ART REVIEW — Francesco Clemente: Watchtowers, Gates and The Sea of Stories

Francesco Clemente, Installation view, Watchtowers, Gates and The Sea of Stories, Photo: Trevor Good
Francesco Clemente, Installation view, Watchtowers, Gates and The Sea of Stories, Photo: Trevor Good
Francesco Clemente, Installation view, Watchtowers, Gates and The Sea of Stories, Photo: Trevor Good

Industrial scaffolding, rustic platforms and cast aluminium trinkets against a backdrop of embellished oxblood paint, make up Francesco Clementes’ latest exhibition Watchtowers, Gates and The Sea of Stories at Blain Southern in Berlin, on view until February 1, 2020. Comprising of several substantial works, Clemente’s exhibition brings together the juxtaposition of stable structures such as ladders, pedestals and keys, and an immense mural, pink oxblood shadows of Indian culture, symbolism and landscape.

Among the works exhibited, Watchtowers (2014-2019), is a collection of trinkets and treasures found in Rajasthan and cast in aluminium, perilously elevated at the top of pedestals and ladders, akin to the scaffolding found throughout the streets of India. The paradoxically titled Wall of Gates (2019), a collection of 97 keys, hanging in a complex labyrinth of string, amidst eight metal gates, explores the oxymoron of freedom and entrapment – a sort of gateway that cannot be entered. This theme is further studied through The Sea of Stories (2019), the mural, created on-site by the artist himself, reimagines the twelve signs of the zodiac as gateways.

As with much of Clemente’s recent work, many of the sculptures were conceived and made collaboratively with creatives from the Rajasthan region, leading to much of the exhibition reflecting Indian traditions, culture, symbolism and artistic style. The ladders and pedestals allude to the streets of India themselves and the items placed carefully above them are precious, precarious and are finely balanced where they sit, like offerings to the Gods. Keys are suspended everywhere in Wall of Gates, but ironically, they block the way. The viewer is encouraged to consider the relationship between the objects within the sculptures themselves and the boundaries or space that rests between, perhaps the physical space between Earth and the heavens or an allusion towards our internal barriers; more profoundly, we could consider the space between the realm of reality and the afterlife.

Whether you leave thinking about the perilously balanced treasures or abundance of keys and what they might mean, Watchtowers, Gates and The Sea of Stories promises to leave you introspective about those objects and the evocative space in between.


Francesco Clemente
Watchtowers, Gates and The Sea of Stories
Blain|Southern Berlin
Linienstraße 155, Berlin
15 September 2019 – 1 February 2020