There are artists who deal with memory and everyday life, and then there are artists who use both of those things successfully as materials that are integral to the work they do. A solid way to gauge the success or failure of an artwork that strives to reconstitute the everyday as the unusual is to reflect on it after you’ve seen it. Do you remember it? If you remember it by the end of the day, that’s its own success since, in a week, you will be lucky to remember five things that happened to you today, and in a month, you will be lucky if you can remember three striking things that happened to you on October 13, and in a year, you will be lucky if you can remember an important thing or two that happened to you in October of 2010.

And, unless you’re a compulsive diarist or the kind of person who leaves a paper trail of breadcrumbs through the dark forest of latter days, this is pretty much how things go.

Varini at work in New Haven, Connecticut (image via

Felice Varini uses nothing but a bit of color, applied to a wall, to shake you from of your routine and, so he hopes, brighten one of memory’s grey spots a little in a moment of world-flattening surreality. In doing so, Varini is not unlike other artists that have sought to place the viewer within the canvas. Like street artist Aakash Nihalani or installation artist Robert Irwinn, Varini is an artist who has moved beyond just using a canvas to orchestrating whole experiences that a viewer can move through.

In a public installation commissioned by New Haven arts nonprofit Site Projects, Varini takes an unremarkable downtown alley in New Haven and stretches an non-intrusive work entitled “Square and Four Circles” (2010) across a few hundred feet of back alley space.

He does this by painting a projection across a discontinuous, three-dimensional, highly architectural space so that, as you pass through it, there’s a single moment, seen from a very specific place and at a very particular angle, where the spatial world around you collapses into a planar one, where the world itself and your life, for a moment, become a vibrant canvas.

Then it’s back to the routine.

Felice Varini’s “Square with Four Circles” (2010) began on June 2, 2010, and continue until June 2011. It is part of Site Projects, New Haven’s leading presenter of temporary public art, which was established in 2004. Site Projects is a community based nonprofit organization that commissions site-specific art projects by internationally recognized artists and collaborates with local organizations to present community-wide educational programs related to the artists and their works.

Ian Epstein is a freelance writer and photographer living in New York City. He has worked for The Daily Beast The Nation, Newcity, Chicago Life, bookslut, and some other places. His online portfolio is...

One reply on “Felice Varini Is Messing With Your Head”

  1. Varini also did a piece concurrently in the New Haven Public Library, also sponsored by SiteProjects that is similarly installed in a complex architectural space. Like the alley piece, it squashes the space flat when viewed from the “pointe de vieu” and heightens the 3-D depth of it as soon as you begin to move through the room. It IS and will remain memorable…even next year after it’s gone

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