The Scale of Love is the title of Milena Carbone’s latest solo exhibition, which is now open at The Carbone Gallery in Second Life. It is something of a refresh of her 2020 exhibition, The Nine Levels of Love, presented at Noir’Wen City, but which I failed to blog about at the time – so I hope this makes up for that oversight.
The central theme of the exhibition is a visual exploration of the various types of love as espoused by the ancient Greeks; but as with the majority of Milena’s work, the canvas she paints within this compact installation is – quite literally – cosmic in scale, and carries with it some religious undertones that indirectly link the piece back to one of Milena’s central themes: the nature of “god”.
To address the art first – as this can be appreciated quite independently of any more complex cogitations if one so wishes. This is set within a marble-walled structure stand nine large format images, each representing a state of love as defined by the ancient Greeks.
Each image interprets the selected ideal of love through a simple statement utilising posed avatars pictured against white backdrops and then processed to be presented in soft, neutral tones and / or monochrome (with a single notable exception). The result is a single frame encapsulation of their subject that has a depth of structure about it that is captivating.
Take, for example, Harmonia, with its two figures joined in form by dance both in the foreground and through their shadows (which in turn have amore nuanced meaning, to which I’ll return in a moment). It perfectly and simply encapsulates the idea of harmonious love – two souls united, able to move as one, sharing outlook and motion, a concord of expression.
The exception to the general approach of soft tones and monochrome – each of which offers a subtle statement on both the positives of love: gentleness, lightness of mood and touch, and the negatives: broodiness, possessiveness – is that of Eros, which Milena defines simple as “flesh love”, but which might be more correctly seen as primal lust, and the form of love the ancient Greeks saw as the most base and frightening, involving as it does a loss of control. To represent this, Milena utilises a sea of red washing around her two lovers, symbolising the heat of passion (and which may perhaps also be looked upon as having more subtle undertones).
The broader aspects of the installation revolve around the origins of love, both as a human concept and as a part of the cosmos as a whole.
The latter involves considerations on the universe as a whole, how everything we can see, everything we know, everything we are, is the result of particles coming together under the force of gravity, the one seemingly immutable and universal force of attraction. Thus, given that love – in all its forms, including its expression through our various religions – is an immutable part of human life, might it not be a continuance of that universal theme of mutual attraction?
Bound with this is a consideration of Aristophanes‘ speech from Plato’s symposium on the origins of human love. Intended as a humorous morality tale, the speech as referenced here is used to draw a further line through the idea of human love being part of the natural state of attraction found in the universe as a whole. At the same time, Milena perhaps offers a subtle reference to the speech through the positioning of the figures in Hormonia, I commented on earlier; note how they appear to be conjoined to form a double-headed, eight-limbed creature as imagined by Aristophanes whilst considering the nature of love.
One might niggle over Milena’s selection of types of love – where is Ludus or Pragma, for example? When considering their definitions, are not her Agape and Charis one in the same, both effectively referencing unconditional love? But the fact is, there are multiple ways to look upon the ancient Greek concepts of love; as such, it’s likely not advised to get too hung up on definitions or individual references.
What is worthy of appreciation is the art itself, even if you don’t follow the broader themes contained within it, because The Scale of Love is beautifully executed. The art is exquisite, while the setting offers a Greco-religious theme suggestive of both a temple and a church that are in keeping with both the focus of the exhibition and its broader themes: the marble and Doric columns echoing the former, the central hall and end rooms echoing the nave and crossing of a church. And in the latter regard, make sure you look down the “nave” from one end towards Agape at the other, and the marvellous way it has been framed (and consider the subtext within that framing).
As always with Milena’s Work, The Scale of Love engages the eye and mind on multiple levels, the art and setting alone making it visually appealing, the themes and ideas contained within them making it cognitively rich.
- The Carbone Gallery (Woller, rated Moderate)