Tidal Wave, 2020
These impressive murals take as their model the traditional blue and white Portuguese tileworks of azulejos, and are peopled by life-size figures representing different archetypes of modern life. In the largest of these works are drowning asylum-seekers rescued by a NGO activist, a European politician, a Coast Guard officer, an Italian mayor, a traffic warden, and a bear – a symbol of revolt and frustration. Across the second mural an apocalyptic scene from a vast garbage dump in Brasil unfolds, where destitute people rummage, looking for re-sellable objects in a mountain of plastic rubbish. The third work, a thrusting composition reminiscent of masterpieces exalting human dignity in the face of disaster – such as Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa or Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People – depicts a group of teenagers demonstrating during one of the school strikes for the climate initiated by environmental activist Greta Thunberg. Over the past years Ruffo undertook extensive research, during which he participated in conferences and debates on climate change and social science, meeting with climatologists, economists, sociologists, migrants, and activists. In preparing the murals, Ruffo spent months planning photo sessions, casting models, selecting poses and costumes. The resulting images were used in making scale drawings which were used to paint the white tiles in various blue glazes. These ceramics were then finished in three separate firings in the kiln, before final assembly on the gallery’s walls.

Azulejos, 2019
Scenes of actuality returned to the ancient … The artistic universe of Pietro Ruffo takes the opposite of our world crossed by flows of ephemeral images. Cabinets of curiosities, libraries, archives: large maps invite the viewers to explore. In resonance with thinkers such as Jared Mason Diamond or Yuval Noah Harari, and artists such as Alighiero Boetti, William Kentridge or Kara Walker, his work focuses as much on the global phenomenon of exodus and migration as celestial constellations, geography, geology, politics; in short, as much to nature as to culture. The complexity of the phenomena discussed is matched by the detailed and swarming nature of the works. The world represented by Ruffo is populated to the saturation of people and signs on a large fresco of azulejos. Science indicates a path, a method of approaching reality; myth indicates another way. The two coexist: we map the sky using the famous hydrogen absorption line where we draw the constellation Lyra or that of Orion. These are two ways of seeing but also of walking, of moving by creating around ones references, whether these are stable or impermanent, objective or imaginary. The whole art here of moving from one to another, of constantly moving in order to push the horizon. The artist builds an image that is also a journey, a crossing.
critical text by David Rosenberg