By pure fortunate happenstance, I was in Florence for the opening of the Biennale, an every-two-years art exhibition featuring contemporary artists across all media. Photographers, painters, sculptors working in ceramics, glass, wood, and bronze, video artists and installation artists were all represented. As I was there on opening day, some of the works were still being installed, and many of the artists were present. I got a chance to meet two of them- Xu Lishou and Amir Jabbari.
Xu Lishou is a painter from Taiyuan, currently residing in Italy. His work features traditional Chinese themes but painted in a very modern style, using mixed media such as paper pulp and rope to provide high-relief texture. We spoke a little through a friend of his who translated.
I met Amir in the light well of the exhibition hall (the hall is mostly underground, inside the Fortezza Basso, a Medici-era military fortification which still has use today as a base). I had stepped in to photograph the stairways, and he was smoking a cigarette. He is a video artist from Tehran. I did not get to see his video, alas, as it was one of a group of videos on continuous loop in the video exhibition room, and I was feeling under the weather and couldn’t wait for it to come back up.