Renata Boero, Linda Carrara, Elisabetta Di Sopra, Silvia Giambrone, Debora Hirsch, Iva Lulashi, Lalla Lussu, Elena Mazzi, Beatrice Meoni, Maria Morganti, Isabella Pers, Nazzarena Poli Maramotti, Michela Pomaro, Laura Pugno, Chris Rocchegiani, Giorgia Severi, Marta Spagnoli, Esther Stocker, Sara Tirelli, Lucia Veronesi, Serena Vestrucci
Novate Milanese, Casa Testori
November 2019 ― February 2020
Daniele Capra & Giuseppe Frangi
Libere tutte (“Boundless Women”) takes its starting point from the idea of gathering together works by “artiste” ´(women artists in Italian) in Italy. It sets aside, momentarily, questions of gender and attempts to document the importance and the overwhelming force of the artistic research carried out by female artists in Italy. Unfortunately, our country is in too many ways still linked to rigid patterns and an asymmetric male/female situation in its social and economic relations. The title of the exhibition, inspired by one of the slogans of the 1970s demonstrations, explains our desire to speak of art and to understand why today’s female artists are proving to be a step ahead. Libere tutte is an exhibition that poses questions. It is open in its themes and in the media employed. It is anarchic and without easy answers. It could, with perfect symmetry, have been called Liberi tutti, as one of the artists involved has acutely suggested. We have for this reason methodologically expunged the word “woman” (and adjectives that might reflect this semantic universe) from our vocabulary and, obviously, we have never used it in our communications.
The project aims to explore the complexity of the viewpoints “artiste” have introduced onto the horizon of artistic production, proving themselves capable of courageous departures from fashionable trends. Their work has enlarged the spectrum of artistic sensibility, revealing an important experimental vocation. It thereby confirms what Lea Vergine was the first to note, commenting lucidly in an interview that these female artists’ works are “bold emblems of a clearly defined human condition, created with that “pitilessness” that casts aside the concept of normality”. Libere tutte is not a contemporary-style 8th March exhibition, but an attempt to offer a snapshot of the presence of “artiste” in the Italian art system, a phenomenon that is impressing by its vitality, intensity and strength. The project aims to offer some of the most significant examples, from a wide range of generations, of their artistic research, covering all expressive forms and the widest array of content.
Libere tutte has been conceived as an open, experimental exhibition, with the margins of error inevitable in attempting a dialogue on the field, involving a living relationship with the works, with the itinerary and with the spectator’s eyes. We have therefore chosen to allot individual spaces to the artists (a room each), enabling them to emphasize the specific nature of their particular projects. We have made only three exceptions, sharing the spaces with clearly dialectic solutions or synergic combinations.
After the exhibition had been mounted and metabolized, it seemed worthwhile to attempt a summary, singling out certain significant elements in the artist’s thought and actions. These are situations marked by a sensibility that can intercept the most significant research and the most pregnant languages, as well as the deep movements of collective psychology. As well as by enormous courage in facing the challenges – artistic, political and social – presented by our times.
Body, relations, fragility
As has been shown by such illustrious examples as Louise Bourgeois, Maria Lassnig or Carol Rama (to mention only a few), female artists have always looked at the body in a more physical sense, free of formal or intellectual concerns. It is an artistic eye that cancels distances and which, in Libere tutte, leads artists such as Silvia Giambrone and Serena Vestrucci to make their own bodies the place of their artistic processes. For Giambrone, it is the cast of a female bust, deformed by extraneous, repulsive elements, which undermines the stereotypes linked to desire. Serena Vestrucci, on the other hand, gives free reign to her body to draw tracings on the sheet that record her movements while asleep. Fragility is a stereotype that proves hard to kill. Nevertheless, it is not seen as an intrinsic limit in the works, very different in their techniques and sources of inspiration, of Beatrice Meoni and Elisabetta Di Sopra. The former expresses an almost domestic universe, a context to represent the human experience of the fall in a form where the drama is moderated by the delicacy of the painting. Elisabetta Di Sopra revisits the myth of Medea, in a video where the protagonist, now grown old, bears open witness to her need for the love of her children, whose disappearance was no fault of her own.
Nature as a beginning
Empathy with nature, setting well aside any claim to possession. This is the fil rouge linking such fascinating presences at Libere tutte as Renata Boero, Lalla Lussu and Giorgia Severi. Boero, in her Chromograms, makes use of a process of mimesis with recourse to chromatic alchemies derived from herbs. Lussu, with Tree barks, recreates the tactile consistency of the Mediterranean scrub. Both make use of supports of a clearly vertical nature. This choice indicates a precise formal control of the works and at the same time restores to them a certain element of inhabitability. They are not just there to be looked at, but to be visited and experienced. Severi, on the other hand, creates a “frottage” that embraces living traces of a mountain threatened with erosion as a result of the climate changes, with the sumptuous support of a pink tapestry evoking a primordial beauty compromised by the anthropic presence.
Technology as projection
The new technologies make a distinctive entry in the itinerary of Libere tutte. The case of Maria Morganti is emblematic: she has brought her own website with her, deeming it a work to all effects. Few artists have reflected so completely on the sense and function of the website. For Morganti, it is a complete archive of her works, but it is simultaneously also a mirror of possible taxonomies and of the discontinuity of every artistic path. Debora Hirsch has captured the dramatic documentation of cases of violence against women by creating a device consisting of modified tablets. These operate in a loop, sealed in a frame with reflecting surfaces: black boxes of the collective memory, in which spectators can see their own images, discovering themselves to be unconscious accomplices. Michela Pomaro, too, uses boxes to contain the LED lights that illuminate moving flows of colour. The geometric forms of the containers emphasize, by contract, the freedom of the colours.
New reasons for painting
Painting comes into play many times in the rooms of Libere tutte. And every time its basic rules are challenged. Stylistic and identity compromises are brought into question. For Iva Lulashi, the pictorial event is generated in the spirals of frames that are identified and isolated. On the rigid terrain of a previously constituted image, her painting reveals the unexpected, finding new lymph and energy. For Nazzarena Poli Maramotti, visual experiences of a period spent in Northern Europe have caused surprising telluric events to break into the canvas. Marta Spagnoli, instead, reduces painting to its minimum terms. She works only on the sign, not as an abstract code but as an unpredictable, living cell. Linguistic variability characterizes the painting of Chris Rocchegiani, who deliberately makes several stylistic solutions cohabit to affirm the pictorial surface as an ever-open field of possibilities. The secret energy generated by mimesis is, meanwhile, at the root of Linda Carrara’s works, both when she has painting replicate marble surfaces, and when she uses a “frottage” to transfer a rock face to the canvas. Esther Stocker upends the descriptive possibilities of geometry to cancel every form of perspective and to construct, on a perceptive and retinal basis, those worlds that were previously missing.
Bending artistic processes to reflect the fragility of the planet. This is an approach that links several of the works created for Libere tutte. Taken as a whole, they testify to a concept of art that never prevaricates before reality. It is an experience of adhesion, comprehension and responsibility in the face of what is real. Isabella Pers’s painting becomes liquid as she identifies with the condition of those populations who see their land threatened by rising water levels produced by the global heating. Lucia Veronesi, after a period spent in Norway, has mounted a splice of landscape using waste materials. Its more enticing, picturesque features come up against the ripping of the fabrics. The dimension of a world passed through cracks and fractures is the scenario of Elena Mazzi’s and Sara Tirelli’s video: a man runs anxiously along the bleak slopes of Etna in an unbroken sequence shot. It is an emblem of our own race to nowhere in particular. Another postworld scenario is that mounted by Laura Pugno in the spaces of the drawing room of Casa Testori. A group of houseplants have been attacked by ganglia of polyurethane foam. On the one hand, we witness the brutalization of a bourgeois idea of green. On the other hand, the plant, though under attack, proves its awareness of alternative survival paths. An act of faith in nature, not as a refuge or idyll, but in its capacity to resist and react to human stupidity.
At the end of January 2020, before the end of the show, Lalla Lussu died, following an illness which she had discreetly hidden from us. We still remember the telephone call in which she declared herself delighted to adhere to the invitation to Libere tutte, an invitation she accepted with great conviction. We wish to dedicate the exhibition and our work to her, for her strength and for her capacity to resist the snares life holds out for us. We will miss you, Lalla.
Daniele Capra & Giuseppe Frangi
The works by Renata Boero presented in Libere tutte are part of her series of Cromogrammi. They are exhibited on the veranda, in the environment visually linked to the garden, with which context they establish a strict, intensely poetic dialogue. The canvases are not painted, but are the result of tried and tested processes whereby the colours released by certain selected herbs are made to drip onto the spread out canvases, which the artist then designs and folds, giving rhythm to the surface. The colours run and trip up in the pattern, creating ever-varying material concretions, and so giving rise to continual transformations of the surface. The impact with the sun and air during the drying phase completes the process, also allowing the atmospheric agents to act on the surfaces. The result is works in which nature comes into play, not as a subject to be represented, but as a controlled factor that acts on the making of the work. Time also has a role in the process, in the gradual consolidation of the folds, for example, where it collaborates in the physical and sculptural dimension of the work. The display on the veranda of Casa Testori has also emphasized another feature of these pieces by Renata Boero: the architectural dimension resulting from their verticality. The artist’s own thought comes into play in this vertical tension, since she associates an unexpected upward energy with these natural totems: complete formal identities that have acquired a spatial autonomy of their own.
For Linda Carrara, the surface is the place where the pictorial event has its genesis. The surface is the subject, marble or rock, as in the two works chosen for the exhibition. The surface is also that of the paper or canvas, which assume their visual identity through a process of mimesis. It is an experience founded on illustrious precedents. In her False Carrara marble series, for example, the artist takes her cue from an ancient tradition, that of Giotto’s or Beato Angelico’s false marbles in apparently peripheral areas of their fresco cycles. The marbles have often been seen as elements with a purely decorative value, but in reality their neutrality hides secrets and powerful references. The great composite work displayed on the rear wall of the room is an exercise in mimesis set up by the artist. An exercise that lends life and evocative energy to the pictorial surface by its simple visual resemblance to another surface, that of Carrara marble. In the composition, solemn in its appearance as a great polyptych, our perceptions are led astray. The stone, with its veins, seems to become a sky furrowed by the wind, almost a great new window opened onto space. But the surface is also at the centre of another of Carrara’s recent works: these are frottage pieces created by placing the canvases on the rocks by the banks of the Adda. These are the rocks that Leonardo would have looked at for his Milanese Vergini delle rocce paintings. In this case, too, the intense red used for the frottage suggests a hypothesis of mutations: the mineral element evokes, in mysterious form, a carnal event.
Elisabetta Di Sopra
Pietas arises from a desire to rewrite the myth of Medea, as told by Euripides, in a more real form, in which the events lose the aura and rigidity imposed by the myth, becoming humanized and updated to our own times. In Elisabetta Di Sopra’s work, Medea is no longer the mother who taints herself with the crime of the children to whom she gave birth from her own womb, but is the victim of the violence of our own times. Disoriented and stupefied by grief, she weeps for the children whose destiny she does not know, and of whom she desperately seeks a trace, some minimal sign that might indicate they are still alive. On a desolate beach (from which we see, anachronistically, the presence of large ships furrowing the sea), Medea, now old and no longer lucid, digs and takes to herself a scarf, a tee-shirt, some trousers, thrown up by the sea, emblems of an absence that cannot be restored. Her figure conserves echoes of Pasolini in her clothing, in her movements and in her restrained, almost hieratic desperation, for which it seems there can be no peace. Pietas is a reflection on the drama of contemporary immigration, on mothers who do not know the fate of their children and on the negated hopes of a better future, against which have dashed so many lives that must cross seas, climb walls, scale mountains or frontiers. The aged mother is thus doubly punished by destiny, with her grief and a bitter, infinite solitude.
Silvia Giambrone’s work is of a frankly political nature. It highlights and denounces the way in which females are demeaned through cultural models involving their bodies, through the conduct expected of them and by manipulation of their images. In particular, Il danno shows a standard female body in babydoll – typically viewed in a condition offering pleasure, erotic charge and seduction for men. It has nevertheless been deformed by an extraneous geometric element, placed at the groin, and by an extrusion at the abdomen, just above the navel. These presences bring to mind, respectively, sanitary pads and prostheses applied to the breasts to make them more voluminous. They compel the observer to see the body of that woman, who is without a face, and so has no identity of her own, as something extraneous to the logic of desire. Ironically, it appears as damage compared with stereotyped expectations. It shows how a small detail can determine a person’s life, conditioning their form, thoughts, time and freedom, while deviation is perceived today as limiting and crippling with respect to the logic of dominion. The photos of Baby dull document a performance created by the artist in a motel where she installed false metal eyebrows, fixing them to the wall with chains. The work, permanently installed a room of the motel, is an invitation to an intimate play of changing perspectives, gender and identity.
The works by Debora Hirsch presented in the exhibition are complementary and the relationship between them is unsettling. The first work, Iconography of silence, consists of two videos, assembled as a diptych. The artist tackles the dramatic theme of abuse of women, choosing a stark language that concedes nothing to rhetoric or the spectacular. In the first video, fragmentary images of violence recorded by CCTV emerge from the rear of the screen. They are frantic for a few instants then give way to disconcertion and silence. In the second, we see little by little, in red letters, the composition of real phrases that have accompanied the violent episodes. The flow of words eventually establishes a texture that pierces the eye. The violence thus finds a voice which the absence of sound characterizing the work renders all the more impactful. The mirror surface of the two screens completes the sense of the piece: observers find their own image there, captured by the video as if to certify the impossibility of their standing aside. Opposite, the large canvas from the Firmamento series has a compensatory effect. The composition is airy and imaginative. Hirsch lays out on the surface of the canvas, very freely, elements derived from Latin visual sensibility. The appearance is deliberately neutral and decorative. The sensation, for the observer, is that this tangle of shapes is hiding a thaumaturgic function, which moderates and counterbalances the evil sealed within the black boxes of the video.
The starting point of Iva Lulashi’s painting is frequently a video frame. The artists, after completing a web search with some of the words she loves to investigate, chooses an image she feels suitable to set in motion a pictorial process. The frame functions as a spiral on reality and. precisely because of its vagueness and even its ambiguity, it leaves an open space on which the painting can act. It is a method to which the artist adheres very consistently and it is at the root of the work, Sweet flagrum, which she has created specially for Libere tutte. It is a considerably larger oil painting than usual for Lulashi, as is suggested by the other two paintings exhibited. The woman’s body, swallowed up by an apparently voracious nature, is a work of great quality and pictorial intensity, in which the paint is spread like a stain to provide a dramatic tension intrinsic to the technical process. The work thus expresses a double, contrasting, drive. On the one hand, it maintains a sense of distance, physical and temporal, provided by the muted tone of the painting. On the other hand, it expresses a dimension of imminence, of urgency that reflects the situations examined. Even the female figure of Sweet flagrum is subjected to this double tension which pushes her from the surrounding tangle of vegetation and bounces her to the surface of the canvas. The space freed by the vagueness of the frame thereby becomes a field in which painting can operate, extending immeasurably the spectrum of ambiguity.
Lalla Lussu’s artistic quest aims to investigate the potential of paint to generate the unexpected, to determine rhythms, forms, geometrical shapes, structures and spaces that did not previously exist. The artist’s practice, procedural by nature, is based on free application of paint directly onto the supports, generally fabrics in jute or rough linen. These are then processed, pleated at uniform distances to render them agitated, cadenced and three-dimensional. This sculptural manner, contrary to the usual two-dimensionality of the pictorial image, is further strengthened by the installation of the work, not on a wall, but freely in the middle of the room, starting from the ceiling. Lussu thus overturns the logic of the work as a contemplative stasis to be observed frontally, and sets in motion interactive potentials. The spectators, in fact, have to move in a zigzag manner around the elements, as if walking in a wood, touching the surfaces with their bodies or delicately setting the fabric aside with their hands. Her forest is an imaginary one, inhabited by coloured trees, of which the surface, the roughness, the ripples and the perfumed bark are magically suggested by the canvas. The observers are invited to grasp the details by walking in the middle of it, moving freely like explorers venturing among the trees and losing themselves among the vivid colours of the tropical forest.
Elena Mazzi and Sara Tirelli
A fragmented world examines the physical, chemical and geological interconnections between the many players that are part of a complex and detailed system of relationships. In long sequence shot, the video shows a runner on the slopes of Etna, rendered in severe black and white. The man moves rapidly in a rugged, lunar-like landscape, among open faults, enormous masses, lava seas, depressions and sudden drops. He has no apparent destination and his body seems the only sign of life amid the seeming immobility of the gaunt, bare and inhospitable volcanic surroundings. The work is inspired by the Theory of Fracture, studied by the physicist Bruno Giorgini from the 1960s, in which the scholar analyses the behaviour and reaction of variables in the presence of breakages. The fracture is followed by an unpredictable, chaotic situation, with variables that go crazy in the face of a combination of complex interactions never previously experienced. It is a condition found in natural, geological and physical phenomena, but it also appears in economy and finance. Elena Mazzi’s and Sara Tirelli’s work also alludes to what happens when it is human equilibria that fracture, that is to say, when individual, social and political variables are considered. From this perspective, the runner seems to move on the edge of an abyss, leaving the observer in constant apprehension. The risks he is facing are exactly the same as those we ourselves are incurring unawares.
Beatrice Meoni’s work is characterized by the use of mellow, dense colours, and by gaunt, unadorned figuration that concentrates on minimal episodes, shadows, gleams of light, minutiae or anatomical details. Her gestures are extremely decisive, her brushstrokes simple but rich, her colour palette restrained, with greens, earth tones, and ochres returning frequently in her works. The artist’s recurring subjects refer to the domestic universe and the body, but they are rendered with a hushed intensity, with the placid silence typical of still life. The peacefulness and stasis of the images are just perceptibly interrupted by a dismembered body that suddenly changes its posture to fall into the void, or by a vase that appears, with simple lines, on the soft, opaque surface of a velvet. A vague sense of suspension inhabits her art, which often places the observer in a condition of contemplative intimacy, of erotic complicity, in which the spectator’s gaze is totally absorbed within the visual field of the work. It is a dynamic where the painting acts by attracting the observer’s attention, but seemingly feels, at the same time, a sort of prudery in displaying itself. It is a fear that makes it hold its breath when the spectator’s eyes fall upon it, interrogating it. But it is also a game in which the observer feels the curiosity and surprise of an unexpected happening, far from any foreseeable possibility. It is a reference to an imaginary elsewhere in which spectators can lose themselves in contemplation.
For Maria Morganti, her website is a work of art. “I imagined this site as an integral part of my work, as a support for my obsessive habit of accumulating, withholding, recording and exhibiting. Since it is a lucubration, it will transform continually and will keep open a constantly mutating research”, we read on the home page. In the display designed for Casa Testori, the centre has been assigned to the computer, placed on the table that was once Giovanni Testori’s desk. It is open at the site to allow visitors to navigate it. The small panel Melma, a work resulting from dripping paint brushes, has been placed in the open drawer. Melma is also, however, the background of the home page of the site, confirming this symbiotic identity between Morganti’s artistic activity at a real level and its expansion into virtual terrain. On the lateral walls, on the other hand, Morganti has wished to exhibit two large summarizing screen displays, one representing the navigation tree of the site, the other a complete compilation of all the files that populate it. The printouts constitute the works Autoritratti 2019 and Archivio 2019, which effectively represents a glance at the artist herself. Two self-portraits that complete each other and cross-fertilize one another. The specifically catalogizing nature of the site, expressed by the self-portrait that presents the dense list of files, is destabilized by the tree which gives the idea, instead, of an organism in constant movement and mutation. Thus the site becomes, for the artist, a place in which to look at herself and also in which to let herself be looked at, by the navigators, but also by those hosted therein.
Isabella Pers’s research has derived, in recent years, from a direct dialogue with citizens and political activists living along coasts and on small islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans where lives are at risk from the gradual but inexorable rise in the sea level. Her paintings bear witness to the dramatic effects of climate change on people’s lives – people who have undergone a transition from the condition of natural paradise to that of the disaster which, as single citizens of this world, we cannot easily avert, if not by reconsidering our lifestyle and attempting to limit the use of fossil fuels. The recent drawings in The Aba series, instead, reproduce the screenshots of several information or tour sites that propose trips to places that are destined to disappear in the ensuing years as a result of the rising tides, Venice included. The invitation proves a mournful one, all things considered, a melancholy summons to enjoy these beauties when we are already on the edge of a precipice. The video Present relates an action created by the artist together with immigrants who had escaped from countries at war or who were victims of dictatorships. It is a walk which took place towards the top of a hill on the Carso, alongside one of the First World War trenches, the signs of which, dug into the ground, seem the scars of a ravaged body. They represent symbolically the useless and over-reassuring frontiers traced by men. The action thus becomes the story of a meeting between different worlds and cultures, but also expresses a wish for solidarity and understanding that goes beyond the limits traced by diffidence.
Nazzarena Poli Maramotti
Non qui and Nebbia are two works created by Nazzarena Poli Maramotti during a residence for artists at Dale i Sunnfjord, Norway in 2019. Her painting has been very much influenced by this place. The interminable days followed by the brief, light Scandinavian nights inspire – and almost impose – a constant vision of majestic and pervasive nature, obsessively constellated by lakes, fjords, waterfalls and rain. The artist has a long acquaintance with northern lights, having lived in Nuremburg for many years, and this familiarity has probably freed her painting from the need for precise formal definition. The result is that characteristically fluid, atmospheric nature we recognize in the two works, of very different dimensions, exhibited at Casa Testori. In Non qui, we witness something like a struggle between the damp omnipresence pervading the canvas and the Tiepolo-like sky blue that forces its presence and finally breaks through with great intensity. This struggle, in truth, becomes for Poli Maramotti an excuse to make the pictorial field the real subject of her painting. Here she can exercise the full potential of painting itself, in a series of contrasts and continual stylistic fractures. In Nebbia, the gentler paintwork, almost like a homogenous and muffled light, gives way in the upper part to a thin band of tormented painting – like a tiny drama within the pictorial event, strongly negating any possible naturalistic interpretation of the work.
Camille is the artist’s homage to Claude Monet’s first wife, Camille Doncieux, who died at the early age of thirty-two in 1879. Michela Pomaro imagines that, in the intimacy of that brief relationship, Camille would have been the first witness to the cosmic pulverization of colour that was to mark Monet’s long and extraordinary career. Starting from this intuition, she imagined the work specifically created for this exhibition. Inside six parallelepipeds in Plexiglas, planned with extremely rigorous lines, almost like design objects, she has placed LED lights, each required to create a different visual effect. The boxes comprising the installation have been harmonized with each other, giving rise to a continually mutating chromatic concert. The colour is generated by an inaccessible source and flows into the space, redesigning it. As in much contemporary work, Michela Pomaro breaks free of the specific confines of painting, launching itself into a dimension that nevertheless remains strongly pictorial. Another factor, too, comes into play in the artist’s work – the dialogue between the formal certainty of the containers and the alchemistic, unfathomable and mysterious process taking place inside. The rational solidity of the boxes, which makes conceptual reference to the rectangularity of the canvas, makes more acute, by contrast, the transitory and mutable dimension of the colour.
Laura Pugno’s art aims to undermine or overturn spectators’ expectations, putting them in difficulty or in a condition of interpretative uncertainty over the work. This is what happens in Mis-love, where the artist upends the idea of the domestic houseplant as an emblem of house pride. Plants, in fact, represent a recurring positive stereotype in home furnishing magazines, in the cinema and in publicity campaigns. But at the same time, plants testify to the love of green that has recently been gaining great attention, perhaps because of the dramatic environmental problems that are a feature of our times. In her installation – consisting of some ten elements – Pugno alters radically the way in which plants are presented to the spectator, filling the spaces between the branches and leaves with polyurethane foam. These are unexpected, brutal concretions that violate the supposed natural “status” of the vegetation, rendering it inorganic, disquieting and monstrous – they are produced, in fact, industrially with high ecological impact. Yet that condition – to which the plant will react rapidly, developing alternative growth and survival paths – speaks desperately of mankind which finds itself in a contradictory condition, torn by a declared desire for nature at every stage, and an ideological opposition to many of the phenomena that nature itself implies, such as old age, illness, death and respect for process times. Mis-love thus displays openly our ambiguity, our incapacity to act coherently with those same premises that we proclaim. It shows the limits and ambiguity of our vision and judgment.
Chris Rocchegiani’s artistic practice is characterized by the simultaneous presence of several styles and executive solutions, referring to different pictorial modes. In her canvases, in fact, we recognize sections of differing natures. There are gestural and informal parts, characterized by the predominance of signs and action. There are aniconic areas of pure colour, tending towards more lyrical aspects. There are episodes where frugal, synthetic figuration is suggested, where elements on the canvas seem scraps of a reality reconstructed through essentially mnemonic means. The artist’s work is therefore based on a multiple, discontinuous and metamorphic language, differing linguistically from the more usual pictorial forms, which are based on a monolithic sense of identity. For Rocchegiani, in fact, painting is the exercise of intimate liberty, a tormented inquiry that, while plunging forward in a clear, programmed direction, also anarchically allows retreat, re-examination, dissipation, polyhedral development, contradiction and zigzagging. Her canvases are thus fields of possibilities, of uncertainties that are overcome but which may reappear, of colour that is present but may lead to second thoughts. There are so many real or potential paintings to be stratified on the surface, all coexisting in a state of continual tension. Observers must exercise themselves by recomposing and re-stitching it all to grasp the words whispered on the canvas by the elements.
Giorgia Severi’s research is directed towards the environment and the way in which it interacts geologically, biologically, culturally and emotively with man. In particular, her work investigates the precarious and fragile condition of the landscape as well as the ongoing sudden changes caused by the devastating anthropic presence, which has reshaped every corner of the earth to conform to its own needs. About the creation (Rocca Pendice, parete Messner) is a frottage of a mountain face made with charcoal directly on a tapestry surface in the Euganean Hills, an area especially exposed to phenomena of erosion caused by climate change. The work is an imprint of a small area of the mountain, a cast that silently evokes its presence, unmeasurable age and gigantic extension, which seem enormous compared with the presence of a single man witnessing them as an observer. But it is also a technical device that measures bidimensionally a transitory state of the landscape, a precarious and fleeting form that is destined to change, alter, erode or dissolve – exactly as a photographic image testifies to a past moment that can never come again with the same features. The tapestry therefore proves a sampling of a precise moment that not only conserves a hint of how things were, but metaphorically shows what it is that we want to protect from advancing time and the havoc wrought by man.
The sign is at the centre of Marta Spagnoli’s research. It is a sign that does not spring from predetermined hypotheses and is freed of any need to have a meaning. The sign is the primogenial entity, which first and foremost gives life to the painting on the surface for which it is intended. It is by no chance that, as in the large-scale work presented at Casa Testori, the sign assumes the filamentous aspect of a natural organism actively inhabiting the canvas, like continuously mutating writing. The sign, for Marta Spagnoli, effectively acquires pictorial value in the moment in which it is free from intentionality and emotiveness, accepting its reduction to a trace, a clue, the simple result of an act that may sometimes simply coincide with the action of the brush. It is a condition where there are neither hierarchies nor sequences that can restore a logic to these signs. Painting thus becomes an open field in which is enacted a re-immersion of forms, always poised between the archaic and the present, between the physical and the mythical dimensions. The sign, however empty of content it may be, never relapses into abstraction. The surface, as can be seen clearly in Untitled, thus becomes a place of great pictorial intensity, a field in which multiple and elementary energies gather. The canvas therefore becomes a space inhabited by these sequences, which are not simple translations of the real into writing, but pregnant particles from which to await new and ongoing processes of meaning.
Esther Stocker’s artistic practice is directed towards the perceptive nature of the image and space, examining it both in paintings as well as in three-dimensional pieces and installations. Her works, lean and rational, analyse the optical ambiguity underlying geometric matrices, repetitions of the same forms and superimpositions of several patterns. Using simple and minimal tools such as the line, the polygon or simple black and white, Stocker creates visual structures where the elements force the eye into a condition of problematic interpretation or potential spatial ambiguity. The uncertainty, the conflict between several interpretative hypotheses, between two-dimensional forms and perspective views, create in the spectator a state of disorientation and playful amusement. But they also arouse fretfulness, since it is difficult to elude the desire to interpret except by looking elsewhere, closing our eyes or, when possible, touching the works with our hands. Stocker thus demonstrates instrumental limits embedded in the visual means with which we are accustomed to view the world, compelling us to challenge their pregnancy and real effectiveness. Her works, moreover, testify to the ability of the image, and art more generally, to construct worlds that are not there and to create indeterminate, abstract spaces. Places where the eye and the observer can lose the bearings that tie us to normality and lose their way.
Era lì da sempre was born while Lucia Veronesi was staying in Norway. The work, created from rocks and materials deriving from industrial processes, consists of elements gathered during numerous walks, of which they record traces and memories, as a sort of random sampling. In the installation – the title of which has a vaguely existential flavour that maybe refers to the state of abandonment of the materials gathered – the artist places light elements, such as textiles, with more massive sculptural parts, created in rock and plaster. Era lì da sempre thus appears to have been made from heterogeneous forms, from rejects (or the less noble elements) of the landscape and the production cycle, pulped and ripped textiles. Veronesi gives new life to these, giving them new meaning as constituent elements of a new landscape. A landscape that is hypothetical, mental and speculative, but nonetheless fascinating and emotionally pregnant. There coexist in the work, therefore, natural components and anthropomorphic material, organic-type needs and the hidden signs of our industrial world, both part of a complex orography that proceeds by suggestion, by fragments, by parataxis, by the addition of subsequent elements. The work, remounted and remodelled according to the layout of the room in Casa Testori, dialogues with the sections of landscape visible from the window, in a continual cross-reference of material, chromatic and geometric fragments.
In the work of Serena Vestrucci, daily existence often provides the raw material for her artistic experience. Raw material in the most concrete sense of the term: if, in the cycle Trucchi (“Make ups”), her canvases were painted with eye-shadows, robbing her technique from daily life, in these new works presented at the exhibition, it is her bed sheet that takes the place of the canvas. As she herself has explained, “every night I tie a biro to a different part of my body and let it trace freely the marks of my movements, uncontrolled and unconditioned by my active mind”. The subject of these two works, therefore, is what the artist’s body does during her sleep. The result is light traces, indecipherable in their development, which relate very delicately and chastely the substrata of her conscience. These markings are like seismographs of an involuntary artistic action. And the involuntary nature, rigorously respected by the artist during the process, becomes an aesthetic factor, due to the overall gracefulness governing the combination of the markings and the support. In a recent pamphlet, Giorgio Agamben, commenting Artemisia Gentileschi’s Allegoria della pittura, recalled that sleep, for Aristoteles, was “the possession of consciousness in power”, while the state of waking coincides with “consciousness in action”. This power, Agamben explains, is not “the generalized power that can become this, that or anything in a child”, but that “proper to those who have acquired the corresponding art and knowledge”. We can therefore imagine that, with La dimensione del sonno, Serena Vestrucci left free and infinite space to her state of “power”.