METAFIGURATIVE Pictorial narratives of Hugh Fleetwood by Gianfranco Valleriani
Natural landscapes that come alive from nothing. Forests and meadows as simple backgrounds of a mysterious presence of humans. Persons who become characters, with fixed glances that draw trajectories in the void. They look at each other; they interact remaining alone, reaffirming their identity, their lean and essential humanity. They look like to be in a sort of presence-absence, like a deaf cry, in a state of simplicity that becomes complex but only to return simple. Animals, and trees and leaves and flowers, that become symbols. An essential composition that is sublime and perfect in its way. There is an almost Flemish atmosphere in the “visual narratives” of Fleetwood, which involuntarily emerges, and it surprises us. His world is now real, now, suddenly, without any reference to reality, but only connected with our memories. Fleetwood takes us into a suspended world; not a meditative world but only one made by pure admiration. His is not a hedonistic game; it does not chase the nice fairytale and gothic caricatures, nor the contemporary glitter of “skulls and diamonds”. His atmospheres offer a classic style and stories of beauty suspended between life and death, between reality and dream. It is precisely in this dimension that the “figurative” is moving towards a “meta-representation”. But without cognitivism, without numbers and without calculation, only with the lightness of poetry, of figures that, just as well as words, make up a simple and touching poem. It is precisely in this poetic gesture that Fleetwood builds his pictorial world, where he entertains himself and he quietly spends the time of his life. With this suggestive retrospective, Fleetwood seems to invite us to take a walk, without haste, in his delight pictorial garden.
Hugh Fleetwood is a painter, poet and prize-winning novelist. Born in England in 1944, he moved first to France and then to Italy, where he remained for the next fourteen years. He had his first exhibition in 1970 at the Festival dei Due Mondi, in Spoleto; the year after, he published his first novel, A Painter of Flowers, for which he also designed the cover. His second novel, The Girl Who Passed for Normal, won the John Llewellyn Rhys Memorial Prize and his fifth one, The Order of Death, was made into a film – Corrupt in the U.S. – starring Harvey Keitel and John Lydon (Johnny Rotten). In all he has published twenty-two books and he has been called one of the key authors in the history of the British and Irish short story; set to music, some of his poems have been performed at the Salzburg Festival. He also designed the cover for his last novel, The Dark Paintings, and for a late publication of one of his earlier books, Foreign Affairs. He currently lives in London.
Notes on “Metafigurative”
“Metafigurative” speaks about a space between reality and dream, where every moment depicted by the artist seems to open up endless possibilities of stories and plots. What moves the gaze within his paintings is certainly the curiosity to grasp the shadows and tensions that every creature that inhabits his works brings with it. Fleetwood’s depicts spellbound spaces, woods illuminated by blue and pink moonlight, animals that accompany men as guides and talismans, as a time of our past childhood, full of simplicity and happiness, to which the protagonists of Fleetwood’s artworks seem to turn.
The exhibition at Le Dame Art Gallery in London
Metafigurative at Le Dame Art Gallery is the largest retrospective on the Fleetwood pictorial production ever made. Only few exhibitions were previously held before the present one, at the St. Raphael Gallery and at The Calvert Gallery, both in London. The retrospective at Le Dame Art Gallery will present a huge collection of more than 30 pieces, which cover the entire period of his pictorial productions, including three self-portraits. The small and medium size of his paintings – none of them is over a meter in size – built a mosaic of thousand visions and facts between humans, and between humans and nature. Three poems, written by him, will be also exhibited, combined to his figurative universe, in continuous references between his arts.
Visual narratives and literature stories.
As the artist and novelist says, the visual narrative is not directly connected with the literary narrative. “When I write I don’t think about my paintings, and viceversa. And I don’t feel there is a direct connection between them”. But the suggestions and the atmospheres are easily are felt to be located in some place of his narrative paths, ambientation of the same episodes of his rich storytelling. Also, some of his pictorial works have been used as covers of his books. Starting from 1972, Fleetwood is author of: – 16 novels – 4 collections of short stories – many poems, published in different and collective books.
Cinema adaptions and screenwriter
On the other hand, Fleetwood has contributed relevant events in the international movie production, as many of his books have been adapted to movie, and himself has been a successful screenwriter. He has produced for about ten works in the cinema, as screenplay or script collaborator. From his fifth novel The Order of Death has been produced an 80s cult movie, “Coopkiller” directed by Roberto Faenza with Harvey Keytel and John Lydon (Sex Pistol’s singer) as player; music by the Italian Maestro Ennio Morricone. (a cura di Lucrezia Giovanardi)