Installation view of Damiano Bertoli's work on display as part of the <em>Melbourne Now</em> exhibition at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne from 24 March – 20 August 2023.    Image: Tom Ross

Damiano Bertoli

Damiano Bertoli
(b. 1969, Melbourne, d. 2021, Melbourne)

Damiano Bertoli was a highly regarded artist and teacher, with a career spanning more than twenty years before it was cut short in 2021 when he passed away at the age of fifty-two. Bertoli’s practice encompassed video, painting, sculpture, performance, collage and installation, with many of his works referencing, appropriating and remixing cultural and historical touchstones – from Memphis Milano and Superstudio to Pablo Picasso and the Manson family. In addition to his art practice, Bertoli was a writer, teacher and an early member of the influential Melbourne artist-run space Ocula Lab between 2003 and 2010. He also featured in the inaugural Melbourne Now exhibition in 2013.

Bertoli’s career is being honoured in Melbourne Now with a selection of works from his 2019 exhibition Superpositions. Borrowing its title from the Gilles Deleuze and Carmelo Bene text published in 1978, Bertoli’s Superpositions series is inspired by Deleuze and Bene’s philosophical approaches to reconfiguring the theatrical canon and famous desecration of cinematic conventions. Here, statues from the late Roman Republic sit in conversation with singers, actors, artists and progressive public figures of 1960s and 1970s Italy, challenging the visual hierarchies of Western civilisation and exploring the aesthetics of countercultural movements throughout history. Ahead of the exhibition’s opening in 2019, Bertoli said: ‘The occupation of public space, privileging of the body, and its tilt toward the provincial “pre-modern” as a rejection of capitalism and the machinery of state and church, recall forms of paganism and antiquity’. Airdropped into a contemporary context, these ghostlike figures feel at once nostalgic and timely, factual and dreamlike.

Throughout his career, Bertoli presented more than twenty solo exhibitions in museums, contemporary art spaces, artist- run initiatives and commercial galleries. Select solo exhibitions included Superpositions, Mackintosh Lane, London, 2019, and Neon Parc, 2020; Continuous Moment: Big Foot’s Studio, Margaret Lawrence Gallery, Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, 2016; Continuous Moment: Sordid’s Hotel, Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, 2014; Continuous Moment: Anxiety Villa, Artspace, Sydney, 2011; and Continuous Moment: I’m Ok, You’re Ok, Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, Adelaide, 2008. Group and curatorial projects included Spring 1883 Art Fair, Windsor Hotel, Melbourne, 2018; Future Eaters, Monash University Museum of Art, 2017; Dancing Umbrellas: An Exhibition of Movement and Light, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne, 2016; Video Arte Australia y Nueva Zelanda, Centro Cultural Matucana 100, Santiago, Chile; Melbourne Now, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2013; Yebisu International Festival for Art and Alternative Visions, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photo‑ graphy, Japan, 2011; Chinatown: The Sequel, LTD Los Angeles, United States, 2011; NEW07, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 2007: and Silenzi, Palazzo delle Prigione, Venice, Italy, 2006.