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Christian de Vietri
ANZ / Art &Australia Emerging Artists Program

Christian de Vietri, Einstein's refrigerator (2nd law), 2004, polyurethane, metal fridge, 110 x 245 x 170 cm, courtesy Goddard de Fiddes Gallery, Perth.
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Now that reality television is our surrogate for life experience, it is a truism that objects encountered everyday, on reflection, turn out to be double entendres. Certainty is a relative concept and it follows that relative certainty is as stable as things are going to get. With data circulating at ever increasing rates and in previously unimagined volumes, just how long any 'fact' remains undisputed is no longer measured with a calendar but by a second hand sweeping around the face of a wristwatch (if that too isn't just an analogue relic from the modernist era). Christian de Vietri ponders just such questions and his works quite literally relish in the specifics that signpost our uncertainty.
 
After graduating in 2001 from Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Christian de Vietri has exhibited extensively in Australia, furthered his studies at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris, been named a Western Australian Citizen of the Year in the category of Youth Arts, won a Nescafé 'Big Break' award and completed a residency in Marseille. Not a bad pace for a young artist born in Kalgoorlie a little over two decades ago.
 
At the heart of de Vietri's work is an eye for the quotidian. This was evident in a series of twelve early paint-chip collages, 'Boredom, death and other catastrophes', 2000; generic narratives constructed using the names on paint-colour cards found on display racks in local hardware stores. De Vietri's extensive series 'On Safari', 2000-04, combines photographs of objects or incidents he encountered in the street with texts gleaned from scientific sources. Reminiscent of the attitude of a nineteenth century flâneur, these photographs reveal the humour of someone engaged with a world that swirls around each of us, everyday, everywhere - a world where what you see may well not be what you get, where a hat may well be a cat.
 
More recently in his sculptural practice, de Vietri has applied the laws of physics to whitegoods, creating glistening polished surfaces captured at the moment they morph into another form. These sculptures bring back memories of the works of Bill Woodrow or Bertrand Lavier, sculptors who have also explored a vocabulary of transformation and consumer goods. De Vietri's sculptures are satirical icons of modern progress, his melting fridges comment on our current predicament, global warming. There are two refrigerators in this series, Einstein's refrigerator (2nd law) and Einstein's refrigerator (3rd law), both 2004, and, while they are identical in volume, each has metamorphosed into completely different forms. The latter has dissolved into an expansive puddle, its former state only recognisable from a protruding handle and the General Electric badge. The first is on its way to becoming a puddle of matter but remains recognisable as a refrigerator, albeit a melting one. These works are arrested moments of matter in transition, consumer goods de Vietri has subjected to the principles of the second law of thermodynamics, shapes that shift on their way from order to chaos, from a solid to liquid state.
 
De Vietri's exhibition in late 2005 at Goddard de Fiddes Contemporary Art in Perth drew again on everyday experience. In this case de Vietri's source was the data that flows on the internet; data in the form of a pie chart that quantifies and compares everything from births and deaths to airport arrivals or voting patterns. De Vietri sourced information directly from the internet and assembled the data into digital photographic files, creating patterns reminiscent of stained-glass windows. These are then mounted in light boxes. The principle work in the series, South window, 2005, was modelled on the circular window of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. The juxtaposition of disparate data creates unexpected and extraordinary new subgroups of data where the pie charts overlap.
In de Vietri's 2005 work white goods and everyday life are again examined. A washing machine spins out of control, or is it simply being wrung out to dry? The quotidian is brought to life with a life-sized replica of those ubiquitous buskers: humans dressed and posed as statues. They are curiously compelling forms of realism, if somewhat estranged.
 
By any measure you may choose, Christian de Vietri is already an artist to keep an eye on. An artist who will continue to enchant audiences with the well-crafted realism of the everyday and those occasional epiphanies discovered in the street.

Gary Dufour

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