Paolo Scheggi in Depth, Estorick Collection: ‘Well-chosen retrospective for a versatile artist’

Paolo Scheggi, 1970. Photograph: Marcella Galassi, Rome

If you are looking to jazz up a lazy August afternoon, head to the Estorick Collection in Highbury to see the museum’s Paolo Scheggi exhibition.

The mid-century Italian artist’s first major solo show in Britain, this small retrospective includes a diverse range of conceptual pieces from the late 1950s to the early 1970s.

Born in Florence in 1940, Scheggi moved in 1961 to Milan which became his artistic home.

Inter-ena-cubo, 1968.
Franca and Cosima Scheggi Collection, Milan

Following periods in London and Rome, he returned to the Lombard capital where he came into his own in the late 1950s, creating over the next dozen years an impressive range of works before his prolific career was cut short at the age of 31 by congenital heart disease.

This was a time of ‘isms’, and Scheggi attached his own abstract shapes in psychedelic colour to the moniker ‘Spatialism’ devised by his mentor of the early 1960s Lucio Fontana.

Scheggi’s ovoid and cuboid forms defy easy description.

Are his deeply-layered squares of hue and form paintings, or are they wall-hung sculptures of cardboard and plexiglass? As you pass by them, shifting light and shadow reshape the spaces, giving the somewhat mesmerising impression that the pieces are moving.

Intersuperficie curva, 1965. Franca and Cosima Scheggi Collection, Milan

Fast gaining a reputation on the cultural scene, the versatile artist went on to delve into fashion, jewellery, theatre and architecture, working with a variety of iconic cultural figures that were inventing what we now know as ‘the 1960s’.

On display at this show are two of Scheggi’s painted dresses adored with the work of Italian and English poets, as well as vibrant theatre sets that he created for a the production of a Bulgakov play in 1968.

For a number of years after his death Scheggi remained somewhat obscure, but recent years have witnessed rapidly growing interest in his oeuvre; this well-chosen collection of his work offers a fresh look at an artist whose work cannot for long escape the label ‘iconic’.

Paolo Scheggi in Depth runs until 15 September at the Estorick Collection, 39a Canonbury Square, N1 2AN.