhouses, and - as such - it evokes the moment of the passage to Death. In the work in question it is present in the shield that forms the background of the carcasses and serves the artist to better communicate with the object/subject of his art.
The light used to make the shot highlights, with raw realism, the sexuality, voluptuousness and beauty of the flesh. A beauty extracted from the ugliness of the putrefaction of the body and obtained from the recomposition of the figure. As in Baudelaire's 'Flowers of Evil', in this diptych the sublime is mixed with the obscene, the fascination with repulsion, Eros a Thanatos, resolving the antinomies in an indissoluble unicum.
Que j'ai gardé la Forme et l'Essence Divine wants to be the negation of Death as commonly understood and its Elevation as an affirmation of Life after Life through the change of Form. Those who are sensitive can see in corpses the life inherent in the dynamism of transformation due to decomposition.
The imposing dimensions of the prints also highlight the 'divine essence' of the bodies portrayed, making their vision almost supernatural. The circle in which they are enclosed alludes to celestial perfection and is an echo of the proportion, symmetry and harmony of the Vitruvian Man.
Unlike the paintings of carcasses by Chaim Soutine or Francis Bacon, or Baudelaire's poems, in Palmi's work the filters of painting and writing also disappear; the contact with reality is more direct. What causes repulsion and disgust is in no way omitted or hidden. Bacon's 'cry' "We are all flesh, we are all potential carcasses" in Que j'ai gardé la Forme et l'Essence Divine takes on a positive meaning and a reassuring aspect: if we are all potential carcasses, then it will be up to us all to continue life in new forms even after what is usually called Death. The concept of memento mori is thus reinterpreted and overturned.