“Art is a productive frustration and a pleasant irritation,” explains Matthew Brannon in the introduction to the artwork he created for the Award. Through a video dedicated to wine culture in the United States, the artist explores how tasting an Italian wine becomes a complete experience and drinking it means to come in contact with the landscape, the art, and the food culture of “real” Italy. The artist unfolds his story inside a restaurant where a waiter offers two guests a number of wines that he describes with excessive, almost absurd, language, of which the artist highlights the paradoxical and grotesque details. “My personal relationship with wine,” explains Brannon, “involves the dissonance between its intoxicating properties and its promotion by connoisseurs. In my work, I wanted to make use of humour in the most serious way possible.”
“Perbacco”, the installation created for the Award, is composed of 14 painted ceramic amphorae arranged on top of one another to form a pyramid. Conceived as a sort of fantastic tale dedicated to the dionysian elation of wine, the artwork develops through a series of stops in a rising path that begins at the CastelGiocondo estate and ends in an ecstatic universe suspended in time and space. Two pastel coloured scenes with gold inserts are painted upon each amphora depicting human figures whose physical traits are inspired by a mood that combines Italian painting - from Simone Martini to Carlo Carrà - with the nordic sensibility of artists such as Lucas Cranach and Otto Dix. Faces with enraptured eyes, dazzled looks and fluid forms break away from a black background - found both inside and outside the amphorae - that in eastern mysticism symbolises blinding darkness.
The installation produced by Wesley for the Award is tied to the visual perception of a scientific phenomenon that the artist compares to the Higgs boson: a circular shape, which Wesley calls an “island”, placed inside of a bottle of wine transformed into a structure similar to a spaceship on top of a tripod. The bottle rotates at a set speed while a camera hidden within captures the image of the vacuum created by the wine, and projects it out unto a screen. “It’s the physical expression of an energetic function,” explains the artist that painted the inside of the bottle in order to achieve the desired chromatic effect.