Giacinto Di Pietrantonio, Without the shadow of a doubt

Voyager, catalogue, Contemporanei, Bergamo, 2006

Without the shadow of a doubt, shadow has been associated with life and art since their very beginning, just as shadow, without the shadow of a doubt, has always been an integral part of Bettineschi’s work.

In life, shadow is a fleeting but ever-present darkness, the virtuality of the consistency of reality, an intangible blackness and the antithesis of the whiteness of light, the negative of being and yet the very essence of existence here and now. Without the shadow of a doubt, shadow is the image without representing the present – an eclipse of life itself. Scrutinised and explored by mankind ever since the beginning of time, shadow is a source of occupation and preoccupation in science, religion and art – the three disciplines that contend over the significance of shadow more than any other, whether for optical, symbolic or spiritual reasons.

Without the shadow of a doubt, a shadow cast from the sovereignty of the universe, from behind a street corner, or even from the unknown realms of the afterlife, has always inspired mystery and discovery in civilization which is destined to privilege sight and attain the triumphs of vision. Perhaps this is why art has given it such a central role and even formulated a theory of shade, and indeed shade plays a pivotal role in Bettineschi’s work.

Without the shadow of a doubt, shadow marks the boundary between the tangible and the intangible – it begins at the point where a body meeting the end of light begins or ends. These three elements (shadow, body and light) hover between two- and three-dimensionality, and between painting and sculpture – one of art’s most ancient enigmas.

Without the shadow of a doubt, one interesting difference is the shadow made by a translucent or even a transparent body. In this case, light does not end where it meets the body and where the shadow begins; rather, it passes through it, and the boundaries between light, body and shade become ephemeral, penetrating each other and blending together. In fact a shadow in a drawing or a painting is often blurred and indistinct. 

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Mariella Bettineschi is aware of this ancient enigma – for years she has used translucent material like tracing paper, still used by architects even since the advent of the computer, or the transparency of glass.

Without the shadow of a doubt, the reason why she uses these two elements is because her work is closer to sculpture than painting. Bettineschi uses these materials for painting, drawing, etching or screen-printing to create distinct and indistinct images. 

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, it is her way of producing signs and images that are as ephemeral as contemporary life. Yet what is most striking is the way they are often resting on a base on the ground and leaning against the wall, as if they are presented as “sculptures” or “installations” rather than paintings, drawings or photographs. Her work is therefore determined not only by what is represented, but also by the microspace and the actual shadow it creates. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Bettineschi creates a relationship between two- and three dimensionality, between representation and presentation, between fiction and reality, between … and …

As a way of shedding light on the darkness, the work exhibited at GAMeC is the synthesis of what I have just said. It is basically a “sculpture/installation”, composed of a narrow wooden base fitted with panes of glass etched with drawings, and placed in a staggered arrangement to break the linearity of space and the image.

Without the shadow of a doubt, Bettineschi’s way of using glass and the familiarity of her etched images distinctly recall the work of Duchamp, as many have pointed out. However, Duchamp used glass and images to negate art, while Bettineschi uses them to proclaim it, firstly because she draws from tradition, and secondly because the drawings on glass are what she calls “internal drawings”, giving them a sense of structure.

Without the shadow of a doubt, painting, drawing, sculpture and installation converge with each other and the surrounding space; and by creating movement of light and shadow, Bettineschi makes the space the very essence of her work.