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Francesca Pasini, The next era: vacuums of air and two-fold visions of the eye

The next era, catalogo mostra Galleria Nuova Morone, Milano, 2015

The work by Mariella Bettineschi is marked by its constant search for new forms, new techniques and new languages. Her passion regards the influence of time. She metabolizes the dialogue with masters who are dear to her such as Burri in the painted, tarred panels (Artigli of 1987) whereas in the monochromes entitled Piano di fuga of 1989 there appears a dedication to Fontana, to his Teatrini. And yet besides the free contact with artists who preceded her she has allowed herself to be imbued by experiences of manual dexterity (Piumari of 1981), by embroidery on diverse surfaces – including paper – to then arrive at the experience of the installation, photography and the manipulation of images which is the demand and the experience that involves the present. Drawing is a practice that accompanies all of her research.

In this way she establishes her own personal path of eclecticism. In fact, there is no invention that doesn’t produce a variant, while the temptation to abandon her figures or the system of representing them and of letting herself be captured by the mobility of intuitions is the surprise that everyone expects from art. A subterranean and although visible tie between manual skill and imaginative structure in the foreground places the dematerialization produced by light. It is the keystone around which her idea of photography revolves – and also the basis of this exhibition. The kinship with light is expressed in the complementary nature between the printed image and the white space that is part of the photographic plate.

The Next Era is the title that from 2008 has accompanied a faceted collection of photographs. As Mariella Bettineschi recalls: “In 2008, when everything seemed there ready to disappear, I thought of the next era as narrated by Anna Maria Ortese. I come from painting and sculpture and I use photography as material, either my own or taken from books. I manipulate, cut, paste, form and deform the images as in the collage technique in order to take them back to painting. I then print them on glass or plexiglass and in this way I accentuate the ambiguity of the vision: the eye loses itself between the image and its reflection, multiplied by the mirror placed behind”.

A drawn-out affabulation begins between the images of the world. One of the first is that of the SSME (Space Shuttle Main Engine) propulsion of the NASA. The image is overturned almost as if to demonstrate that the “sky” that towers over daily life is by now bound more to technology than it is to the stars. And so the sky opens over the worlds of art, literature and nature.

The photographs – more or less – have at their center gaseous emptinesses or else ‘rest’ on white zones that act as a “pedestal” to the image. In the representation of the air that empties the image or the white band one has the unforeseeable, that which is not impressible in the photographic shot. Although one also has the destruction of natural environment, the evaporation of cultural coordinates. The next era is deducible from what happened before although it is never totally focussed while it is lived. These vacuums of air, consequently, allude to the unexpected, the unforeseen and the not yet definable.
The portion of the white photographic plate that doubles many images seems to suggest an intermediate space, to be impressed with the imagination. While the “accidents” of focussing permit the flowing of the emptiness which we often perceive when faced by nature.

As in a stage setting, in this exhibition Bettineschi contrasts and compares images of woods, ponds and landscapes rendered evanescent by ‘breaths’ of emptiness and mists, by portraits of women by Raphael, Palma il Vecchio, Leonardo, Titian, Caravaggio and Bronzino in which besides the white band that doubles the image we also have the eyes of the faces given a two-fold vision by their doubled eyes.

A sort of extropia which projects the past towards a future-present in which it seems to be necessary to add light in order to carry out (perform) the manifold movement between the eyes of the great masters of Italian painting, between the figures portrayed and between the person who looks at them today. In the dialogue between painting and nature one has the inclusion of some precious libraries: the Casanatense in Rome, the Marciana in Venice, Trinity College in Dublin and the Biblioteca Apostolica in Rome. All are ‘enveloped’ by a misty dilation which extends and frustrates their architectural limits: an evident metaphor of the diffusion of knowledge condensed in those millions of volumes. Although we also have the ungraspable, elusive emotion which often affects us when we are transported elsewhere by what we read, or when we think of Borges’ Library of Babel. In short, in that emptiness that seems to remove the ‘bone’ structure of the architecture one feels the power, the potency of the copied thought of the amanuenses, collected in codices, archives, fragments and in all the books which the printing revolution has handed down to us. And one also feels the risk of the dispersion of knowledge, of the state of embarrassment when faced by the inexhaustible task of writing, by our inadequacy with respect to the time we are allowed.

“The ‘accident’ of the focusing which Mariella Bettineschi introduces in these spaces that are both constructed and natural is, in fact, a possible figure of transitoriness. How do the Fornarina, La Bella, La Dama con l’ermellino, Violante and Giuditta (re)act within this panorama? They ask us to go beyond their time, to transfer the eye from history to the subjective relation of today. In their eyes we find the glances and looks of Raphael, Palma il Vecchio, Leonardo, Titian and Caravaggio and also with these we have to establish a relationship of intersubjectivity. As in the woods, the ponds and in the libraries the breath of emptiness indicates a gesture to be carried out within ourselves, thus in these doubled eyes there is the metaphor of an encounter between oneself and the other that has to do both with history and the present.

To use Mariella Bettineschi’s own words: “It’s been some time now that I’ve been asking myself why I choose Renaissance women as testimonies of the next era. Now I’ve understood: because they’re integral, they still haven’t undergone the fracture, the breakage which will come about in painting, in looking beyond. And so it’s to them that I trust what is mysteriously coming ever closer”.

The “approach” that doubles their eyes warns us that the integrity grasped by who painted them above all derives from the person who provides him or herself with a personal vision. An approach that has radically modified the relationships between both the living subjects and those subjects observed and painted.

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