Palermo's fine lines
Elke Buhr, 2022


In Berlin, Laurent Ajina traces Palermo's fine lines.

There are worse places for solitude than Palazzo Viola in central Palermo. In early 2022, French artist Laurent Ajina was caught in quarantine here and, with the baroque square of the Quattro Canti in view, had plenty of time to reflect on Sicily's capital. A city where different civilisations have overlapped for centuries, from the Arabs to the Normans to the society of the present, marked by migration. Ajina's " Palermo Paintings" at Galerie Crone in Berlin reflect the city's complexity in a series of paintings in which numerous pictorial levels overlap. Ajina combines architectural-looking line structures with abstract colour surfaces, hiding organic forms in the depth of the picture structure like the plants of a garden behind a fence. Water, which the Arabs brought into the city through a complicated system of pipes, is an underlying motif in the show, which becomes an expression of total art in the back room when the lines extend onto the walls.

Elke Buhr

We are very pleased to announce the solo exhibition Palermo Paintings by the French artist Laurent Ajina in our Berlin gallery. On display are over 30 new oil paintings, whose unique arrangement transforms the exhibition space into an overall compositional ensemble. Laurent Ajina is known for his intricate, abstract wall and ceiling drawings. With thin, interwoven lines, he connects doors, windows, columns, and wall projections, using them as three-dimensional drawing and painting backgrounds that give the found spaces a new, idiosyncratic meaning. For his exhibition Palermo Paintings, he now takes the exact opposite approach: he recreates the hallways, corridors, and salons of an Italian palazzo as abstract meshes of lines, captures them on large-, medium-, and small-format canvases, and arranges them in the gallery spaces according to the actual structural conditions of the original source building. The starting and crystallization point of the project was Ajina’s stay in Palermo at the end of last year: due to a nationwide lockdown and a quarantine lasting several weeks, he was the only resident at the residency, detained in the huge, historic Palazzo Viola. Left to his own devices and without any way to leave the building, he began to explore the sprawling space and capture it in abstract, linear sketches. Back in his adopted home of Vienna, he transferred them to canvases of various formats using oil paint and permanent marker. In the exhibition spaces of the gallery, he now groups them exactly according to the floor plan of the palazzo: in the first room, the monumental atrium and the dissolute chambers; in the second room, the bright, colorful courtyard garden; in the third room, the small-scale, picturesque functional and utility spaces.
By transforming the architecture of the Palazzo Viola together with its emotional, aesthetic effect first into abstract-coded paintings and then into the white cube of a gallery, Ajina raises the question of the dissolution of site-specificity and the anchoring of architectural structures in our mobile, digital world characterized by cell phone photos and social media. This is an aspect that the Italian art historian Valentina Bruschi also takes up in an essay she wrote on the occasion of the exhibition Palermo Paintings: “It is as if Ajina, in his abstract meshes of lines, had internalized the centuries- old cultural and architectural layers of Palermo that succeeded each other here: Phoenicians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Normans, Swabians, French, Spaniards—all in an urbanized superimposition and simultaneity comparable to what we encounter today when we look at the display of our smartphones in virtual space.”