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Lieta Busachi,


March 2024

The Triennale Milano, as part of its efforts to enhance and promote the contemporary Italian art scene, presents the exhibition "All in One" by Mariella Bettineschi, curated by Paola Ugolini and focused on four cycles of works created by the artist from 1980 to 2023.

Bettineschi's multifaceted research, internationally recognized and not linearly attributable to any artistic current or movement, explores different fields and media, appropriating specific languages with refined technical mastery. From painting and drawing to sculpture, from collage to photography and digital painting.

The title, "All in One," encapsulates the essence of this exhibition, which brings together four fertile nuclei of works spanning the prolific production of an artist who investigates, in a solitary manner, eclectically free from structures and categorizations, the relationship between nature and culture, interrogating the contemporary observer about the role of women and the history of art. Although not placing the body itself at the center of her investigation, as in many contemporary feminist artistic practices, in Bettineschi's work corporeality phenomenologically takes shape, from the early 1980s, through various materials related to the feminine universe. In the series "Morbidi," transparent and light organza fabrics are filled with feathers or cotton wool and embellished with golden painted words; in "Piumari," on the other hand, delicate organza weavings are layered, mounted on a wooden frame, and decorated with golden metallic threads, nylon, and gold powder.

Subsequently, the artist's research focuses more on the plastic configuration of matter in the cycle "Tesori" ("Treasures"), also consisting of large-format works, in which the glossy paper support is treated with tar, pigments, turpentine, golden drips, and various combustion processes. In "Tesori," compared to previous series, gilding, gold as a leitmotif, completely invades the support, mixing with different materials, giving these works an archaic dimension of material sacralness.

Following these experiments, since 1996, new technologies have entered the artist's practice and language, inaugurating a fruitful production of works, "The Next Era/The Next Era," an ongoing series in which photography also becomes a meta-photographic process starting from iconic images. In this series printed directly on plexiglass, important and ancient Libraries appear, those "granaries of knowledge," mentioned by Marguerite Yourcenar, which preserve our cultural heritage. In Bettineschi's vision, these places are invaded by a mysterious and luminous central cloud, a white space, which fades and dissolves towards the edges, creating a disturbing effect, triggering a dialectic between the visible and the invisible, the interior and the exterior, the full and the void. Even in "Nature," wooded landscapes, dense vegetation, and bodies of water are also flooded by dazzling clouds. In these two thematic strands, the opposition between Nature and Culture finds a conceptual as well as visual reconciliation, in those nebulae, in those semantic voids to be filled with new meaning, which epiphanically inaugurate that Next Era to look forward to.

In the "Portraits," the faces of "very famous anonymous" chosen by Bettineschi are absorbed in the silence that art history has wanted them as models, muses, or lovers in the traditional male-oriented historiographic narrative, and enigmatically recall the observer entering the room, from afar, from a suspended time and space, posing new questions. These female figures, over time become icons of Western representation and of a specifically masculine gaze - that of Raphael, Ingres, Bronzino, Caravaggio, Leonardo, Vermeer... - are reworked in Bettineschi's vision and complex creative process, which decontextualizes them from their background, through a skillful digital painting work, to give us an image of them in a pure and shining black and white. These female faces so familiar to our gaze, through their own eyes that Bettineschi cuts - in a surrealist gesture like in the scene from the film "Un Chien Andalou" - and "re-sews" them enigmatically, affirm the visionary capacity of the female gaze on the world. The ancient faces of the women chosen by the artist thus return to us with another face, with a new gaze, emerging from their time and their centuries-old silence. Their "medusa-like eyes" contain a profound and dazzling light that, Bettineschi asserts, "attracts and disturbs," leaving an open question about the future, about a new era that a renewed point of view, the feminine one, can inaugurate. "La Grande Odalisca," "Fornarina," "Maria and Bianca de' Medici," "The Sisters D'Estrées" still gaze at us, as iconic objects of Western representation, finally become, in Bettineschi's poetic, active subjects, figures bearing new eyes, a different way of seeing. The rupture with the past, and this doubly open look to the future, is also formally unfolded in the structure of the images of these works, with that dichotomous fracture between the upper part of a deep black, absolutus and full of mystery from which the female figures emerge, and the lower white, as a "underscore of the image itself, a semantic "void that reinforces the concept," a white space to be filled with renewed meaning.

Lieta Busachi

Ph. Gianluca Di Ioia for Triennale Milano

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