Towards the light
Ian Rosenfeld, 2009
Catálogo exposición “Il nero non è solo buio”
“On the 18th of September 1997, the exhibition “Sensation” opened at London’s Royal Academy. For the first time in its illustrious history, the famous institution had opened its doors to a private highly contemporary collection; that of the advertising mogul Charles Saatchi. Amongst the pieces and artists on display were Damien Hirst’s animals, either cut into 2 or 3 pieces or the famous shark suspended in a tank of formaldehyde; Mark Quinn’s human head made from frozen blood; Jenny Saville’s large oil paintings of blood stained faces as the result of accidents, and the Chapman brothers with their sexually deformed children. All these works, whatever one may think of their individual merit, appear to me to be a very masculine take on mortality and pain. It’s work that shouts at you to give it proper attention.
Rossana Zaera’s art, in contrast, is exquisitely feminine. She recounts her very individual story of pain and suffering, yet, as the exhibition title states, “black is not only darkness”. Through the beauty of her creations, a real catharsis takes place, both for her and for us if we can find a way into her poetic vision. The delicacy and sensitivity of her works breaks through the darkness of the subject matter to let in the streaming light. When I look at her art, my immediate thought is that the umbilical cord which passes, with the directness of an arrow, from her life to her work is more like that of a writer. Her physical pain becomes an expression of visual pain which we immediately share in the way Proust’s “Madeleine” also becomes ours. Rossana’s transformation of pain into beauty through the creation art, becomes, if we are receptive to her work, ours.
Every woman can identify with Rossana’s pain because women have, as part of their being, an intimate knowledge of what constitutes physical pain, yet for us males this relationship is frequently more detached.
When we look at her sculptures we see these wonderfully delicate beds which appear to be continually on the point of collapsing but in fact never do. Their fragility is our existence: Each of us, a funambulist in our own lives as we tread continuously over that wafer thin line which separates life from death, pain from pleasure and light from darkness. The voyage Rossana enables each of us to make, is the best one, that from darkness and pain into light and pleasure, and she achieves this through the beauty and profoundness of her art.
The apparent simplicity of the materials used for her sculptures give her beds an elemental quality as if they were used in the earliest days of humanity, while the invisible people who inhabit them, ressemble naked human beings unfamiliar with all the trappings of our advanced but decadent western civilization.
The bulk of Rossana’s work though, are those on paper. Here, in contrast to how the majority of artists approach the medium, she seems hell bent on a journey to see how far she can stretch the capacities of the paper itself. Some of her “fantasmas” are almost sculptures in the amount of different materials with which she has built up the paper’s surface: gauze, oil paint, bits of newspaper, and little pieces of wood are some of the things that can be found on the paper. Yet, when she is not adding she is subtracting, scratching away at the paper’s surface, burrowing away into the very heart of the material. Rather than canvas, she appears to want to use paper almost as if it was wood.
There are essentially two kinds of artists, those like Picasso who, in his insatiable thirst for experimentation, both artistically and intellectually, would, every few years embark on a new journey, so much so that if you look at his early works and those some 50 – 60 years later, rather like with Titian or Rembrandt, it’s hard to believe it’s one and the same artist. There are others however, like Modigliani or Morandi who essentially painted the same thing all their lives, yet never out of laziness but out of a need to try and always dig deeper into the very heart of their subject matter. Maybe we are all of us, whether artists or not, born either as horizontalists or verticalists in how we choose to live our passions and our lives.
Rossana is quite clearly in the latter group. She can’t relinquish the tie to her own autobiographical experience but she is continuously searching for new ways to give expression to her obsessions; maybe because the balance in her own life between light and darkness and between her art and her life is so fine that only by continual re creation can she keep that flame alive which keeps her own demons at bay.
One of her great influences are Rilke’s “Letters for a young Poet”, where the author’s dedication to the seriousness in his work illuminates the pages.
In this time of economic hardship, will art once again return to being something serious, allowing the fashion led frivolity which has been so dominant over recent years to take a step back? Hopefully, artists like Rossana, who deal with the great questions of human existence while also managing to display a technical and artistic mastery, will help to build a path towards this alternative vision of contemporary art.”