Pro-pri-o-cep-tion: a word used primarily in the medical world, it refers to our body’s sense of its own movements and awareness of its positioning in space. Linked to kinaesthesia which refers to the movement alone, proprioception is concerned with the subtleties of our consciousness and rapport with and within our environment.

Manuele Cerutti explores this subtlety in a suitably demure style. 11 paintings adorn the ICI (Italian Cultural Institute) located in the hub of other countries’ cultural institute; 8 paintings on the ground floor are akin to taking a deep breath of fresh air. Something rare in central London both literally and spiritually. This selection features small scale works, the largest measuring no more than 60cm in length, all of which was completed specifically for this show. The paintings feature some still lives as well as the artist himself, depicted in contortioned positions, entwined with static objects.

Manuele Cerutti, Flexors II, Oil on Linen, 2016, Courtesy of the artist and ARTUNER

Manuele Cerutti, Flexors II, Oil on Linen, 2016, Courtesy of the artist and ARTUNER

During a discussion hosted by the institute which saw the artist discuss the exhibition with Marco Delogu, Director of the ICI, Gregor Muir, Executive Director of the ICA – Institute of Contemporary Arts, London and the curator Eugenio Re Rebaudengo, founder of ARTUNER, Cerutti emphasised his wish to objectify the body whilst giving a new sense of identity to the objects depicted in his paintings. This contrast is visible in the display of three large scale paintings on the top floor of the space, all of which depict ladders. In this display, the ladders are life sized, taking a near mythical stance in the opulent décor, whilst the small canvases downstairs take on the role of object.

The artist’s mission to bring something akin to a personality to objects is beautifully portrayed in two paintings which depict nails (Opposition l & ll). The image captures a sensibility normally reserved for loftier subject matters, yet in this instance the viewer seems to be looking into a private moment. Similarly, in the Liturgies artworks which depict the artist and a chair, the object takes on a role much beyond that of prop. It implies struggle, absence, and a deliberate incapacitation exercised on the human form.

Manuele Cerutti, Liturgies I, Oil on Linen, 2016, Courtesy of the artist and ARTUNER

Manuele Cerutti, Liturgies I, Oil on Linen, 2016, Courtesy of the artist and ARTUNER

Cerutti’s equal treatment of his subjects is a beautiful reflection of the awareness he has of himself and the solid foundation upon which his work is built. He expresses a willingness to integrate himself within the painting tradition, something brave for the best of artists, whilst voicing a very unique standpoint. The work is fresh, and the painting equally refreshing. Whilst realistic, it has more spirit than photorealist paintings, with objects and backgrounds blurred in a style akin to that used by old masters. Brush strokes and vulnerabilities on show, this exhibition is quietly powerful, and not to be missed.

By Alexandra Constantine

Manuele Cerutti: Proprioception, at the ICI in London, 31 March – 12 May 2016. Admission Free. Open Monday to Friday, 10am-5pm.