Italian views curated by Mino Di Vita

Mino Di Vita, from the mid-eighties, deals with photography, “portraying”, therefore, society in its different aspects with the camera, up to concentrating his interest on the connections between man and places to which he is linked.

Now, Mino Di Vita, on behalf of the Malerba Fund for Photography, in the role of curator, has invited sixteen authors to participate in the second edition of the Italian views exhibition, which will be hosted in Tokyo from 18 to 23 February 2020 in the gallery space Roonee 247 Fine Arts, specialized in photography, thanks to the long experience of President Toshi Shinoara and the director Kanako Sugimori.

The Malerba Photography Fund (based in Milan, via Monte Rosa 21), created to organize the exhibitions of the Malerba Collection, today also deals with training, organizes events, publishes photographic books, and is dedicated to the promotion of emerging authors and not, in Italy and abroad, and this exhibition and editorial project is a perfect example. As stated by Alessandro Malerba, president of the Malerba Fund for Photography, “the Italian views exhibition is part of a packed program of international events involving artists, institutions, cultural administrations and sector professionals”.

These are the authors called to participate in this year’s project: Arianna Angeloni, Maurizio Esposito, Alessandro Gallo, Matteo Garzonio, Paolo Maggiani, Gaia Magoni, Alberto Magrin, Franco Martelli Rossi, Matteo Mezzadri, Michele Molinari, Lucia Perri, Norma Picciotto, Maurizio Staffetta, Claudio Spoletini, Massimo Zampetti and Diego Zitelli.

Together, the artists present a varied production in terms of themes, techniques and styles, but ideal for telling the Japanese public a linear and original synthesis of what can be admired among the research currently developed by new Italian talents. The genres presented are the most varied and belong to the tradition of visual communication: from still life to landscape photos, from dreamlike manipulation to the theatricalization of the context, from the photo with a model posing or with a set set up to a minute narrative or with an eye to detail , from the “abstract” proposal to the contamination of languages.

Ultimately, we are not talking only of photographs, but of a large collection of sensations, introflexions and emotions able to tell the Japanese public, through a plurality of images and interconnections between them, a parallel dimension with which is possible to access the atmospheres and thoughts of each individual author. As if to say: a poetics of single chapters that in their succession become stories within a chorus that can become a sequence of pages to leaf through.


Italian views 2020
curated by Mino Di Vita
18 – 23 February 2020
Roonee 247 Fine Arts
Sato Bild4F, 17-9 Niho-bashi
Kodenma-Chuo-ku, Tokyo
under the patronage of
Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Tokyo
and Fondazione Italia Giappone di Roma

Visuali italiane ALESSANDRO GALLO_Con le migliori intenzioniAlessandro Gallo, Con le migliori intenzioni, 2018, stampa a getto d’inchiostro su carta

Matteo Mezzadri, Città minime, 2013,  stampa a getto d’inchiostro su carta cotone

Paolo Maggiani, Spectra Fire, 2013, stampa a getto d’inchiostro su carta cotone

Maryam Moghadam. The truth of the flesh

The human perception of one’s physicality is so acute and visceral that the slightest figurative hint of a body can trigger recognition and identification. In the course of art history a large group of painters from different generations, such as Peter Paul Rubens, Titian, Willem de Kooning, Francis Bacon, Lucien Freud and Jenny Saville have dismembered and objectified the body to bring out the truth of the flesh, a ductile and unstable matter on which the deepest instincts of the human being are imprinted. The interest in the “imperfections” of the body, with all the implications and taboos that still affect its social acceptability, is exceptionally topical in our hedonistic contemporaneity which tends to homologate the body according to pre-established aesthetic canons normalizing its subversive and erotic charge in artificially perfect images.

The theme of the body becomes shocking and compelling again through the brush of Maryam Moghadam (Tehran, 1984), whose series of paintings entitled Body (2016-2019) focuses on the human figure, in particular, the female figure, caught by deforming angles and depicted as an intrinsically expressive and vital conglomerate of flesh, in constant metamorphosis. The cycle, recently the protagonist of one of her shows at the Idea Gallery in Tehran, which was sold out in just over 10 days, was thus described by the Iranian critic Arash Soltanali: “Bodies in Maryam Moghadam’s paintings have fallen into despair and even look humiliated, yet at the same time looking into her drawings, they still look powerful and magnificent. Humans that are glorious out of despair”.

Her representations of the different transitional states of the body transcend the boundaries of both classical figuration and modern abstraction to explore the seemingly infinite ways in which the flesh can be transformed and disfigured. The acrylic painting, applied in adhesive layers, becomes visceral like the flesh itself, every painted sign vibrates flexible and mobile, the lines of force multiply and make the boundaries of the figure uncertain. As the artist mixes, smears and drips the pigment on her large canvases, the distinctions between living and breathing bodies and their painted representations begin to collapse and the image itself becomes human material: the figures appear painfully vivisected from a merciless look, sharp brush strokes pierce their surfaces, and each body protrudes parts of itself proudly autonomous and voluminous. The only element that is always hidden is the face of the portrayed subject as if to eliminate any misunderstanding that could hinder the complete identification of the soul with meat.

For Maryam Moghadam, the body is a metaphor for existence, represented as a war scenario in which the primary impulse for survival emerges as innocent violence or as a painful surrender of a wounded beast that retreats into its lair to heal itself. The canvases of the young Iranian artist can make one uncomfortable. It is difficult to look at one of them without perceiving her almost animalistic figurative instinct that also in the abstraction remains gripped by life, the fragility of the body, and its incredible resilience. The consummation of the figure, which becomes partial and monstrous, affected by disintegration, gives us access to a different and feral beauty, a direct expression of the abyss in which life and death originate in a relationship of absolute complementarity, such as two inseparable and unthinkable elements on their own.

Those of Maryam Moghadam’s paintings are crude and disturbing portraits of emotional nakedness that manifests the darker tensions of the characters left to fend for themselves, devoid of faces and, therefore, also of the mask with which they usually present themselves to the outside world. With the limbs tangled in an alcove that could also be the indistinct setting of a dream or a fleeting memory, they offer themselves with arrogance to the viewer’s indiscreet gaze, establishing through their exposed flesh an intimacy that goes beyond the erotic implication to move on the existential level. The artist represents those bodies by isolating them; she is not interested in the narrative aspect of the figuration, in the possible stories that subjects might suggest, and also the surrounding environment becomes relative. The body represents all that each of us possesses. It is an almost theatrical entity in which life experiences leave permanent marks. The transfiguration of the forms in a rugged amalgam of lines and colors invites the viewer to undress any reticence to face his inner demons with the awareness of not being alone, of having the same flesh and the same blood of the characters on the canvas.

The body is opulent or emaciated, heavy, distorted, flaccid, fragmented, and isolated. It is an anguished or tender presence, aggressive or exhausted, but always terribly sincere. The artist’s emotional involvement is total and stems from her almost physical need to emotionally penetrate the subject, to adhere to its discomfort, to exude its anxieties with an exploratory attitude that goes far beyond realism. If this painting does not offer a reassuring image of humanity, it is undoubtedly honest, and the loving insistence on the traces that pain and difficulties give to women’s bodies also emphasizes their inner strength, their ability to stand up, and hope in the possibility of a change. The women of Maryam Moghadam are strong victims; their existential shipwreck is only a temporary retreat in themselves to draw on the roots of their atavistic resistance and prepare themselves again to face what destiny has in store for them. For this reason, painting for the artist is a profound act of trust in a humanity that is still capable of empathy and understanding and of relying on art as a tool to express what counts, and that too often remains unheard in a productive society. Celebrating the corporeality lived without preconceptions, conventions, and hypocrisies could be the omen of a renewed humanism founded on aesthetic canons that can enhance the beauty of individual diversity that makes the adventure of the human being in the world so fascinating.

Maryam MoghadamMaryam Moghadam, Loneliness of the Century. Painting, Acrylic, 2018

Maryam Moghadam, Untitled. Painting, Acrylic, 2017

Maryam Moghadam, Untitled. Painting, Acrylic, 2019

Bahar Binesh. Painting as a secular liturgy

Painting is a blind profession: one does not paint what he sees, but what he feels, what he tells himself about what he has seen. (Pablo Picasso)

The painting of Bahar Binesh (Tehran, 1982), a young Iranian artist already involved in numerous exhibitions in her hometown and abroad, is part of the contemporary art scene as an ideal continuation of Cezanne’s reflection on the relationship between the two-dimensional surface of the canvas and the outside world. Like the French post-impressionist master, her research is oriented towards a synthesis between the external appearance of the world and its rational interpretation, which re-reads every visual data as a succession of forms and space in which the human being is part of an indistinct perceptive continuum like all the other elements that make up reality. If Cezanne always worked from life, with a laborious and thoughtful technique that allowed him to come to a painting that was not the expression of an occasional emotional reaction, but of an attitude of total consciousness in front of the visible, Bahar Binesh arrives at a similar figurative simplification to represent life as a sort of secular liturgy in which every event takes on a ritual value.

The colors, superimposed in an elaborate chromatic texture, build indelible images that translate the mutability of the visible (or the thinkable) into stable pictorial values, without renouncing to transmit vivid sensations. The contour lines, sometimes marked and precise, in some cases tangled and exceeding the edges of the figures, favor the tendency of color to look for the solidity of an image that manages to summarize the optical vision and the consciousness of things. This is why in every work there are various perspective balances that overcome the apparent perceptual inconsistencies of the vision with the coherence of a basic idea that links the differences into a superior harmonic synthesis. The images appear to have been stripped of every accessory and episode, concentrated in a firm and incontrovertible existence, regulated by internal laws that give the subjects depicted a calm, austere and silent greatness.

Abstraction does not want to deny the phenomenal evidence of the perceptible world, but to enrich it with a further depth that detects the emanations of the inner energies of the individual, perceived as a mysterious and indomitable force capable of shaping the surrounding reality. In this way the reduction of the infinite variety of the visible in a narrow and almost archaic range of peremptory signs brings out the subterranean pulsations of the soul of the world of which even the human being is a part, entrusting to the pure expressiveness of color the task of making their presence intelligible. The act of painting then for Bahar Binesh implies the rediscovery of the most ancient and forgotten identity of the human being and of his indissoluble bond with the order of the universe that dominates him and that welcomes him, in the conviction that only this renewed awareness will save him from the alienation of a superficial individualism.

The artist imagines a new world regulated by spontaneous concordances that do not resist the natural transmutation of things, inhabited by a subjective plurality that acts as an integrated unity, as a great organism capable of osmosis and empathy towards its peers and towards other life forms. The intense spirituality of her images makes the dream of this unified positive model immanent, illuminated by the endogenous light of the color that unfolds on the canvas all the evocative and psychic power of its intrinsic beauty. Getting to the essence of the phenomenon is for Bahar Binesh the ideal landing of a path of knowledge and self-awareness in which the viewer is called to accompany her, recognizing the link between his experiences and personal perceptions and what he sees depicted on the canvas.

The scenes most frequently represented by the artist are urban views or domestic interiors framed very closely and characterized by a particular perspective angle that overturns every figurative element in the foreground: this forcing of the natural laws of vision abolishes the hierarchical order of things, like it is reaffirmed by the color distributed as a homogeneous paste that intentionally uniforms the textures that normally differentiate the surfaces of the materials. Even the attribution of colors to the figures and the backgrounds seems to respond to a mixed criterion, which in the same image sometimes privileges a response to the true reduced to the minimum terms that coexists without visual conflicts with details in which the color responds only to the inner perceptions of the artist or the expressiveness of her characters. The protagonists that populate these scenarios are stylized and hieratic human figures engaged in minimal actions or catched in a moment of suspended inactivity.

Their imperturbable and measured presence gives each of their gestures or pauses a supernatural halo, as if the enigmatic episodes depicted were exemplary parables of a new secular animism. The coexistence of details that refer to the contemporary and of figurative allusions to the past place the vision outside of a precise epochal connotation, as if the dense time of the images wanted to condense past and present in a superior synthesis that makes its duration eternal.

In this way, Bahar Binesh takes Cezannian synthesis to its extreme consequences and translates into an image an exemplary moment that encompasses a multiplicity of temporary moments purged of contingencies, often including in her visions the image of an apple that functions simultaneously as a tribute to her ideal mentor and as a signal to the spectator who will be able to grasp its implicit interpretative suggestion.

Bahar Binesh Bahar Binesh, Untitled, Acrylic on Canvas, 120×100, 2017

Bahar Binesh, Untitled, Acrylic on Canvas, 100×100, 2017

Bahar Binesh, Untitled, Acrylic on Canvas, 120×100, 2017

Bahar BineshBahar Binesh, Untitled, Acrylic on Canvas, 110×90, 2017

The mysterious portraits of Koroush Sarmadi

“I’m guessing, everybody wanna be somebody …” recited a famous house song from the 90s, unknowingly anticipating the obsession for self-representation in celebrity style that thirty years later would have invaded the web through the widespread presence of social networks. In the last period, the ambiguity between wanting to be someone and ending up being anyone just because of the homologation of the visual standards through which the collective imagination ratifies its media idols is evident. The multiplication of images (of the self) conveyed by the network has also renegotiated the traditional canons of the portrait, a figurative genre that has strongly come back into vogue with a style that is at the intersection between painting and photography.

These reflections want to introduce the work of Koroush Sarmadi (b.1993, Tehran) a young Iranian artist who, after several exhibitions in his hometown, was recently selected for a collective exhibition in Vancouver organized by the Federation of Canadian Artists Gallery. At the center of his visual poetics we find the portrait, the pretext to capture a variegated catalog of real or imaginary humanity through paintings identified by a few compendiary and structural brushstrokes. At first glance, nothing strange: a gallery of male characters is appearing before our eyes, looking beyond the space of the canvas, sometimes looking for a direct comparison with the viewer, others as if they got lost in an unattainable place elsewhere. The artist does not indulge in superfluous details but with a few traits identifies physiognomies and states of mind that appear instinctively verisimilar, as if each painting were the result of a silent interplay of looks between the painter and his model, a mutual study and understand.

All the portraits convey a sense of enigmatic suspension, as if their contact with the world was uncertain, on the verge of cracking: at the same time the vividness of a recent memory and the indeterminacy of a mystery that thickens with the prolongation of the observation. The lack of contextual references, the newly sketched or totally abstract backgrounds, the generic clothing, amplify the feeling that what we are looking at is not exactly what it seems at first sight. Contrary to what happens in traditional portraiture, there are no clues to define the peculiarities of the individual, his belonging to an era, a profession, a social status, even though carefully observing we begin to recognize some characters. Some references appear obvious, such as the iconic presence of surrealist painter Salvador Dalì or Prime Minister Winston Churchill who led the United Kingdom to victory in World War II, others will appear as such only for those familiar with more specific cultural contexts, such as Iranian poet, writer and journalist Ahmad Shamlou.

The fact that the series includes famous people, leads the viewer to attribute real identities also to the anonymous faces that parade before his eyes, triggering an intriguing short circuit between truth and fiction. In one hand the subjects seem to exist in a pictorial limbo outside a given moment and place, on the other it is not their reality of people that is represented, but their intrinsic humanity, made essential. Koroush Sarmadi considers his subjects as existential suggestions, rather than as explicit stories or specific portraits. His characters, who emerge in a sober, almost in a theatrical way, challenge the viewer with intense and determined looks and are the reflection of a deep emotional connection between the artist and humanity and invite the viewer to meet them in turn, recognizing them as an aspect of themselves.

The visual poetics of the young Iranian artist fits into traditional formalism, adhering to parameters of pictorial specificity such as line, color and dimensional scale, but the subject and the way in which painting is managed are decidedly contemporary. By abolishing every hierarchy of importance between known and anonymous characters, Koroush Sarmadi interprets the act of painting as a political action and as an instrument of social criticism, which reveals some fundamental traits of our contemporaneity. The reason why his paintings are so captivating and so disturbing is the cognitive uncertainty they produce, the uncertainty that attracts attention and that is played in a refined dialectic between the emphasis (of photographic matrix) on the subject’s bodily characteristics and the lack of interest in its identification.

Koroush Sarmadi examines lights and shadows of his mental images and transforms them into figures without using any reference model. Through painting, he creates character elements that do not belong to real people, placing his figures in possible, but undefined, worlds that do not identify narratives but suggest openings to stories, leaving the visitor free to imagine. The deception of celebrity images is a trap that forces the observer to penetrate with his gaze into the paths of color and into its intrinsic expressive possibilities, free from the referent. The evident structural brushstrokes, spread with the immediacy of a gesture that does not allow for revisions, foreground the quality of paintings, their live presence, and at the same time his paintings are characterized by an economical means that allows a crude, unresloved conceptual space to emerge.

The physical and psychological traits of the protagonists in his paintings reinvented the human identity to favor the concentration on his multifaceted essence and on the impossibility of exhausting its representation in a catalog of exemplary subjects that in fact reveal their nonexistence just when they seem to affirm it more forcefully. The deception of these portraits pierce the veil of illusion on self-representation concept and returns fluidity to a collective imagination that now invalidated by mass media conditioning that, in the name of easy cultural consumerism, tends to attenuate the symbolic scope of its models reference reducing them to a pop icon.

Koroush Sarmad, Untitled. Painting, Acrylic on Paper – Cotton, 2018

Koroush Sarmad, Untitled. Painting, Acrylic on Board, 2018

Koroush Sarmad, Ahmad Shamlou. Painting, Acrylic on Paper – Cotton 2018

Dieneke Tiekstra. Sculpture as a three-dimensional puzzle

“I think having the earth and not ruining it is the most beautiful art form you could ever want.” (Andy Warhol)

Berendina Sjoukje (Dieneke) Tiekstra (b.1957, Haarlem, The Netherlands), award-winning artist and co-director of Galerie Rueb&Tiekstra in Rijpwetering, after graduating in visual arts in May 2018 at the Kunstacademie Haarlem in Leiden, chooses to embrace a professional artistic career in the field of sculptural design. Accustomed from an early age to transform what happens in her hands (such as printed circuits, views of the city, paper, musical instruments, wood, etc.) into artistic objects, her work focuses on universal themes – time, the future, the movement – seeking the balance between abstraction and figuration. After an initial phase in which she dedicates herself to experimenting with a wide range of techniques and materials, she finds her own peculiar expressive dimension in the reuse of every day waste objects, in an implicit ethical stance against over production that negatively characterizes the era in which we live. The formal and semantic reinterpretation of these apparently banal elements aims to explore their still unexpressed creative potential, bringing out new connections that stimulate the imagination of the observers by inviting them to actively reconsider the environment in which they live.

The artistic research of Dieneke Tiekstra is oriented towards the creation of a direct language, instinctive and playful, capable of arousing complex questions using simple and readable forms, which do not reject the viewer with useless hermeticism. In the series “The evolution of Man” the artist materializes her interest in the design of the future, which has become a paradigm of a lifestyle that will inevitably have to deal with the widespread presence of machines and the intrusion of digital reality also in the most private aspects of our life. What will the world look like in a hundred or a thousand years? Will man be destined to disappear in a digital cloud? Will humans and artificial devices manage to coexist peacefully on the same planet and protect its existence?

The aforementioned series of works is composed of sculptures made from hundreds of fragments of puzzles depicting men, women or hybrid creatures in expressive poses, asexual characters that embody individuality and the generality of species. These bodies are always devoid of clothes, but they are not naked because the pieces of which they are composed form a colorful skin, an uninterrupted and ever-changing fantasy that makes the demarcation between inside and outside uncertain. The human being is in constant motion and its presence in space and time is represented by the artist as a fragmentation and a temporary recomposition of an order in constant evolution. Will the future always remain wrapped in uncertainty or will the various pieces find a definitive place one day? We can not know, but the harmonious compositions of Dieneke Tiekstra, “superorganisms” that recall the nests of eusocial insects in which each individual, like the organs of the human body, performs specific tasks, portend a positive resolution of these questions.

From the structural point of view, on the one hand the figures appearas “skinned” anatomically (some muscles and joints are distinctly recognized), for another they resemble machines formed by mobile gears. Their presence develops through the alternation of cavities, reliefs, full and empty that generate a fragmented and discontinuous clair obscur that recalls the sudden appearance and disappearance of the pixels of a digital image. In this way it seems that the figures are modeled according to the surrounding space, enclosed by contour lines that develop as a sequence of curves now concave, now convex that do not limit their physicality but expand it in the space. The anthropomorphic sculptures of the Dutch artist redefine the concept of the human body by identifying its deepest essence precisely in the metamorphosis and in the movement that at first sight seem to undermine its integrity.

If the movement is the outward manifestation of a search for balance, the body appears as a material shell that holds within itself a higher principle, the soul: hence a constant tension, the epic effort of humanity to get rid of this impediment by elaborating a structure more suited to satisfying the multiple forms in which its most spontaneous and pure “I” can be embodied. Translating this suggestion from the symbolic level to the stylistic one, the expressive figure of Dieneke Tiekstra reflects an analogous aspiration to merge abstraction and figuration to free materials from their objective limits and transform them into pure emotion.

An equally stringent bond betweenform and content can be found in the choice of preferably using recycled objects: the titles of many works, such as Decline of the Earth, Time traveler or Last man Standing make us imagine an epic narrative of humanity traveling to survive itself, capable of transforming obstacles into beauty tools to consciously set out towards a more sustainable future. The emphasis on movement and fluidity, a result not easily obtainable in sculpture, reminds us that the environment in which we live is an integral part of our body and that only the perception of this interdependence will allow us to develop ways of existence that respect this necessary interpenetration.

Dieneke Tiekstra, Bits and Pieces (2). Sculpture, Modeling Sculpture Technique, 2018

Dieneke Tiekstra, Decline of the Earth. Sculpture, Modeling Sculpture Technique, 2019

Dieneke Tiekstra, Time traveler. Sculpture, Modeling Sculpture Technique, 2019

Roman Stańczak. The Flight

In the 70s Gordon Matta-Clark, after meeting Robert Smithson who introduced him to the Land Art, moved to New York to take part in the artistic and cultural ferment of the most lively city of the moment. Attracted by organic materials and their transformations (in one of his first performances he roasts a pig and serves it to the public) the artist founded Food, a restaurant-meeting place for artists and creative people. In 1973 his irreducible language took shape: together with Laurie Anderson, Richard Nonas, Lucio Pozzi and other artists, Gordon founded Anarchitecture, a movement that overturns the traditional idea of ​​architecture. Gordon identifies abandoned buildings or buildings destined for demolition and intervenes in the architectural structure, creating cuts, gashes and cracks that reshape space and identity. In Splitting (1974) an entire house is divided in half by a vertical cut; in Conical Intersect (1975), on the occasion of the Paris Biennial, two buildings are drilled before their final dismantling to leave place for the Center Pompidou. These structural interventions, called “building cuts”, challenge the idea of ​​space, of exterior and interior, of light and shadow, but they are also political acts of protest against the American building exploitation of the Seventies. Gordon Matta-Clark dies in 1978, only thirty-five years old, due to pancreatic cancer and his radical approach is handed over to the history of art still incorrupt and powerful, before the system and the critics could metabolize it.

From here the work of Roman Stańczak ideally starts again, who in the Poland Pavilion in the 58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia presents an impressive environmental installation, entitled The Flight. For the occasion, the artist transforms the exhibition space into a hangar at the center of which there is a real plane overturned so that the interior, ie the elements of the cockpit, the cabin and the passenger seats, are visible on the outside, while the wings and the planking are compressed and rolled up inside the sculpture. The visitor finds himself displaced in front of the paradoxical monumentality of the object and is instigated to investigate its interior with an almost voyeuristic attitude. The alienation gives way to desire but after the initial and morbid attraction for the disaster, arrives a more analytical attention for the intricate routes of the cables left in the open, for the seats still soft tipped over and curled up in a fetal position, for the imperfect sutures that support the whole, for the scratches and the marks that can be glimpsed in the rolled wings. It is clear how weak the boundary between safety and danger is, how uncertain the established order is and it is also discovered with a certain discomfort that the innards of that gutted mechanical carcass can disturbingly resemble the ducts that guarantee the functioning of a biological body.

The artist’s interest is profoundly humanist, for him it is important that the objects he destroys to reshape have met the man and bear the memory of his body and his gestures. In The Flight this suggestion becomes choral and universal: the plane has transported hundreds of people at high altitude and in its interstices birds and wasps have found refuge, whose nests have been incorporated into the work as an integral part of the machine. Through worn and brutalized everyday materials, Roman Stańczak speaks of the ancestral human yearning to go beyond the material world to access the spiritual dimension, recounts his aptitude to inhabit the matter and his inability to definitively free himself from it. It speaks of the limit and the beauty of imperfections, which are perhaps much more compelling than the aseptic perfections of functional and efficient forms, and of the irreducible unpredictability of life.

His working method takes on performative and almost ritual connotations: sculpting is for him a close encounter with an object to be confronted in a violent melee and when the object is the size of The Flight‘s plane, the fight becomes titanic. Stańczak has in fact cut the fuselage lengthwise in a single cut to overturn it as if it were the skin of an animal and suture it again by replacing its innards on the outside. The plane is open like a prey and the internal structures show their elasticity: the vulnerability of the new structure recalls to the artist that of a piece of meat to be roasted, in singular similarity with the first performance of Matta-Clark. Here too the different reformulation of space and light leads to an almost sacral exploration of the object that loses its pre-established function to become a pure signifying form. Another aspect in common between the two artists is the great scale of a work that goes beyond the measure of the human body and that for this magnifies the demiurgic potential of its gesture. For Stańczak, creating is a way of testing himself and his dormant abilities by expanding his possibilities to ideally reunite with the ancients who managed to move enormous stones to build architectures at the limit of the incredible. The essence of sculpture is to be found in the effort of the body which strengthens the mind and sublimates the thought.

Destruction, the prelude of a new creature, thus becomes a symbol of strength and awakens the utopia of uniting a divided society starting from the recognition of its weaknesses and the inevitability of transformation. Sculpture is an invitation to abandon false security and rigid identities, to take the risk of dissolving in the world to be reborn in new free and inclusive forms and then (perhaps) finally fly.


Roman Stańczak at work on the sculpture Flight, film still from Anna Zakrzewska’s and Łukasz Ronduda’s film Flight, 2019, Kijora Film

Roman Stańczak

For the last three images: Pavilion of POLAND, Flight.
58th International Art Exhibition – La Biennale di Venezia, MayYou Live In Interesting Times
Photo by: Francesco Galli Courtesy: La Biennale di Venezia

Damiano Mirò Serafini. The eternal topicality of history

Damiano Mirò Serafini is a very young self-taught artist deeply fascinated by history and by the great masters of Italian artistic tradition. Just eighteen, last year he was selected among the 30 finalists in the painting section of the 12th edition of the Laguna Art Prize and last February he won the Excellence Award of Circle Art. His graphic style is inspired by the engravings of the XVI and XVII century, whose styles are updated with an extremely versatile, vibrant and synthetic pen-stroke that manages to recreate lights, volumes and atmospheres with an extreme economy of means. The characters in his drawings, whose exploits are almost always set in the past, seem to emerge from a variegated literary magma to give life to new stories in which the contemporary spectator can still be identified despite the epochal distance.

Intrigued by his early talent and by the maturity of his artistic culture, we interviewed him to get to know him better.

What is your education and when did you realize you wanted to pursue an artistic career?

I started drawing when I was very young and from that moment on I never stopped, continuing to practice independently, I believe without the real purpose of completing a training but rather with the spontaneous intent to improve myself. I never perceived this tension as something premeditated, I simply always enjoyed myself in the practice and study of art, both practical and theoretical.

Your works give a glimpse of a profound familiarity with the work of the great masters of the history of art and demonstrate a truly unique depth of understanding for such a young boy. Does the choice to inspire you to certain currents of the past be purely aesthetic or functional to a particular concept?

I am firmly convinced of the substantiality of the form. The depth of a work, I believe, should be judged on the quantity of references that it radiates within that immense basin of information that is History, tracing routes and ordering in a single organism those that would otherwise be disjointed pieces. Our present, alone, is incomplete, it necessarily needs a past, of “ancestors”, if it does not want to slip into the flatness of everyday life and oblivion. What Art does is to open behind the surface of the immediate the infinite perspective of references that our habituated eye regularly ignores. Its purpose is therefore to give a meaning and a context to our existence, to draw a path for it, to remind it of an origin and an end. All things (I hope) of immediate need for each of us, which should be enough to dispel the slothful myth of art for art.

In your drawings I also see a particular interest in the architectural styles of the past, which you analyze with extreme sharpness and then recombine into new eclectic visions. Of these settings do you find the design aspect or the scenographic one more appealing to you?

The design one, so much so that I intend to make architecture my main occupation in the future. The search for an architectural style for our times (which takes into account what has already been said above) is certainly my fixed point; the problem is not easy to solve.

What attracts your attention to the world around you instead?

What strikes me most negatively – alas – is the indisputable predominance, in contemporary society, of the material impulse on every other kind of aspiration. The call of material well-being is, in our times, the most powerful force, the engine of every activity. I hope with all my heart that the prospect of an Art as a structurally necessary tool for the spirit, rather than bizarre self-hypnotic fetishism, can some how change this unfortunate condition.

Some of your more elaborate drawings depict scenes with a large number of characters engaged in choral actions. Are these fragments of existing stories, metaphors of existential conditions or sketches of narratives yet to be invented?

In many cases these are illustrations for books I have written, in others they are possible stories or simply symbols. The category of the symbolic is especially interesting because it inserts on the usual substratum of references, common to each work, a further reference, conscious and privileged, (ie the one addressed to the object that is symbolized), which makes it a supreme condensation of meaning.

Tell us about the creative process that leads you to an illustration.

I don’t have a fixed rule. Sometimes the composition and the subjects are already very clear even before starting (but they are rare cases), others I just throw down a detail, a face, an architectural decor, and then gradually extend the design, others, may be that which happens more frequently, I have in mind a seminal idea, a theme, which serves as a guideline for the sufficiently free development of the work.

What are you working on and what are your future plans?

I am currently working on illustrations for a short poem of my own composition, Cosmographia, which intends to be a small anthropological synthesis of what man has done and thought since his birth. In this work the study of depictive stylization over the ages and in various cultures will be fundamental. I also deal with the graphic design of the literary magazine L’Orecchio di Dionisio.

Damiano Mirò Serafini The Fight of PhilosophersDamiano Mirò Serafini, The Fight of Philosophers. Drawing, Ink Painting, 2017

Damiano Serafini-FolliaDamiano Mirò Serafini, Follia. Drawing, Ink Painting, 2018

Damiani Mirò Serafini, New Gothic – Odling Builds the Tower. Drawing, Ink Painting, 2018

Shirin Moayya. The restless forms of the human soul

The human beingcannot come out of himself, he does not know others except in himself; and, if he says the opposite, lies.
(Marcel Proust, Albertine dìsparue, 1925)

We live in an agitated age: dark forces are at work above our control and our consciences to guide our behaviors and choices in the directions that most suit the strong powers. The exasperated individualism of the so-called “liquid society” is daily shattered against the impotence of the single person facing a collective destiny that increasingly appears as a drifting boat. Those of us that are still sensitive today seem to be skinned alive, they are the sentient receptacle of our existential unease towards a society in which the logic of profit and efficiency seems to have definitively outclassed human istic ideals. As much as we try to silence dissatisfaction and insecurity with comforting and seductive substitutes, the body tells us that something is not working: it is an animal feeling that never abandons us.

The body has immense power; in a dematerialized and standardizing world it continues to be a fixed point because it represents the beginning and the end of each of us. The body is the place of introspection, of self-construction and exchange with one another, and for this reason the oppressive power would like to control, limit and flatten it. In difficult times, the body is simplyreduced to a container of pain, but in spite of everything it continues to exist, to be rebellious and disturbing.

These reflections are at the center of the poetics artworks of Shirin Moayya, an Iranian painter already involved in numerous exhibitions in Tehran, the city where she lives and works, who in  recent years has been attracting the interest of the juries of several international competitions, such as the 1st Dubai Painting Symposium and Residency or the 11th Annual London International Creative Competition, to name a few. The source of her work is the emotional and spiritual experience of reality, which she translates on the canvas with an expressionist language characterized by a strong chromatic accentuation and a powerful emotional deformation of the visual data. In her paintings there are no gradations of colors and shades to create shadows and volumes, but bright and strongly contrasting colors. Three-dimensionality is abolished in favor of a single pictorial plane understood as a battlefield between contrasting forces, the forms are simplified, the colors are sharp and bright, the line is strong and expressive. The painter consciously distorts reality to make it clear that what we see on the canvas is not the reproduction of an object as it appears, but how she “feels” about it; by concretizing her inner perceptions, the artist forces the viewer to live on his/her skin, his/her own sensations, without the possibility of seeking refuge in anesthetic digressions.

In the series of paintings entitled as Inward Organized (2015-2016) large drafts of juxtaposed colors identify the synthesized shapes of enigmatic objects surrounded by an irregular and thick outline, which is no longer the constructive and idealizing design of distant Renaissance origin, but a tool to give drama to the composition. Shirin Moayya engulfs the world and transfers it into her soul and then returns it in a transfigured vision like a hallucination populated by objects-bodies, which seem to stagger and then settle into a new mysteriouse quilibrium. This reconciliation, even if fought, between inside and outside derives from the artist’s ability to emotionally align herself with the objects of her vision and then let the instinct guide the brush without any prior design imposition. In this way what happens on the surface of the canvas is the manifestation of a thought caught in the bud, before the word or theory impoverishes it to make it intelligible.

In the series Human Beings and Forgetfulness (2017-2018) the artist exasperates the caricature deformation of the image and painting becomes a real existential scream. The contour lines propagate like waves starting from multiple psychic epicenters, concavity and convexity follow each other with dangerous rapidity, the color appears stretched as a direct emanation of impulsive and brutal gestures, the palette is rough and at times rude, oblivious to the pictorial refinement that harmonized the slanted visions of the previous series; Inward Organized. In this case the subjects are incarnations of states of mind, moods and alienations generated by an expressive urgency that; transforming themselves into body and flesh, goes beyond the individual dimension to become a universal cry. Each personification appears isolated and shaped by its own monomania, barely contained in the limited space of the canvas, ready to attack the viewer from whom it seems at the same time to expect understanding and help. The pictorial material of these paintings is enriched by the insertion of papers and newspaper shreds that give the image three-dimensionality and that unequivocally project it in the here and now of our contemporaneity.

Shirin Moayya’s lucidity in identifying the peculiar traits of each psycho-pathology shows how the expressionistic accentuation of the pictorial languagedoes not exclude her ability to give a critical and disenchanted look at human discomfort while showing a deep emotional sharing. And it is precisely this capacity for reconciling harsh reality, empathy and pictorial frankness that makes us understand how, for the artist, exposing the inconsistencies of existence is only the first step of a journey of hope animated by the confidence that in the future a new humanism will succeed to re-establish the human being starting from the destruction of the false certainties of the present.

Shirin MoayyaShirin Moayya, Inward Organized, Painting, Acrylic 2016 – 2017

Shirin Moayya, Inward Organized, Painting, Acrylic 2016 – 2017

Shirin Moayya, Inward Organized, Painting, Acrylic 2016

Shirin Moayya, Pessimists, Painting, Acrylic, Collage 2016 – 2017

Hoonaz Afaghi. The Universal Soul of Nature

Since the graffiti in prehistoric caves, mankind has expressed through art its deep connection with nature. Initially it was elementary signs that responded to magical and religious needs, which over time evolved into more complex images. Nature has always nourished the collective imagination and inspired artists from all over the world with its inexhaustible archive of shapes, textures and chromatic ranges. Starting from the last century, nature in art has also recovered its mysterious character, it has become a refuge and a way to escape for the man who is oppressed by the frenzy of contemporary society, seeks in it secret correspondences with his/her own moods and a renewed sense of belonging to the life of the universe.

These spiritual instances have radically altered the pictorial depictions of the natural elements in the direction of an increasingly less realism. The artists havebegun to communicate their vision of the world through geometric lines, abstract shapes and colors so that a barely sketched shape or a hint of chromatic gradation were enough to bring out the naturalistic reference.

Many artists in their search for the lost unity between man and nature became interested in archaic cultures, which rejected a clear distinction between man and other beings. For the primitives,things had a soul or strength that gavethem life and the magic was based on the belief in “hidden connections” between all beings and therefore also between man and natural elements. To visually highlight these formal and symbolic affinities, painters who have favored an abstract language subject of nature worked toward a process of analysis and synthesis, at the end of this process, the canvas shows a new mental panorama in which nature is the manifestation of the inner perceptions of the artist in relation to the landscape, he/she is watching or imagining.

To this category belongs also Hoonaz Afaghi (1973, Tehran), an Iranian artist who, after an initial creative approach to the calligram, chose to gradually move away from the line to arrive at pure painting.

Her paintings, made with an opaque palette that incorporates all the animal and vegetal nuances present in nature, reveal the unique rule that regulates everything; which the Swiss painter Paul Klee (1879 – 1940) wrote in his Diaries. The silences and epiphanies evoked by her paintings lead the viewer to the discovery of that spirit, or vital principle, which lies latently beneath the surface of reality and which generates and governs human beings, animals, trees and mountains.

The privileged subjects of Hoonaz Afaghi are details of trees, rocks, leaves or animals in which the real visual data is decomposed and divided to reach the minimum and indivisible unity of matter and reach its essence, that universal soul of what exists on the life cycle painting is based. The artist mentally circum navigates the subject to be represented and analyzes all the parts to return it in a condensed image that goes beyond the concept of time, intended as a chronology of events to allude to an eternal simultaneity of dense moments.

In her compositions there is no distinction between figure and background and the acrylic color simulates everywhere the same indistinct organic paste of which the world is made. In some areas the chromatic layer appears to be stretched in a fluid way, while in others sit thickens in elaborate layers; sometimes it seems to expand freely on the pictorial support, sometimes instead its propagation appears governed by lines and contours that suggest enigmatic outlines of structures. The absence of sharp boundaries between the various elements that make up the vision and their metamorphic nature does not imply that the images are irresolute and poorly structured, but on the contrary manifest the awareness of a higher order that passes without interruption from one element to another. Emblematic in this regard are the paintings of the Tree series, where the tree-matter, indifferently understood as crown, leaf, wood, trunk, forest or branch, is investigated as if it were a primary mythological entity that overwhelms the human being with its luxuriant and multi-faceted beauty.

Just like Paul Klee; also Hoonaz Afaghi’s naturalistic painting is the most immediate way to express a determined Weltanschauung (idea of ​​the world), which would not be misleading to define animistic. Her symbiosis with the landscape is so accentuated that from the outside it is almost impossible to guess whether in her paintings the visual references to nature are to be interpreted as a metaphor for an existential condition or if instead human emotions are shaped by the depicted biomorphic scenarios.

The  constant search for chromatic harmony and formal balance (regardless of whether the vision has a calm, joyful connotationsa, melancholic or disturbing) demonstrates how at the basis of her poetics there is a cyclic and circular conception of life, in which each element settles down and transforms itself in relation to others. Particularly expressive in this regard is Disturbed, a brilliant essay in compendiary painting in which a few quick gestural brush strokes sketch an ambiguous silhouette of a woman in total fusion with the imaginary landscape that surrounds her, to the point that she herself seems to assume the appearance of a rock that stands proudly towards the sky despite the wind and snow.

And precisely by recalling the ancient intuition of all existance through artistic interpretation; creates a profound sense of liberation and pleasure that one feels by looking at Hoonaz Afaghi’s paintings, in which the inevitability of everything that happens on the canvas clears every hypothesis of conflict and regret. The depth of her observation, which is applied with the same intensity to the infinitely small as to the universal, makes it clear that abstract painting can be an instrument of spiritual research intimately connected with the ancestral forces that shape and perpetuate the mystery of life on the Earth.

Hoonaz AfaghiHoonaz Afaghi, Tree 2, Painting, Acrylic, 2019

Hoonaz Afaghi, Life-Cycle, Painting, Acrylic 2018

Hoonaz Afaghi, Wood, Painting, Acrylic, 2018

Hoonaz Afaghi, Disturbed, Painting, Acrylic, 2018

Paola Santagostino. Psychic Abstraction

Paola Santagostino is a psychoanalyst specialized in psychosomatic medicine who in the last few years has decided to combine her profession with artistic production, to which she has systematically dedicated since her graduation in painting at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera in 2017. Her interest is directed towards an abstract and expressionist research that makes physical automatism, intuition and emotion its inspiring principle with the aim of exploring the bonds between mind and body at the origin of physical and mental well-being. Passionate about art from a young age, she says she unexpectedly found painting again; thanks to the psychotherapy sessions with her patients: “As I hold a session, I follow the development of the session with drawing signs, I follow it by points and lines of connection and visualize it in an almost geometric way as a network of concepts. When the session is over, I throw away those sheets of paper, for me they have already served their function, but my patients ask to take them with them, they even go and retrieve them from the wastepaper basket, asking me to keep them to remember what we said and the thread of the session that we had”. Encouraged by these feedbacks, the artist decides to consider more seriously her natural predisposition for unconcious drawing and elaborates her personal expressive language starting from those signs born in an apparently so different context.

Initially, she extrapolates from her extemporaneous notes those elliptical circles which, repeated and superimposed, it becomes the minimum units of her compositions and that flowing on the canvas and intertwining each other, visualizes a real “flow of thoughts”, a succession of graphic ideas that manifest a state of mind. The speed of execution granted by the acrylic painting and the impetuousness of the pictorial action enhances the primary role of the free creative drawing, understood as an immediate taking of the reality released from any intervention of cognitive and rational type. Obviously the reality referred to is the inner one of the artist, which derives from a complex amalgam of perceptions, moods and reactions to life events. The succession of canvases forms a sort of intimate diary that the universality of the pictorial language adopted makes archetypal and therefore easily introjectable by the viewer whom unconsciously adapts it to his/her own experience. This spontaneous graphical writing, an instant projection of a mental state, is interesting for its oxymoronic nature, capable of bringing together maximum impulsiveness with an extremely rigorous creative process.

After choosing the color range to be used based on the chosen theme and the specific symbolism of each color, Paola Santagostino lets instinct guide the dance of the brush on the canvas, as if her hand were a seismograph capable of capturing her inner vibrations. The gestural and lyrical abstraction that derives from the total bodily and emotional involvement transfers into painting the images and mental associations that flow from the unconscious without any mediation of reason:  it is a physiological transmission that lays the foundations of empathy and subliminal understanding of the image. This method has many points of connection with the surrealist psychic automatism which, as André Breton explained in the 1924 Manifesto, sought to express the real functioning of thought outside of any aesthetic and logical concern. It is no coincidence that Paola Santagostino names Thoughts as the visual situations identified by the ellipses, but her intent is in opposite with the protagonists of the historical avant-garde; it is no longer an aim for exploring the mysterious mechanisms of the unconscious but of using their mastery to depict; in an engaging way, the infinite possibilities of existence.

The next step is to add together different Thoughts to sketch Discources, or compositions of primary and secondary abstract signs that fit together to form more articulated constellations of meaning. Here the execution takes on an even more markedly performative character: Paola Santagostino listens to connect with the deepest part of herself, then with her eyes closed she begins to trace the marks on the canvas with her left hand, whose movement is guided by the right hemisphere of the brain, most implicated in emotional processes. Despite the apparent randomness of the execution, the image is almost always structured starting from a central axis, then developing through orthogonal lines and semicircular curves pushed outwards by centrifugal forces. The most pronounced central line indicates “the thread of discourse” that connects the various concepts while the most subtle signs are the minor related topics and in the end, in very small but legible characters, the artist adds some words that stimulate the intellectual participation of the viewer.

Paola Santagostino, Thoughts of Green Hope, Painting, Acrylic

Paola Santagostino, Self Made, Painting, Mixed Media 2018

Clouds of signs gather in a cluster around an imaginary longitudinal line that constitutes the fulcrum of attraction of a kind of electromagnetic field in which each element finds its own orbit in relation to the others. The structure evokes a vortex movement,  but also the luxuriant growth of a plant or the joyful propagation of a music, all dynamic entities in constant tension between the synthesis and the dispersion that are well suited to visually embody the metamorphic identity of the human being. The purpose of not being conditioned by the formal result to prefer improvisation does not imply an absence of limit or sense of measure: like the calligraphy of the Far East, the painting of Paola Santagostino does not admit mistakes, second thoughts or uncertainties and requires a clear and confident gesture generated by an equally lucid proprioception. Her paintings, in an enigmatic equidistance between abstract expressionism and the conceptual map, instinct and methodicality, try to harmonize the multiple contradictions of being in the world and convey a positive feeling of enthusiasm and vitality.