Matteo Pugliese 瑪蒂奧 ‧ 培利思 b. 1969


One of the most exciting contemporary sculptors to have emerged from Europe in recent decades, Italian artist Matteo Pugliese reinvents the artistic legacy of his classical and Renaissance forefathers with fresh passion and raw imagination. Born in Milan in 1969, Pugliese showed an aptitude for drawing and sculpture from an early age, fashioning human figures from terracotta. In 1995 he graduated with a degree in modern literature from the University of Milan, with a thesis on art criticism.


Pugliese's works fall into three key series: Extra Moenia, the Guardians, and the Beetles. Pugliese is perhaps best known for his Extra Moenia ('outside the walls') classical-contemporary bronze sculptures, which showcase his ability to express the most complex physical and emotional human states through deconstructed sculptural groups. A master of the full emotional range of sculptural expression, Pugliese's Guardians series abandons classical representation entirely and explores primordial sculpture to portray protector figures and custodians of different cultures and religions. The Beetles series harks back to Pugliese's childhood in Sardinia, with miniature worlds and memories nestled within each of his creations.


Extra Moenia

Exploring the full range of physical and emotional states through the medium of sculpture, Extra Moenia ('outside the walls') addresses dualities such as imprisonment and freedom, movement and stillness, light and shadow. This is enhanced by the stark contrast between the bare walls and the dark, intense physicality of Pugliese's enigmatic subjects, whose faces and bodies are contorted with powerful physical effort, muscles taut and veins bulging as they attempt to traverse the walls between different realms. Are they breaking free, or are they being pulled into the void?


Unafraid to portray the abject alongside the quotidian, Pugliese's deconstructed bronze figures subvert the influence of their classical Graeco-Roman cultural heritage. They share a striking visual connection with the legendary sculptural group Laocoön and His Sons, Western art's 'prototypical icon of human agony' executed in the Hellenistic Baroque style that would come to influence generations of European artists. Its sensuous aesthetic jars with the agonied contortions of its subjects, a dramatic visual dissonance that inspired Michelangelo and Raphael and sparked waves throughout art history.


Pugliese takes this a step further, with an emphasis on frank emotional realism and self-awareness that bridges languages and cultures - for example naming his works with simple verbs and nouns in English (Becoming, Rush, Dash, Boxer, Crisis), evoking controversial saints and legends in Italian (Icaro, San Sebastiano), and referencing German literature and history in others (Zeitgeist, die Mauer). Extra Moenia ultimately reflects the artist's unmistakeably contemporary convictions:


'The theme of imprisonment versus freedom is very dear to me. I have seen around me many people who live lives not theirs, people who unfortunately have never had the chance or found the strength to express themselves, people who deny or fail to nourish their true selves.'


The Guardians

Abandoning classical representation entirely, in this series Pugliese's artistic vocabulary embraces a radical stylistic change. The recurring presence of protectors throughout history, helmeted and armoured, speaks to a primordial cultural phenomenon. Pugliese's research pushed him to abandon a classical style in favour of a universal visual language inspired by cultures past and present from around the world. Squat totemic bronze, terracotta and marble Japanese samurais, European knights, Chinese warriors and African tribesmen stand to attention, their roughly-hewn faces resolute but calm. The bulbous proportions of these figures convey the majesty and mystery of prehistoric carved sculptures such as the Venus of Willendorf, the oldest representation of the human body yet to be discovered (and which is now known to have originated from Pugliese's home country of Italy). Each figure is dwarfed by their ornately detailed armour, which is ironically constructed from a mixture of nails, bolts, coins, beads, shoe strings, nails, and even electrical equipment.



Pugliese spent his childhood years in Sardinia where he became fascinated by the island's beetles. He brought some of them home, painted them and released them back into their natural habitat. Sculpted by Pugliese from bronze and ceramic with bright and tactile finishes, each of the works from the Beetles series contains a whimsical souvenir from Pugliese's youth: thumb-sized Superman and Snoopy figurines, military miniatures, marbles, coins, even a mini Swiss army knife. Pugliese playfully names these sculptures by modifying old Latin binomial naming conventions for species, his wordplay reinventing the linguistic (as well as aesthetic) legacies of his Italian forefathers and revealing new dimensions to the tiny universe within each of his works.

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