Toads swallow fireflies, the Gods eat everything
Comme perle ai porci, oil on canvas. 187x217cm (detail), 2013
Toads swallow fireflies, the gods eat everything
SEA Foundation presents the first solo presentation of visual artist Thomas Braida (Gorizia IT). There are recent paintings, sculptures and masks. Thomas Braida originates from the North Eastern part of Italy. In 2010 he completed his training at the Venetian academy of Visual Arts. Thomas Braida’s work can best be described as a bombardment of images. The scenes are narrative, the imagery is articulate. The works often have a destructive charge.
On first viewing, looking at the work of Thomas Braida (b. 1982) feels like a form of ‘grounded observing’ . For a moment, ratio can be put aside to open the door to your primal instincts. Because, whether you want it or not, Thomas Braida appeals directly to the subconscious. In terms of content, the works display a connection with symbolism: the subconscious is being lifted by alienating, apparent metaphors. His brush strokes are thick and have an almost tangible presence in space. Sometimes, they are fused into a haze that acts like a filter, which, from a viewer’s perspective, can create the experience of being under water or being surrounded by heavy fog. The viewing experience thus becomes blurred. Thomas Braida makes us feel that we enter a world that slumbers elsewhere, deep beneath the surface of what we already know. But this does not necessarily mean that his works are all veiled in darkness.
The mythical of Thomas Braida’s work becomes clear in his portrayal of anthropomorphic creatures. These human-like creatures are bestial, sometimes caricatures, and sometimes threatening. The animal-heads are as masks, that conceal the true person. In order to make the connection with the psychological background of symbolism, it is not far fetched to simultaneously regard these masks as mirrors that reveal man’s true nature. In fact, the figures are often surrounded by nature, naked or not. At the same time, the nakedness and bestial appear disquieting, especially when juxtaposed to dark themes such as death. It is the emphasis on the body and nature that makes these works feel so earthly and even grotesque. The bestial gains prominence, transcribes ratio, evokes primal instincts, and turns us in to “viewing animals” which show ourself in our most primal shape: naked, mortal and worldly. The apparent irony in this is that Braida’s work also gives rise to laughter. This, because masks also remind us of costumed feasts, such as carnival ( which is not surprising from an artist who was schooled in Venice). But the depicted scenes also display cartoon-like figures and clowns. A figure, reminiscent of Donald Duck, lies on the floor, pierced by arrows – arrows that sport colourful feathers. His body shows seams which resemble Frankenstein’s monster.
Brute and innocence
Another work shows a snow globe with child-like figures in a modern Christmas setting: all innocent. On a next painting, a festively dressed anthropomorphic animal-figure steps on to the train tracks: the work is entitled ‘il suicida’ (‘the suicide’). These works itself form a quilt, Frankenstein’s monster whom, in all his cartoonesque naiveté, seems to know no conscience. Animals are unscrupulous, but therefore not necessarily evil-, nor good-natured. Stripped of all ratio and morality, people are just the same: instinctive bodies, grotesque in their earthly connection with the tangible world. Besides that, because of its stark contrast with the coarse style and subject choice, the usage of cartoon-like figures simply produces a comical effect. They provoke laughter, a primal and universal reaction that is often an utterance of relief after surprise. The, at first glance, incoherent scenes make that Braida’s imagery invites the reconstruction of a story.
Because the connection between various elements cannot be explained rationally (What is a clown with a catapult doing in front of a large audience of extremely small people? And what is communicated by the lying, masked figure with respect to the kneeling figure who hands him grass, for whatever reason.) you, as a viewer, start to find your own connections. And when these cannot be found, there is no other option as to recognise that you are dealing with magic: a connection that cannot be explained by ratio, but is still present.
Thomas Braida’s solo exhibition is accompanied by an artist book which consist of a combined catalogue and textbook. The publication is a limited edition, which features a reflection on Braida’s work by art and culture scholar Robert Proost (Tilburg University). The catalogue and the text book are designed by a Eindhoven Design Academy graduate, Korean Jinhee Kwon. The publication is for sale in shop
Text Robert Proost
Translation Heleen Klomp
Website Thomas Braida