In October 2016, Ars Citizen invited Paris‐based Swiss artist Felice Varini to San Francisco in collaboration with swissnex and Exploratorium, to explore the possibilities to create a site‐speciﬁc work for a pier on San Francisco’s waterfront. The visit was organized in partnership with the Consulate General of Switzerland and Pro Helvetia. Varini presented his work to San Francisco’s art community during a reception in his honor. Additionally, Ars Citizen facilitated a workshop with a class of students at the San Francisco Art Institute, thanks to Hesse McGraw, Vice-President of the Exhibitions and Public Programs, and Mads Lynnerup, Head of the New Genres Department.
Varini's new work in San Francisco will continue his long-term investigation into the architectures of interior and outdoor spaces that he integrates to his paintings through optical effects. His work will be a highlight to mark the ever transforming, vibrant and historic San Francisco waterfront.+ +
Felice Varini (1952, Locarno) is a Paris-based Swiss artist.
He is renowned for using historic architecture and the urban landscape as the canvas for monumental-scale paintings. Architecture figures as both background and primary subject in his startling work that uses principles of optical illusion and anamorphic projection.
The elements of his work appear as abstract shapes until viewed from a single point of perspective when they remarkably resolve into simple symmetrical shapes and patterns superimposed on three dimensional buildings.
Varini has worked in many regions of the world including Europe, Asia, Australia, the United States, and in a variety of contexts that span the range from gothic churches to modernist buildings, from city squares to entire urban districts.
Among his many recent accomplishments in the public sphere are Cité Radieuse Le Corbusier in Marseille (2016), Grand Palais in Paris (2014), Granary Square in London (2013), Salon de Provence village, France (2013), Vercorin Swiss Village (2009), the University of Nagoya, Japan (2008), the Port of Saint-Nazaire, France (2007, and permanent in 2009), Cardiff Bay district, UK (2007), Orangerie of Versailles (2006), Peugeot headquarters, Paris (2005).
“My field of action is architectural space and everything that constitutes such space. These spaces are and remain the original media for my painting. I work «on site» each time in a different space and my work develops itself in relation to the spaces I encounter.
I generally roam through the space noting its architecture, materials, history and function. From these spatial data and in reference to the last piece I produced, I designate a specific vantage point for viewing from which my intervention takes shape. The vantage point is carefully chosen: it is generally situated at my eye level and located preferably along an inevitable route, for instance an aperture between one room and another, a landing... I do not, however, make a rule out of this, for all spaces do not systematically possess an evident line.
It is often an arbitrary choice. The vantage point will function as a reading point, that is to say, as a potential starting point to approaching painting and space. The painted form achieves its coherence when the viewer stands at the vantage point. When he moves out of it, the work meets with space generating infinite vantage points on the form. It is not therefore through this original vantage point that I see the work achieved; it takes place in the set of vantage points the viewer can have on it.
If I establish a particular relation to architectural features that influence the installation shape, my work still preserves its independence whatever architectural spaces I encounter. I start from an actual situation to construct my painting. Reality is never altered, erased or modified, it interests and seduces me in all its complexity. I work ‘here and now’.”
Felice Varini website
1, 2. Felice Varini, workshop with students at San Francisco Art Institute, Oct. 2016 ©Hillary Goidell