Meteoron takes visitors on tour of tombs

An art exhibition which takes tombs as its main theme is proving to be an unexpected success in Zurich. Meteoron takes the visitor through a series of sepulcres filled with the paintings and sculptures of the Swiss-based artist, Henri Barande.

This content was published on August 7, 2000 - 15:00

Barande's exhibition at the Sotheby's gallery - his first in Zurich - is set out in five distinct areas that he calls "tombs". Inside each one are artifacts from archeological digs alongside sculptures and paintings created by the artist himself.

Barande favours ensemble pieces over exhibitions of individual works of art.

"I never create works on their own. I always imagine them together with other works, as a whole. This is why I've put the works together because they do not exist on their own. They actually exist together in space. And the space works against time. And this is how I imagine them - as tombs," he told swissinfo.

The five rooms include the artist's interpretation of famous tombs, such as a tomb from the chapel of the Medici in Florence. The original has Lorenzo and Giuliano de' Medici seated facing each other, but in his version, Barande has abstracted the pair from the scene, depicting the two by a single chair.

Another room is "The tomb of Fu Hsi", the first of five emperors of China's legendary period. Part of the inspiration for interpreting tombs in this way goes back to Barande's early days.

"There is a historical part to using tombs and this is a part of my life. My sensibility to tombs and to these historical objects developed from my life as a child in Carthage. As I assembled these various images and objects I realised I was putting together tombs," Barande added.

The name of the exhibition, Meteoron, means phenomenon in the sky and the visitor is left with the feeling that many of the exhibits are free floating. The space between the objects lessens their weight and physical presence.

Barande is not afraid of highlighting the philosophical ideas behind his works. In the exhibition catalogue, he writes: "These tombs make an appeal to an ideal and ultimate memory in order that it is finally revealed which has not yet conferred its name. This revelation of the anterior is the sublime affirmation of a present."

He also speaks of "sublimation as the destination" and "materials abandoning themselves to the spirit".

"I think that philosophy is present in all art and in the future it will be difficult to disassociate them," Barande told swissinfo.

Meteoron is a powerful exhibition of sculpture and painting, with strong ensemble pieces forcing the viewer to appreciate more than just the form of the works of art on display. Barande's works will be on show in New York later this year.

by Tom O'Brien

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