Jannis Kounellis has been a major figure in contemporary art for over forty years, his work in the 1960s exploring form and material contributing to the start of the Arte Povera movement. Echoes in the Darkness reveals his vision of art and life, and expresses the ideals and questions that drive him.
Jannis Kounellis has charged himself with an elemental vision of art and life - fire is one of the mediums he uses to express his profound visual imagination. He is also political and intellectual. In Echoes in the Darkness he reveals the questions that drive him.
In the port of Piraeus, in Greece, there is a small tramp steamer moored at the dock. The Ionion's cargo decks are laden with the works of the Italian artist Jannis Kounellis, born in Piraeus in 1936. The ship, and its manifest, are a metaphor for the high priest of Arte Povera, the art movement founded in Italy in the late 1960s. Kounellis, as a student in Italy, had found in the Renaissance masters Giotto, Masaccio and Caravaggio his own elliptical ideas of space and form. They helped him on a journey, one of many, a restless exploration of the notion of art that had, for him, been stigmatised by the prevailing critical view. These journeys, literal and metaphysical, were to an Ithaca of the mind, almost Odysseys that could have no realistic or expected ending. Kounellis's exhibition of 11 live horses in a Rome art gallery (1968) and Albatros (1991) are, though more than 20 years apart, both part of these same journeys.
"But do not talk to me about crossing confines," he says. "I don't know what that means. I have never crossed confines."
Echoes in the Darkness, Trolley's selection of Kounellis's writings and interviews, does not necessarily explain his theories, his visionary meanderings and voyages. It does, however, illuminate his powerful intellectual and emotional sensibilities, and allow an insight into a unique understanding of art and, as importantly, life in the late 20th century up. He, of course, asks: "Where next?"