Swedish artist Julia De Ruvo’s debut solo exhibition, ‘I PROMISE I DON’T BITE / JAG LOVAR ATT JAG INTE KOMMER ATT BITA DIG’ is currently on at Guts Gallery in Hackney until the end of March. The series of paintings and short films accompanied by a soundscape by Hans Berg aims to express the navigational journey of a self-taught artist in today’s art world and the desire to be accepted in the community. Taking inspiration from Michel Houellebecq’s essay ‘To Stay Alive’ his topics of insanity, survival and art are all explored through De Ruvo’s simultaneously eerie yet calm imagery.
Walking into Guts Gallery the open space is flooded with light. Each painting hung on white walls features the relationship between humans and domesticated animals via moody portraits in complex tones of blues, greys and greens. The subjects of the paintings are the familiar faces of common household pets. Utilizing domesticated pets as the subject of her paintings, De Ruvo draws a parallel between our behaviors and theirs. As loyal companions, they represent a sense of understanding within the chaos of navigating the world around us, professionally or otherwise.
The cats and dogs have a demanding presence in the room. Their sassy glances and snarls dripping in spit are intimidating yet intriguing. Dangling raw meat, quarreling animals and black leather dog collars are all imagery that gives erotic undertones. As a viewer, I am drawn into the animals’ squinting judgemental gaze. They know something you don’t. The paintings appear two-dimensional but within the flatness are layers of emotion. Between the extremes of the aggression of snarling teeth, fighting dogs, hissing cats and piercing stares there is a calmness that emanates from the paintings. The soundscape accompanying the exhibition is eerie and slightly industrial which creates an abrupt contrast to the organic forms of the painted subjects. At the end of the exhibition, there is a short film compiled of flashing clips of household pets growling, barking and snapping at the camera and each other. This moving image reference brings the exhibition full circle as we are reminded that these are the pets we see every day in real-life circumstances and it may bring one to reflect upon their own experiences and memories.
‘I PROMISE I DON’T BITE / JAG LOVAR ATT JAG INTE KOMMER ATT BITA DIG’ invites the viewer to be put in the lonely shoes of the artist and question our place in the intimidating world of art. Who do we really consider our loyal companions and how do we navigate the unpredictable relationships we encounter throughout our lives?
For more info – gutsgallery.co.uk
Mia is currently finishing up her Art Direction degree at the University of the Arts London. Coming from an Italian-American background and living in both countries allowed her to explore her interests in traveling, cooking and the arts. Her passion for sustainability has led her to explore the intersectionality between the environment and creative industries.