From Milan through New York, Barbara throws her answers (or flings her question-marks: Why? Where? Who? scattering them through the surface of “15 words and a red dot”, a very recent work) against society’s collapse and gangrene, reverting to her obsessing themes, using her own or somebody else’s body as a filter for chronicle actuality (the twins of “9/11’’; the Renaissance silhouette of “Petrol” threatened by impending pollution; “Leslie’s transvestite, lost in alienation and loneliness; the double-profiles (Benjamin’s Angel of history?) of “Untitled”; the butterfly of “Condominium” stabbed by her neighbours’ cruelty, judgment and condemnation or to portray the blossoming breathing of consumerism (the a’ la Leonardo bust in Icon I,) melting it in nature and history (“Oltre il muro”Beyond the wall). Following the thread of Barbara’s transformations, the ripening and widening of her skills (she does not hesitate to make use of the now-a-days hardly known fresco- technique in an impressive Via Crucis cycle), it is easy to detect a continuity in her feeling for the multiple and the complex, the relative and the multi-faceted determining her attitude of systematic perplexity. Since ever, Barbara’s works can be read in a narrative key, there are always human beings, or parts of them, in centre- stage, or along the borders; Barbara’s vision is not hermetic, the seeming realism of her expression is filtered through memory, nostalgia and a subtle, permeating feeling of precariousness. Her detached approach, cold and yearning at the same time, her disapproving eye, do not favour worldly relationships; the checkmate on the practical side is reversed through lyric transfiguration: Barbara dips in Indian colours the background of a (self ?) portrait conceived when- it was 2002- India was nothing more than a hypothesis of unreality. To India she devotes “Ovulation”, fantastic merge between the mother Goddess Kali (in a mitigated Western avatar) and fertility symbols, thus firmly and ahead of time marching towards the hoped for blend.If one was obliged to put a label on contemporary art, this might be defined as a progressive process of dis-identification and uprooting from one’s own traditions, a continuous eradication and tearing of one’s own roots, in the awareness that those roots ARE paradoxically in the eradication itself. The meaning of the journey is therefore towards a civilization made of intertwining, encounters, exchanges between sides, peoples, cultures, individuals, between different colours and sounds. Written stories and paintings cannot be confined inside borders, restricted by one horizon; in a diversified, heterogeneous, open world, where different routes can be mapped out, cultures and traditions are transit stations of an on-going translation and transformation process.
Barbara Pietrasanta’s figurative style is clearer and precise, but her paintings suggest a vision of reality that is loaded with fascinatingly complex existential and psychological meaning, seen from a markedly female perspective.
In her pictorial research the artist brings into play all the main themes linked to a profound sense of life, of the relationship between men and women and in particular of the perplexing question of individual identity. Two paintings clearly exemplify the way in which Pietrasanta has dealt with these questions. The first, entitled ‘Il gioco della vita’ (the game of life), looks down on a billiard table, where one hand is seen hitting a ball with a cue, another hand is throwing the dice on the table and at the bottom we see from behind the head and bare shoulders of a woman who is leaning forward and resting her head on the table. The underlying meaning of this work has no need of explanation and yet the symbolic connotations do not detract from the expressive force of the work. The other work is one of the most recent and is a group of sixteen small canvasses making up a polyptych. We see the faces of a man and a woman, with tense and worried expressions. A tin of red paint separates the two faces. Only the words in English: ‘why’, ‘who’, ‘when’, ’they’ appear, sometimes superimposed, on the other panels. Here, too, the question asked is clear, but there are no certain answers. In some other paintings, the female figure is the only protagonist.
In ‘Petrolio’ (Oil), a nude figure (reminiscent of Botticelli’s Venus but with black hair) stands in the clear water that is about to be contaminated with oil. In ‘Ovulation’, in clear homage to Indian mythology, the kneeling female nude has many arms and her many hands hold eggs, symbols of fertility and life.