Francesco Clemente’s Encampment has arrived at Carriageworks. The 30,000-square-foot installation is comprised of six elaborately decorated marquees, pitched throughout the vast Carriageworks foyer and Anna Schwartz gallery space. It’s a collaborative project Clemente created alongside a community of artisans in Rajasthan, India over three years. The exhibition was first shown at MASS MoCA last year.
The career of the Naples-born artist spans four decades and has been divided between spiritual India and the turbulent art scene of New York City. He worked with Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol, and created watercolours in collaboration with poets Allen Ginsberg and Robert Creeley. For Clemente, collaboration has been a consistent and natural part of his artistic practice.
“I’m always questioning the boundaries of the self, the boundaries of what I make,” he says. “I’m interested in a fragmented image of the self, so a collaborative effort comes very naturally to me.”
The jewel-toned interior of each tent in Encampment has been hand-painted in tempera by Clemente, the exterior camouflage fabric has been woodblock printed by hand and embroidered with golden thread by Rajasthan artisans. Each tent follows a specific narrative, depicting various figures and cultural symbols – love, pleasure, reincarnation and assorted mystic emblems. “I’m a bit of a theosophist,” he says. “I have an interest in every single religion that there is, and I do believe that all religions lead to the same place.”
The first tent, Standing with Truth, is inspired by the Indian mystic and poet Kabir. It presents the idea of the body as “our ultimate companion” and a vessel with which to navigate the world. The Angels and Devils tents offer a “vertical perspective”, and the idea of a push and pull, and prevailing balance. Museum Tent* features self-portraits – a comic depiction of “previous personal delusions”.
As for the symbolic significance of the tent, Clemente says, “I’m finding this out – my attitude is I make something first, and then I ask myself what it is … There are works you create right away, and then there are works you keep thinking of without knowing how to make them. And the tents are definitely one of those works. I’ve been thinking about them my entire life.”
Encampment is at Carriageworks from 30 July to October 9.