Invisible Cities at Waddington Custot

Curated by Flavia Frigeri, ‘Invisible Cities: Architecture of Line’ is currently taking over the Waddington Custot Gallery in the most spectacular way.

The exhibition consists of paintings, drawings and sculptures by a group of international artists; Georgio de Chirico, Fausto Melotti, Maria Helena Vieira da Silva, Gego, Shusaku Arakawa, Giulio Paolini and Tomás Saraceno. These artists explore the concepts of the ideal city, discovering, in the process, the necessary coexistence of the real and the imagined.

The exhibition is named after Italo Calvino’s novel, ‘Le città invisibili’ (‘Invisible Cities’ in English. The book explores the imagination and the imaginable through the descriptions of cities by explorer, Marco Polo. The book is framed as a conversation between the ageing and busy emperor Kublai Khan, who constantly experiences merchants coming to him to describe the state of his expanding and vast empire. It mostly consists of poems that describe fictitious cities that are narrated by Polo, many of which can be read as parables or meditations on culture, language, time, memory, death, or the general nature of human experience. In one exchange between Khan and Polo, Khan prods Polo to tell him of the one city he has never mentioned directly - his hometown. Polo’s response: “Every time I describe a city, I am saying something about Venice.”

The metaphysical cityscape paintings of Giorgio de Chirico 1888-1978 (‘Il grande metafisico’ and ‘Il segreto del porticato’) show dreamlike settings of cities, with awkward, steep perspectives of Italy, surrounded by melancholic shadows and skies.

The metal sculptures by Fausto Meloti are striking abstract representations of cities. Calvino met Melotti while writing  Le città invisibili and Melotti’s sculptures became a central focus of Calvino’s ‘thin cities’, describing them as spider web cities.

The term spider web cities also refers to the structures that swing above viewers heads, as the stunning, show stopping sculptures from Tomás Saraceno’s long-term project, Cloud Cities, hang from the ceilings. These sculptures oppose gravity, creating floating cities that perfectly capture the light and reflect it, creating a blinding, radiant glow over the gallery.

Viewers are presented with the delightful opportunity to view ‘Invisible Cities’ through the eyes of these artists, opening their own eyes to brilliant and new perspectives. ‘Invisible Cities’ generates a vast amount of inspiration, as viewers soak in the poetic essence that flows from the pieces on show that together create an imagined utopia.

“Invisible Cities” is on at Waddington Custot until 10th May.  More information may be found here.