Review: ‘triestement (more-is u thrill-o)’ exhibition by Domenico De Clario at John Buckley Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 22nd April – 9th May 2009



Domenico de Clario (Australian, born Italy 1947)
u (renoir’s garden)
Oil on canvas



Based on the music of melancholy that inhabits the shadows of the paintings of Montmarte by the French artist Maurice Utrillo, Domenico de Clario’s exhibition of paintings at John Buckley Gallery in Melbourne is a major achievement. This is a superlative exhibition of focused, resonant work beautifully and serenely installed in the gallery space.

The exhibition features seven small and seven large oil and acrylic on canvas paintings that envelop the viewer in a velvety quietness, an intense stillness accompanied by ambient music composed by de Clario himself. All fourteen paintings are reinterpretations of works by Utrillo picked at random by de Clario that strip away surface matter to reveal the shadow substance that lays at the anxious heart of Utrillo’s meta/physical body of work (Utrillo was an alcoholic at fourteen and spent numerous periods in sanatoriums). When de Clario was fifteen he was fascinated by a small book on Utrillo and found that his paintings reminded him of his childhood, growing up in the town of Trieste. Recently he noticed that the word ‘triestement’ was used to mean, essentially, an investigation of sadness, of melancholy and started an investigation into the life and work of Utrillo. From this dialogue the paintings for the exhibition have emerged as de Clario found the ‘more is’ of Utrillo, the anima of his presence within the work.

The small abstract paintings (such as renoir’s garden, above) are dark and miasmic, vaporous emanations of atmosphere that contain traces of Utrillo’s lifelong battle with the black dog but it is the seven large paintings facing each other in the main gallery space that are at the heart of de Clario’s project. They are magnificent.

Painted in a limited colour palette of ochres, greys and blacks the works vibrate with energy. Cezanne-like spatial representations are abstracted and the paint bleeds across the canvas forming a maze of buildings. Walls and hedges loom darkly over roadways, emanations of heads and figures float in the picture plane and the highlight white of snow hovers like a spectral figure above buildings. These are elemental paintings where the shadow has become light and the light is shadow, meanderings of the soul in space. In the painting i (the house of hector berlioz – night) below, the single dark line of the house rises from the plain; the shadowy haze of recognition sits in the subconscious like the trace of our own mortality. My mind made an association with the modernist photograph by Paul Strand of the church at Taos with the looming bulk of the ramparts: it’s funny how things just click into place.

“The watergaw, the faint rainbow glimmering in chittering light, provides a sort of epiphany, and MacDiarmid connects the shimmer and weakness and possible revelation in the light behind the drizzle with the indecipherable look he received from his father on his deathbed … Each expression, each cadence, each rhyme is as surely and reliably in place as a stone on a hillside.” ~ Seamus Heaney1

To paint these works de Clario was open and receptive to the idea of the letting go. In the wonderfully erudite catalogue essay he says he felt like he was standing under a waterfall experiencing the joyful bliss of substance, material, surface, shadow, blandness, light, plenitude and triestement while acknowledging that he could never capture them and that their value could only be fully understood once he abandoned any thought of possessing them. Like Seamus Heaney in the quotation above, de Clario experienced the glimmering in chittering light, the possible revelation in the light behind the drizzle (of the shadow) and he then paints the trace of Utrillo’s subconscious anima, the indecipherable look of his triestement. de Clario feels the fluid relationship between substance and appearance; he understands that Utrillo is embedded in the position of each building and stone, in the cadences and rhymes of the paintings of Montmarte. de Clario interprets this knowledge in a Zen like rendition of shadow substance in his paintings. Everything has it’s place without possession of here and there, dark and light.

For my part it was my soul responding to the canvases. I was absorbed into their fabric. As in the dark night of the soul my outer shell gave way to an inner spirituality stripped of the distance between viewer and painting. I felt communion with this man, Utrillo, with this art, de Clario, that brought a sense of revelation in the immersion, like a baptism in the waters of dark light. For art this is a fantastic achievement. Highly recommended.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for Art Blart

Please click on the artwork for a larger version of the image.


  1. Heaney, Seamus. The Redress of Poetry. London: Faber and Faber, 1995, pp. 107-108.



Domenico de Clario. 'l (le lapin agile - snow coming)' 2008/09


Domenico de Clario (Australian, born Italy 1947)
l (le lapin agile – snow coming)
Oil on canvas


Maurice Utrillo. 'Renoir's Garden' 1909-10


Maurice Utrillo (French, 1883-1955)
Renoir’s Garden
Oil on canvas


Installation view of 'triestement (more-is u thrill-o)' by Domenico De Clario at John Buckley Gallery

Installation view of 'triestement (more-is u thrill-o)' by Domenico De Clario at John Buckley Gallery


Installation views of triestement (more-is u thrill-o) by Domenico De Clario at John Buckley Gallery


Maurice Utrillo. 'Paris Street' 1914


Maurice Utrillo (French, 1883-1955)
Paris Street
Oil on canvas


Domenico de Clario. 'r (rue ravignan - le bateau lavoir)' 2008/09


Domenico de Clario (Australian, born Italy 1947)
r (rue ravignan – le bateau lavoir)
Oil on canvas


Domenico de Clario. 'l (le lapin agile and rue du mont cenis - snow receding)' 2008/09


Domenico de Clario (Australian, born Italy 1947)
l (le lapin agile and rue du mont cenis – snow receding)
Oil on canvas


Domenico de Clario. 'o (la grande maison blanche – snow clouds massing)' 2008/09


Domenico de Clario (Australian, born Italy 1947)
o (la grande maison blanche – snow clouds massing)
Oil on canvas



“Is there any limit, I thought, to the kinds of shadows that might be transmuted into light? And is this because the key component of the nature of shadow is its deep longing for a transmutation to light?

As a consequence of these thoughts I arrived at the question that animates the core of this current project; what, I asked myself, might the original shadow-substance Utrillo experienced and subsequently transmutes into the paintings we known, have looked like? What shadow images did Utrillo first see, or even imagine, before he transmuted them into colour? …

Utrillo must have believed that the outer world of coloured light belonged exclusively to others, for he never succeeded in releasing himself from the dark inner shadows that engulfed him. Though he struggled much to reach the light he accepted shadow as constituting his world and worked ceaselessly to offer us images that reflected this side’s plenitude.

Perhaps the luminous surfaces of his paintings functioned as the thin membrane that separates the outer world of cacophonously coloured light from the velvety grey inner world of the monotic anxiety he inhabited. Upon that thought the momentousness of his gift became apparent to me …

For the purposes of this present project I believe that the shadow substance laying beneath the architecture of Utrillo’s streetscapes existed within the artist long before his paintings came into being. This non-substance generated the appearance of matter on the paintings’ surfaces and more significantly it gradually came to contain the spirit of his Montmarte-body.

The process of removing matter results in an obvious absence of substance but paradoxically this leads me to feel that here, under all this discarded visible matter, an invisible substance that has always contained more than matter awaits to be revealed. This leads to the provisional conclusion that the primal trace of normally unseen shadow is far richer than any material constituting appearance, containing as it does infinitely more substance than appearance.

Astonishing paradox; infinite substance can only be discovered once all matter is removed.”

Text from the catalogue essay by Domenico de Clario [Online] Cited 26/04/2009 no longer available online


Maurice Utrillo. 'Berlioz House' 1910


Maurice Utrillo (French, 1883-1955)
Berlioz House
Oil on canvas


Postcard of Hector Berlioz House nd


Postcard of Hector Berlioz House


Domenico de Clario. 'i (the house of hector berlioz - night)' 2008/09


Domenico de Clario (Australian, born Italy 1947)
i (the house of hector berlioz – night)
Oil on canvas


Paul Strand. Inverted colour burn of his photograph 'Church, Ranchos de Taos' New Mexico 1932


Paul Strand (American, 1890-1976)
Inverted colour burn of his photograph Church, Ranchos de Taos New Mexico 1932



John Buckley Gallery

This gallery has now closed.


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Mask’ 1994

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