Il mare che ghermisce un’imbarcazione e la distrugge facendo di un navigante un naufrago, è una delle più potenti metafore del fallimento. La precarietà della condizione umana, il senso di impotenza di fronte ad una natura indifferente e violenta, il rivolgimento della sorte sono sentimenti che sentiamo profondamente nostri, comuni.
Il mare inteso come simbolo – luogo cioè dove ciò che è e ciò che viene evocato diventano tutt’uno – è quello che ritroviamo nelle tele di Barbara Pietrasanta e in questa mostra che nasce a Milano, una città che il mare non ce l’ha. Partita dalla pianura, dove è stata ospitata nella bella palazzina liberty dell’Acquario civico, la mostra Naufraghi e naufragi approda, non a caso, nelle sale del più grande museo marittimo del Mediterraneo, il Galata, dal 19 maggio al 26 giugno. Un luogo dove la navigazione e tutti i sogni e rischi ad essa collegati sono di casa, e dove il viaggio dispiega la sua potente attrattiva. Ogni cosa dunque segue la sua rotta e anche questa mostra si propone di tracciare la sua. La prossima tappa si deciderà in base alle correnti
“Naufraghi e naufragi” Barbara Pietrasanta
Dal 19 naggio al 26 giugno 2022
A cura di Elisabetta Polezzo
Galata Museo del Mare, Calata Ansaldo De Mari, 1 Genova – Galleria delle esposizioni 2° piano
orario lu-dom 10,00-19,00 ( ultimo ingresso ore 18,00)
“Castaways and Shipwrecks”
The Shipwreck can be a strong and dramatic metaphor, applicable to multiple aspects of the life of each of us, both in the intimate, private and public sphere be they personal shipwrecks or collective shipwrecks: the shipwreck of the West that seems to be looking for a new identity for a new soul; the shipwreck of planet earth that we have not been able to safeguard; the shipwreck of our lives suddenly changed by the pandemic; the shipwreck of an increasingly adrift culture; small daily shipwrecks, or large social shipwrecks.
Yet, leaving aside the game of metaphors thrown to the wind which risks trivializing everything, I believe that even more than our amorous, cultural and social destinies, it’s our bodies which pay the price of a shipwreck.
It is no coincidence that the emphasis in the title of Barbara Pietrasanta’s exhibition lies in the first word: Naufraghi (Castaways). And it is this word that remains most impressive, to the point that the event of the shipwreck itself can almost be overlooked. What matters is the afterwards; the bodies that survive the various shipwrecks, metaphorical or real.
And it is upon these bodies, our bodies, that the destinies of the world are drawn, like tattoos that we did not want, like something imprinted on our eyes and in the furrows of wrinkles on our faces. The shipwreck as destiny remains marked on the bodies of the shipwrecked.
This is what the works of Barbara Pietrasanta evoke in me, with her collection of “Castaways and Shipwrecks”; bodies of women emerging from the sea or on the sea abandoned; women without any clothes or with only a petticoat made transparent by the water; women on blinding beaches as blinding as the sea; calm faces of women that appear to me as indecipherable hope. And there is only one man, perhaps, the only one who did not survive the shipwreck.
These images lead me to think that nothing counts beyond bodies, our bodies; those of real castaways, or those painted by Barbara. And so it no longer matters what happened before or no matter how far the sea has pushed us. The reason, the dynamics, or the tragedy of the shipwreck does not matter. What matters is the condition of the person who has been shipwrecked. It’s the afterwards that matters. The afterwards becomes a great opportunity that we cannot let slip through our hands.
One of the questions Barbara asks me in the video for the exhibition is, ‘what happens the day after the shipwreck?’
I believe that the day after the shipwreck is entirely different because the way we now perceive things around us is different. The shipwreck obliges us to look at the world with a new gaze. And by changing our gaze, our perception of reality that surrounds us changes.
What happened before no longer counts the day after the shipwreck, nor does the shipwreck itself count. The only thing that matters is the condition in which we are, each of us, all shipwrecked, each individual with our own unique and personal history, each one different but all in the same condition; a condition that makes us, if only for a moment, more similar, and that may perhaps be the only way to understand or to feel each other.
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.