SECRET SOCIETY: Humans in Thick Fur and Feathers

“Recently, I happened to observe a pair of blackbirds in my garden, a mother with her baby…”

As visual artist Nunzio Paci begins this narrative of his observations in his garden in Bologna, Italy, a melancholic truth somewhat shapes itself through these birds. There was a wistful image of humanity at its primal state of survival, the need for thriving (or contrastingly, the luxury to not have that need) permeating from this gesture of a mother blackbird gathering food and directly feeding her chick. This philosophy of instinctual behavioral patterns centered on this lifelong law of nature takes an introspective trajectory through his solo exhibition at Galerie Stephanie entitled Secret Society. Paci narrates his observations on the congruencies of human and animal behaviors, questioning the complexities and growth between the two.

“I began to observe animal behavior more carefully to the point of imagining a ‘society’ made up of individuals with the same needs and characteristics as humans.”

One of the recurring motifs in Paci’s work is his masterly portrayal of human and animal anatomy, which are profoundly depicted in various stages of growth and decay. These studies are combined with organic and natural elements, such as flowers, plants, and their hybridism, to create creatures that blur the boundaries between the human and the natural world. Coherently, Secret Society highlights a more “active” series of animal subjects rendered with his remarkable precision and attention to detail, without leaving the markings of human behaviors. His collection of paintings here are nothing short of bucolic, which accentuates the idea of superficiality of human perspectives. A lot of human weaknesses are cleverly juxtaposed in the sweet and bright elements surrounding the subjects, where the painting entitled “Flexitarian” comes as a prime example. The two mockingbirds present in this particular work hints the primitive instinct of survival that leads to cannibalism where upon close observation, one would notice one of the birds (with the deformity of a plant’s branch extending through its beak) was being eaten by the other one. Similarly, the siege of herons in “Flat Earthers” present the narrowmindedness of man, enabling their stubbornness and false beliefs represented by the meadow “growing above their heads” to be the cause of their gradual demise.

However, the works come to a certain deviation of human development—seemingly as a redemptive conclusion at first but again eruditely executed to be a critical analogy of human flaw. Paci’s series of sculptural works entitled “Grafted Bones” consist of animal skulls adorned with customized prostheses. He points out that these products of technology (“medical assistance”) intended for humans are misconstrued as physical salvation in forms of precious metals and stones.

“…our behaviors and instincts are not so different from these animals”

Paci’s Secret Society, when observed unselfishly, appears to be very clear instead. The animal kingdom’s representation of harboring knowledge for personal survival does seem too familiar for comfort. The exhibition’s stunning and evocative exploration of human exploits and their relationship to the natural world provides its audience with a poetic and philosophical depth that Paci exceptionally, and anatomically, was able to narrate.

Text by Grace Micah Oreiro