As the announcement of autumn in London comes with leaves crunched under foot, the smooth stone and tiled floors of the San Marco, still soaked with summer warmth, offer a nostalgic escapism in Italian architecture.
The Flowers Gallery in Mayfair presents the Frescos of Fra Angelico. Currently displayed in the Convent of San Marco, Florence, the exhibition is Fra Angelico’s work through the photographic lens of Robert Polidori. The gallery describes this collection as “delivering images that evoke stillness and contemplations though their detailed command of texture, light and shade.”
Polidori is an American - Canadian acclaimed photographer of human habitat and environment; he defines his work as images that “record a visual citation of both past history and the present times within the confines of a single frame.”
In 2010 Polidori made many pilgrimages to the Convent of San Marco to photograph Fra Angelico’s frescos; the humility and reverence of these trips is shown in the collection displayed here. A pilgrimage is a journey to a place of scared or religious meaning and Polidori’s photographs manifest the profound connection he has with the work of Fra Angelico - how he views them with such scared regard.
The exhibition is called Fra Angelico / Opus Operantis. The first; the name of the Friar and painter who lived in the Convent between 1436 -1445 and, within that time, created these frescos. The second is a phrase which means the religious rituals are only made holy through the piety of the person preforming them - and not in the objects used, nor the rituals alone.
Giving this second name to the exhibition shows how Polidori believes Fra Angelico has an artistic gift - for it is not the paint nor the subject painted - but rather Fra Angelico’s individual talent that makes the frescos so profound.
“Polidori’s photographs excavate the psychological structure of the rooms, exploring a connection between the calm interior spaces of the monk’s cells and the the spiritual charge of Fra Angelico’s striking masterworks depicting the life of Christ…” - The Flowers Gallery.
Polidori is not just merely photographing the frescos so they might be reproduced and shared outside of the Convent. He is telling the story of the Convent. Many of the photographs have the frescos half obscured, for this collection is about the historic interior and it’s relationship with the inhabitants. The way he has framed these shots, is to say that, these are not just paintings on a wall, but rather the frescos are an architectural part of this Convent and there is a “notion of memory and history embed within architecture.”
Polidori’s previous work includes a 30 year period of photographing the interior restoration of Versailles, a crumbling portrait of Havana, Cuba, the ruins of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster and the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. His work has been an extensive and emotional portrait of humanity, society and history.
Fra Angelico / Opus Operantis is at the Mayfair Flowers Gallery until the 12th of October.
Images courtesy of Flowers Gallery.