OTTO gallery, a Bologna based gallery that has been active for a long time mainly with recognized masters and mid-career artists, last season included in the exhibition program Tetraedro, a group show with a large “scouting” section focused on young emerging talents in the field of painting, with the intent to give new life to artistic collaborations. This reconnaissance of the new goes into more detail with the exhibition Something filled up my heart with nothing currently underway and dedicated to Vera Portatadino, one of the artists involved in the previous project.
The painter, whose work shown in the Botticelli. Il suo tempo. E il nostro tempo (2021) exhibition at Mart museum in Rovereto was recently acquired by the same institutuion, it is distinguished by a versatile and very personal style in each of the varied stylistic declinations in which she engages, all united by the intention of exploring the grammar of painting and its specific expressive potential. This objective was already fully focused in 2018 when the artist, awarded the Città di Treviglio Art Prize, explained that the winning work was “part of a series of recent works that arise from the questioning of what is the specificity of painting, in a reality that accelerates dramatically towards the virtual. Painting is, so to speak, a form of resistance which, in the deliberately slow process I have chosen, made up of glazes and surface processing, exhibits a tangibility, even sensual, in contrast with the dematerialization of reality and requires a close and attentive view, suggesting contemplative modalities as opposed to an “Instagram-fruition”».
The title of the exhibition at OTTO gallery is taken from the text of Wake Up, a song by Arcade Fire (2004) that invites to become aware of our mistakes by recalling the purity of the childhood spirit. This disenchanted atmosphere has risen to the generational mood of those who, born around the 80s as the artist, suffer from the disillusionment of the epochal euphoria in which they grew up, the premises of which have been completely disregarded by our conflictual and problematic present. In the same way in which the song is structurally marked by the evocation of natural phenomena as a metaphor for an existential condition, moreover, also the paintings present in the exhibition are centered on the theme of the relationship between man and a universal nature, which the artist proposes as a key to interpretat and read of our present. The ecological concerns underlying this inspiration therefore make up the narrative backbone of a pictorial and conceptual progression that starts from the peaceful floral parataxis of the green meadows exhibited in the first room (alluding to an idyllic primordial harmony) to move on to the works of the second room, in which the action of a flame (liberating but also destructive) insinuates burning nature and dissolving the last residues of figuration in an incandescent magma, and finally arriving to the abstract and desertified landscapes of the last room, where the pictorial surface , with the addition of gypsum, seems to hold back the emergence of sporadic biomorphic findings.
If on the one hand this climax can be read as an incitement to restore the lost harmony with nature, on the other hand its most meaningful evidence lies in offering the artist the possibility of deepening different meanings of the pictorial language without ever weakening the refined tension towards the beauty that leads them back to an overall unitary vision. Remarkable is the fact that all the works were carried out in a very short period of time and that therefore the coexistence of styles and suggestions does not indicate the stages of a linear evolutionary path, but the richness of the pictorial tools from which Vera Portatadino freely draws, demonstrating both a conscious mastery of iconographic and stylistic citations taken from the art history and maturity in elaborating her personal contribution starting from each of them. By sliding our gaze over the paintings so as to pass from one to the other as if we were surrounded by a pictorial continuum, we can glimpse a pasty background by De Pisis, a sprig of berries by Pinturicchio, a flowery stylization by Klimt and many other reminiscences. The artist, analyzing under the microscope the individual elements of the visual culture suited to her with the intention of incorporating them in her discourse on painting, seems to want to verify on her own skin the hypothesis that art is all contemporary, but at the same time induces the viewer to treasure this crossing.
Looking at the individual works in detail, however, the intention of a thoughtful reflection on painting is specified, which is experienced as an incessant recombination of its basic elements: color, light, sign and matter. The leitmotif of this research is the superimposition in transparency on timeless backgrounds of abstract patterns and figurative details, to which shadows and specific weight are sometimes granted, while in other cases of ethereal evocations that stimulate pareidolia. Insignificant details become the main subject of the paintings where, as the text by Sofia Silva explains, «one encounters numerous symbols deriving from ancient and archetypal iconographies, such as the burning rose, the Apocalypse flower, the fire of revelation» because the artist «does not use symbols as such, but rather encounters them spontaneously». Exploring the dimensions of painting starting from the materiality of the supports, Vera Portatadino chooses to use the wooden table for small-format works that favor a more precious effect, while those of larger dimensions on canvas emphasize the scenographic potential of brushstrokes and signs. The same endogenous light, clear and spiritual, transpires from the bottom of all the paintings, as a uniform emanation in the most free and abstract parts or as a crack that transpires between one tone of green and another, a color of which the artist masters the different gradations with a mastery not taken for granted for a young artist.
Vera Portatadino. Something filled up my heart with nothing
22/10/2022 – 21/01/2023
Via d’Azeglio 55, Bologna
Graduated in art history at DAMS in Bologna, city where she continued to live and work, she specialized in Siena with Enrico Crispolti. Curious and attentive to the becoming of the contemporary, she believes in the power of art to make life more interesting and she loves to explore its latest trends through dialogue with artists, curators and gallery owners. She considers writing a form of reasoning and analysis that reconstructs the connection between the artist’s creative path and the surrounding context.