Paolo Giardi works across a variety of disciplines producing art that explores the technique of the montage. This has led to a fascination with, and exploration of, the languages of citation, allusion and adaptation. Through the exercise of association, he simultaneously attempts to manipulate and transport existing images out of their original context, blurring the experiences of memory and perception.

Giardi’s background is also that of a window dresser, an illustrator, a retail designer, a print maker, and all these layers are clearly visible in his work. The sense of displacement, generated by a combination of different and yet vaguely familiar idioms, recognisable imagery and more graphic and abstract elements, evokes the nature of a forgotten or distant memory. What lays before our eyes becomes a hieroglyph to be decifered. Such imagery could be at once amusing or alarming to the viewer.

The project “You Can Learn a Lot of Things From the Flowers” brings back to light a forgotten collection of preserved plant specimens that was once assembled by a passionate, amateur botanist. The true identity of this self-taught man remains shrouded in mystery and all that is known is his enormous appetite for pseudo-scientific research in the natural world. From his studies in ecology it is possible to trace the foundation of his ideas back to the work of Carl Linnaeus, an eighteenth century Swedish botanist. In his book “Systema Naturae”, Linnaeus first attempted a revolutionary system of taxonomy based around the number of a flower’s reproductive organs, thus recognising the sexuality of plants. The pollination of stamens and pistils occurring in the secrecy of voluptuous corollas were suddenly mimicking an alcove’s romantic encounter. Botany opened up to the intimacy of sex.


Plant XII - Dipsacus Fullonum
Playmen - La Playgirl di Ottobre


Plant XVII - Fritillaria persica
La Playmate del mese di Playboy


Plant CIII - Cenchrus Ciliatus
Playmen - La Playgirl di Marzo


Plant LXXVII - Gleditsia Triacanthos
Playmen - La Playgirl di Novembre


As a late and devoted apostle of Linnaeus teachings, our inexperienced botanist decided to combine his research on botanical conservation with his passion for “les jeunes filles”, young ladies photographed in seductive poses for the centrefolds of adult publications. The result of this curious obsession is an extensive collection of hybrid creatures where each playmate is morphed into the nymph Daphne. An Herbarium of botanical pin-ups. Created within the interception and disjunctions of the plant silhouette, what was once the recipient of the voyeur’s gaze has now become a specimen to be studied and analysed. The male sexual projections and stereotypes are mediated and mitigated by the transformation. The plant and the object of desire: the two things brought together are equal. The botanist becomes the voyeur and vice-versa.

As a reflection on the current onslaught of news, social commentary and various scandals, the new series “Recto Verso filles” employs vintage black and white images to bring back to its origins the topic of “politics as entertainment filles”.

The vintage magazine pages at the core of this work can be described as ready-made by their very nature. No digital manipulation or the artistry of collage is involved. The sheets were originally part of an Italian weekly publication probably issued in the late 1960s concerned around themes of political satire and erotic photography called “Le Ore” - although the source is not certain – magazine that later fell into the more profitable business of straight-on pornography. Addressing interests and needs of a strictly male audience, the two sides of the printed pages depict and consistently repeat, throughout various issues, the entertaining layout of political commentary/satire on one side and aspiring young starlets on the other in a succession of images that make the sense and scope of the publication ever so ambiguous. If anything, the publication appears to set – or follow - the standards of what has since become the representation of women in relation to male power in popular and populist tabloids.


Recto Verso
Waiting For the Revolution - You Mind If I Turn On the Radio?


Recto Verso

Upcoming exhibition
"You Can Learn a Lot of Things From the Flowers" will be shown
at Jardin du Palais Royale 145, Galerie de Valois, Paris
on 20th October 2017.

Images Courtesy of the artist
& Less is More Projects