Generally, every one of my photographs is taken outdoors when I visit natural places that have sparked my interest. Living in forced confinement for so long a time, without the possibility of going where I wanted, made me imagine and build new “landscapes” using material from my photographic archive. So, I started manipulating and layering natural elements alongside memories and travel suggestions. Fictitious images then took form and it seemed natural to aesthetically associate them to dioramas, such as those found in Natural History museums. In a similar way to these fictitious environments, the images I have created feed on ambiguity and a sense of the possible, tangible real. Which part is real, which is manipulated? How should I interpret, then, this manipulation? I like to think that these photographs can be perceived as open books, whose internal stratification – which made the image complete – could lead to a number of interpretative and imaginative paths.
As if the images were overlayed in transparency, these mind games portray the thoughts and memories that lie beyond my eyes.
International Centre of Graphic Arts Ljubljana
Not at first glance
The exhibition is made up of impressive settings inspired by nature and the worlds linked to it. Reality and fiction are intertwined so as to give space to the reinterpretation of the places in our imagination. Thus, the real landscapes and the landscapes beyond either seek linkages between past and present or simply mislead us into an illusion that they exist.
The journey created through the Aria buia therefore stems from a connection with the real world, describing abstract and green layers while at the same time concealing tragic events of the people of the past in the darkest corners of the world. Archaic attraction to nature directs my interest to a metaphorical journey that transcends from a tangible reality to an imaginative level thus creating a non-existent landscape on the verge of reality: Boutade.
The new image comes to life in the work series Night Volumes through the synthesis of shapes and dark tones of colors merging into an essential abstraction of Gauzy green, where reflections and translucency interlink with light and almost simulate an image imprinted upon the retina of the eye.
Looking at Silvia Mariotti’s works of art is like listening to Brad Mehldau’s compositions; full of lightness and sensuality of which they are pervaded, they can overwhelm even an inattentive observer who begins to wander in them and becomes an unaware explorer of the forests of symbols. Green leaves are like the notes that bind the images into a melody. The passage between reviving reality and the creation of fictitious images, which the artist carries out in her own research, continually slips through scenographic installations or photomontages, dreamlike dioramas and three-dimensional shadows. Each time we are faced with an altered dimension of reality or with reality itself which the latter proves to us how alterable, deceptive and magical it can be. In the rustle of the leaves the flow of water sneaks in, the slow movement of a hammock sways the cry of a nocturnal bird and the peremptory light of a neon indicates the way to read some works. Silvia’s photographs are voluptuous in presenting a nature that takes possession of the places of the drama with the dizzying eroticism that makes you want to look at them. Yet among the works that I prefer, in addition to the Aria buia series (and while loving the artist’s entire opus), are the ones featuring the sky as a theme: the slipped one, collapsed as after an evening of revelry by 10 Parsec and delicate skies made of sandpaper, of its rough elegance inserted into their frame through a lateral slit, which lets us imagine it as something sliding and therefore changing, which can slip away, like memories, like years, like life.
And yet it is so unyielding and eloquent. These small objects are so dear to me perhaps because of the fact they openly show a bond with the art of the past and their homage to the artist’s practice of manual work in the studio. Or perhaps because the sky is what, in Silvia’s photographs, is less seen but rather perceived, a discreet presence at night, a pagan light of twilight.
De uma estrela à outra
that narrates of encounters, discoveries, dialogues and tropical forests. I took the first of these trips to Sao Paulo in 2016. Right from the start, the city shone before my eyes in all its cultural and social complexity, a crossroads of peoples with a significant presence of Italians, who migrated to Brazil from the very beginning of last century.
The second one is the same Giuseppe Ungaretti took in 1936, when he moved to the Brazilian city to teach Italian literature at University. A few years later, some time after his return to Italy, another trip to Brazil would offer the poet a new encounter, when at almost eighty years of age he fell madly in love with a young Brazilian poet, Bruna Bianco, who was half a century younger, to whom he dedicated Nove poesie per Bruna (Nine poems for Bruna), the last happy season of this poetic genius. The two poets exchanged love letters and travelled together to discover the baroque beauty, as well as the local architecture and the vegetation of Brazil.
Nature would precisely become the main destination of my journeys in the years to come: explorations at twilight, nocturnal observations, poetic contemplations, from one star to the other.
De uma estrela à outra consists of two parts: a small volume, the journal and a photo album, the dialogue. The journal is a collection of photographs, notes and drawings from my Brazilian explorations, along with a text by Bruna Bianco and Francesca Cricelli (a poet, a researcher and an Ungaretti scholar). In the album, instead, the photographs portraying Brazilian nocturnal and crepuscular landscapes resonate with the poems by Francesca Cricelli.
2015 – 2020
Aria buia/Dark Air
The Dark Air series began in 2015 with a project on the foibas of the area between Istria and Slovenia. The hallmark of these shots is the gathering of slivers of unique natural landscapes, strongly contextualized socially and historically through my attempts to play with lighting to evoke reminiscence of the experience. Spectacular nature often holds tragic stories and, because of this, evokes the feeling of the sublime, due to the dual emotional and visual spectacularism of these places. The pieces can, however, coexist beyond their context and become “non-places” open to new interpretations. The peculiarity of the cotton paper renders the images almost pictorial and alive, as if they were real windows from which to look out, and even see and feel the air… of darkness.
2018 – Ongoing
The sculptures of the series “Nocturnal Volumes” are kind of shadows ideally extracted out of the photos. They are solids painted in the colours of the nights, the skies, the trees and the elements that make up the pictures. They originate from the need to create an extension of the nocturnal world, a scenery that is able to incorporate an experience. They are projections, abstract forms that synthesize lights and shadows, allowing oneself to immerse in another dimension.
2015 – 2020
Glazed skies are small scraps of skies that become effectively so once inserted inside a display. Raw and commonly used materials, necessary for the realization of the works in the studio, undergo a reversal and, instead of an object, they become an image. The rough surface of the abrasive paper welcomes the powdered chalk, which through the use of a brush paints clouds trapped in the roughness of the paper or highlights grains of stars to create a night sky. The cut on the side of the frame underlines the insertion of the paper, a single gesture that gives a new value to the material.
Lungofiume – Riverfront
Plants recovered along the Cosenza river for the construction of a fictitious natural environment within the studio. The result is a nocturne, an evocative and ambiguous image, where the bursting forth of the vegetation becomes even more luxuriant when it bends towards the artifice. Producing this piece of work was a bit like enclosing a spectrum of sensations, both visual and perceptive, to play with two contrasted forces such as light and darkness, history and nature, society and solitude. It was like creating a small landscape, a sort of diorama in a glass ampoule: fascinating for the eye (which observes it through a photograph and, therefore, through a second glass), but theatrical with respect to the vegetation. The resulting disorientation alters the initial and final idea of the image and causes only the emergence of a cultural phenomenon, a staging.
San Vito al Tagliamento Castle
The title – Melancholia – is a clear tribute to Lars von Trier’s 2011 homonymous movie. As a matter of fact, Melancholia is the fictional name of a huge planet that, at the end of von Trier’s movie, collides with the Earth, sentencing it to its final destruction and the inevitable extinction of mankind. With this quote, the exhibition leaves the audience in no doubt about what it is and what it intends to be: an invitation to keep in mind – and accept – how precarious and ephemeral our lives really are, whether individual or collective. The universe and the space are thus presented to us as home to that powerful unknown that, within its sublime romantic instance, attracts and frightens us all at the same time.
An atmosphere of suspension and apprehension surfaces from this sort of posthumous landscape, where humankind has now vanished and is only vaguely recalled by fragments of fallen statues, just as “fallen” to the ground is also a solid and dark piece of sky, collapsed under the shakiness and failure of the usual magnetic field of our atmosphere. In a process of spatial and architectural breach, the artist leads us into a garden that, unlike common practice, we visit at night and not during the day. The park – a central theme recurring as well in Melancholia – is therefore the place where Man and Nature coexist in a more or less equal and peaceful relationship. In a post-catastrophe context, such as the one described here, the absence of human beings gives way, nonetheless, to the natural element, which starts growing again, slowly and yet inevitably, taking back all those artificial places that had previously almost exclusively belonged to humans.
This work stems from a suggestion coming from the Italian garden and the elements that compose it; the posthumous scenario consists of fragments of statues abandoned between moss and ivy, where an imaginary and almost adrift artifact emerges and reinforces the idea of catastrophe, of which, however, we cannot understand the causes. At the same time, there is a strong poetic component, emphasized by the idea of the night as a perennial guardian of secrets. The fragments of the sculptures have been treated as real photographic supports, through the technique of rayography; by exposing plant parts resting on the emulsified surface of the statue to a light source, I factually and metaphorically impressed on them the shadows cast by the trees, as if they were hit by moonlight, thus evoking a night space.
Ducal Palace, Urbino
The room is transformed with a site-specific intervention that alters perceptions, involving the visitor in the physical experience of an environment through the creation of a nocturnal scenery that might evoke a myriad of interpretations and connections.
Starting from of Federico Barocci’s San Francesco receives the stigmata – conserved at the Galleria Nazionale delle Marche – I developed an imaginary poised between abstraction and reality, where the nocturne, fil rouge of my research, becomes a way to re-interpret the past and translate it into an apparently suspended and timeless dimension.
In the dark of night, where the uncertainty of one’s gaze prevails, the visitor foreshadows infinity and goes ahead diving in the mystery, in the sacredness of nature and of its shadow zones.
Forest of exotic animals
Inspired by the 16th century Flemish tapestry Forest of Exotic Animals – located in the Great Hall of the National Gallery of Marche – the scene is created through the symbolic action of placing into the lands of Montefeltro Urbinate, the silhouettes of animals photographed at the Natural History Museum in Milan. The surreal image immediately creates a bridge with the dreamlike scene of the original tapestry, to the point of claiming its namesake’s title. The “photo-tapestry” immediately reveals the scheme through the white contours of the silhouettes without necessarily wanting to recount a story but indeed trying to evoke the possibility of other worlds.
2018 – Ongoing
Still nights it’s a series of dark-boxes that give back a night light then rather weak than that of light-boxes.
As in a still-life, the image is created by many elements that combine as such as an invisible collage of natural fragments taken either from my photographic archive, or, in some cases, an action created at the time of shooting.
This project is based on the poetic imagery creation inspired by the “night time” literary world where two dimensions coexist: one apparently concrete opposite to a more visionary. A different scenario, almost post-human yet featuring sort of that romance.
2016 – 2018
In 2016 I was selected to live in an artistic residency in Sao Paulo, Brazil. It was the first long period of time I spent in the country and around that time I started studying the identity of those places; a study developed through memories and experiences, discoveries and encounters, which I penned in a publication released in 2020. Even before the book, I was magnetically drawn to the compelling nature of this country, so imposing, central and ancient to push me to photograph it in its every aspect. Nature, in its archaic essence, has always been at the core of my artistic research. What has me fascinated is its astonishing beauty and power, hiding stories of which nature is an impassive witness, and that make me tirelessly want to delve deeper in it. And so, immersed in my nights in Sao Paulo, I began portraying the city parks: wonderful natural systems yet contradictory attempts to recreate the Atlantic Maquis – which has now entirely disappeared in the city – hit by the glare of purple skies and transformed by light pollution. I continued my journey of discovery into the disruptive, almost presumptuous luxuriance of the tropical plants that surround the city, expand beyond its borders, beyond the state of Sao Paulo and even farther, where nature reshapes its appearance and takes on new features with the majestic and almost unbelievable Amazon forest, a guardian of distant worlds and lifeblood to indigenous and caboclo peoples.
O som da àgua
At the beginning of the century the Italian immigration involved several areas of Brazil, one of these was also the Amazonia. The idea of my journey aimed to retrace the experience of a discovery that has still the same feeling of a century ago. The discovery of a world and remote cultures, which bring with themselves roots diversely contaminated but that keep the original enchantment of places without time. Recorded in the reserve of Xixuau in the Amazon, the video resumes a fragment of everyday life that narrate a seemingly pristine time, but what you hear from the swaying hammock, are songs belonging to Western pop culture. In the heart of the Amazon, the Cabocla community brings the marks of a very complex story, which sees the West like protagonist of deprivation and contamination against of native civilizations. The caboclos are the result of this story and all the influence still exercised today.
The early morning in the Amazon, a time simultaneously real and unknown. A concrete experience that retains the same dimension of centuries ago, when even Gregorio Ronca, frigate captain of the Italian Navy undertook a long journey to the Amazon, on behalf of King Vittorio Emanuele III. The journey involved deep emotions dozed off by the power of that nature: “those natural magnificence always inspired in me a sense of admiration mixed with a feeling of pride for the security that, in a near future, men would have shaped that rebellious nature to its needs…”
A plus A Gallery, Venice
Dawn on a Dark Sublime
This research brings together the historical thought and sublime concepts of nature through a subject that has never been in the center of an artistic research before: foibe.
I photographed and documented these vertical caves, chasms, large sinkholes in Istria and Karst – the photographs as well as sculptures, videos and sound installations convey to the visitor a double sublime suggestion: not only the magnificence of depicted nature that affects the perception, but also of the historical connotation.
The foibe tell the history of Europe in the 20th century, and also a story of nature and geology spanning millennia and of a number of literary, psychological, theological, mythological and aesthetic impressions.
The title is a reference to memory, to the process of remembering, to casting light on a nocturnal subject through artistic research – Dawn is in fact the dawning that gradually leads to light.