MAY – JULY 2023

Fondazione Giuliani is very pleased to present Blaue Nacht, German artist Raphaela Simon’s first exhibition in Italy, and her first ever solo exhibition in an institution. Known for her large-scale paintings of deceptively simple, non-distinct forms set against monochromatic backgrounds, Simon works through different junctures to create a series of layers on the canvas, overpainting and modifying previous elements over and over again, in an often unremitting, slow process. Still bearing visible traces of their earlier forms, each painting becomes a sort of palimpsest, with subtle gradations of colour and reflections of light emerging through the different layers, adding nuance to the composition.

Working within an indeterminate margin between representation and abstraction, Simon titles her works after ordinary objects and designs, thereby suggesting an underlying figurative potential. Indeed, in previous painting series, the artist plays generously with a contemporary reading of Pop Art, as she instils her canvases with disproportionately-scaled images of ice cream cones, lifebuoys, plates of pasta, or individual items of clothing. These paintings, redolent of the soft sculptures of Claes Oldenburg, evoke wry portraits, or totems, of the commonplace.

More recently, however, Simon’s paintings have assumed a different atmosphere, impregnated as they are with a new, darker exploration of the palette. Simon’s visual language, too, has shifted. Moving away from abstract representations of simplified everyday objects, her new body of work includes unsettling phantasmagorias of enigmatic figures, ostensibly human, but, at the same time, quite impossibly so, with their fragmented bodies, torqued torsos and aloof, mask-like impenetrability. These figures, or figurations, counterbalance paintings of stridently reduced geometric design, though one can perhaps discern the hints of grid-like obstructions – walls, grates, fences – symbols of resistance, each set against Goyaesque black backdrops. Similarly, her once intricate sculptural objects and figures in fabric, which were often staged in the exhibition space to create a dialogic narrative with the works on canvas, are reduced to sparse, truncated form: lonesome heads detached from their bodies. Perhaps more so than ever before, in the work of Raphaela Simon, the uncanny takes centre stage, with images at once familiar and alien, teasingly inviting the viewer to discern meaning. 

Raphaela Simon (Villingen, Germany 1986) lives and works in Berlin. Recent solo and group exhibitions include: Nighthawks, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin (2023); Es liebt Dich und Deine Körperlichkeit ein Verwirrter. Raphaela Simon, Florian Krewer, Carina Brandes, Kunsthalle Düsseldorf (2022); In the Shadows of Tall Necessities, Bonner Kunstverein, Bonn (2022); Interior, Michael Werner Gallery, London (2022); Friendship. Nature. Culture., Daimler Contemporary, Berlin (2021); Steine, Hannah Hoffman Gallery, Los Angeles (2021); Raphaela Simon, Galerie Max Hetzler, Berlin (2021); Erdbeeren, Michael Werner Gallery, London (2019). Simon was a student of Günther Förg at the Munich Kunstakademie, and of Peter Doig at the Fine Art Academy in Dusseldorf.

Special thanks to Michael Werner Gallery, New York and London.