Unknown Ritual

The Norman Rea Gallery’s new exhibition blends ancient myth and human calamity to explain the phenomenon of ritual, and to ultimately question: What is death? What comes after it?

Venue: The Norman Rea Gallery
Runs: 14th–21st November 2011
Curator: Andrea Coppola

Art has long lost its traditional beauty. In striving for the unconventional, or ‘the next big thing’ artists have abandoned the mainstream route in their attempts to blow our minds: think Dada, Duchamp, Klein or Warhol. But when does the unorthodox become orthodox? When does the attempt to be creative destroy art’s meaning? Andrea Coppola endeavours to redefine our perspective on these questions in his exhibition “Unknown Ritual” held at the Norman Rea Gallery.

“No Title” is the first and only explanation accompanying a collection of bones at the Norman Rea Gallery. Andrea Coppola presents the viewer with his very individualised idea of art: Art as a kind of therapy, as a ritualistic means of overcoming and making sense of past troubles and future uncertainties. Exceptionally ugly and provoking, the dead body of a dog is excavated, shown on a video screen its bones are only meters away, behind glass. The artwork is transparently emblematic of the artist’s own reconciliation with the ambivalence of death, a process we can voyeuristically follow throughout the exhibition. He investigates the uses of ritual in human society, the ways individuals and communities structure their lives and how ceremonies are used universally as a means of finding clarity within the unknown. Coppola expertly blends ancient myth and human calamity to explain this phenomenon and to ultimately question the audience: What is death? What comes after it?

Nonetheless, the exhibition’s main focus remains on the artist’s personal experience and the ritual he has developed for himself. Inevitably, we must feel like intruders entering a world we do not possess ourselves and we will therefore never completely understand. For Coppola, the production of art is a cathartic self-portrait, but one struggles to decipher what the viewer gains from perceiving his work. We cannot share in his most private thoughts and it is therefore difficult to find ourselves able to empathise with the artist himself.

Whilst Coppola’s work is characterised by unsettling undertones and often complex philosophical concepts, it is the artist’s innate capacity to make us question the fundamentals of our belief in Art that makes it a valuable and necessary experience for all.

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