Last Thursday, 30th October, the Polish duo Etam Cru opened ‘Bedtime Stories’, their first Italian show at Galleria Varsi in Rome. ‘Bedtime Stories’ recalls the tales parents use to read to their kids before going to bed and it evokes that special in-between athmosphere that happens while you’re still awake, but gradually falling asleep while gently taken to the realm of dreams. Both in the title and in the art works, ‘Bedtime Stories’ also actualises Etam Cru’s idea, according to which everyone can read a painting in a different way and discover in it a different story. Thus, they offer the viewer the freedom to see a personal elsewhere in each work.
In their very peculiar style, BEZT and Sainer created for this show a new body of work, consisting especially of large canvases inhabited by a variety of characters engaged in contemplation in different settings and who are sometimes also accompanied by some animals. Through the use of symbols from the everyday life, they create different worlds, imaginative and surrealistic worlds that convey a fluid and constant transition between conscious and unconscious states of mind and produce a dreamlike atmosphere, where you can easily get lost.
The walls of the gallery are covered with neutral wallpaper with some skulls, some crowns here and there and a variety of mushrooms that can be also found in many of the artworks. The mushrooms can be a reference to the magic mushrooms that help summoning visions of other worlds. The set up of the environment aims at conveying an intense feeling of being in a kid’s bedroom, thus preparing the viewer to and immediately immersing her/him in the oneiric narratives of the duo. In fact, the soft pale colour of the walls helps creating a strong contrast with the more colourful palette used in the canvases, with the outcome of highlighting the works powerfully.
‘Bedtime stories’ is the canvas that gives the title to the show and introduces to the theme. It depicts a boy and a girl fast asleep against a starry sky. The blanket that keeps them warm is punctuated by mushrooms and it is clearly the extension of the neutral wallpaper of the gallery walls.
In ‘Lost Friend’, a lady lying down in the middle of a dark blue forest stares with a vacant glance at some little flowers from which a special light seems to radiate. The work is open to more that one interpretation. Maybe the portrayed lady herself is the lost friend of the title, or maybe she is hiding in the forest because she is sad for having lost a friend, or maybe the flowers are the key to find the lost friend, that is to say, the opening that connects the real world and the imaginary one.
The beautiful ‘Daybreak’ depicts a lady wrapped in a blanket and emerging from the water. Next to her a black dog is suspended above the water with his head turned in the same direction of hers. Her gaze is focused on the faraway horizon, where a glaring light reveals a passage to a parallel world. The dominant blue tones create a dreamlike and surreal effect.
In the breathtaking ‘Blueberry Dreams’ a lady sits in the grass among some mushrooms and blueberries. But she is asleep, with her head turned upwards and resting on a suspended pink pillow. Her back rests against a blue wall that seems to be the extension of the starred sky. One of her arms is disappearing and slowly merging with the blue sky of the background. The real world represented by the blueberry bushes overlaps and confuses with the imaginary one, embodied by the night sky.
Some of the art works are less dreamlike and are clearly set in everyday environments, showing more definite and real elements. ‘The Thieves’ depicts a fast food interior, with a lady lost in her thoughts who is looking at a bird wearing a hat. She doesn’t seem to notice that three birds are stealing chips from her untouched plate on the table. The concrete reality of the city, with its buildings, churches, street signs, some graffiti on a wall and a lit up window with a plant is the background of ‘Ballad About A Boy’. The little boy portrayed with his dripping and disappearing coat seems to be an imaginary character who comes out straight from a fairy tale.
To complement their exhibition, Etam Cru realised a mural of thirty meters on a wall on the corner of Via del Pigneto and Via Ludovico Pavoni. ‘Coffee Break’ shows a man in a nightgown, who holds a cup of coffee, and stands in a garbage can among a soccer ball and the cup of a fastfood drink. Maybe the two artists wanted to hint at some Italian lifestyles and stereotypes.