Cinzia Bollino Bossi, gennaio 2004
After thirty years of daily and continuous working with painting – because this is the time for which Silvia Battisti has been doing this - it is time to look at the whole of her works, in order to see the past before oneself once more and discover, in it, hints and reasons for her works of today.
Starting from her informal and expressionist sign language in the 70’ies, the artist then passed on to a geometric abstraction, measuring and weighing space and colour. Inside these colour zones, the first Hebrew letters appeared during the 80’ies and 90’ies, already then used because of their figurative and evocative rather than phonetic and semantic value. Following, heterogeneous materials emerged on the canvas, used both as support, tension, and as edges and volumes.
Today, Silvia Battisti’s works appear as a swarm of letter-signs that emerge within precisely delimited areas of the painting. However, these letters, drawn according to a distinct pattern, do not belong to any alphabet, apart from the own, unique and completely personal one that measures the artist’s gestures and the frequency of her respire. This alphabet is not a part of any spoken or speakable language, and the letters, through their dispostion, build a visible rhythm but no words.If they do at all, Silvia Battisti’s paintings speak to us in another way – through the objects that can be found inside her works, and through the tension of everyday things that we all share.
By means of these objects, Silvia Battisti speaks about man, and thus also about the society and the historical moment we live in. Provided that the interest taken in these objects is evoked by their specific qualities – forms, colours, materials – it is beyond any doubt that the artist produces metaphors and suggestions through them.However, there has been a time when these objects were not yet poor things we all had in common, but treasures left accidentally or on purpose, jewelleries put into the painting not so much due to their decorative function, but rather in order to recognise that these things had been left to someone, and that the distance to them had been purified by this donation.
The painting is the case that conserves and emphasises what we don’t need any more.It is clear, then, that the gold and silver generate an idea of the sacred, which emerges often in Silvia Battisti’s paintings, even though this is not an explicit intention of the artist.Why? Perhaps because we tend towards discovering the sacred where the invisible and the non recognisable is found. Or because, according to a magic-ritual concept rather than a religious one, the sacred reveals itself as understandable by means of signs only to a few elected ones.Or perhaps because we find the experience of the sacred in something that includes several of our senses.
In fact, Silvia Battisti’s works lie outside the limits of painting, through their edges they suggest a three-dimensionality that leads to touching them.But above all, her works include singing, they are full of an implosive music that is evoked by the strings of musical instruments – that we may and have to touch, hit and press – as well as hidden inside the letters that, as mentioned before, don’t form words but vague sounds.Today Silvia Battisti’s art consists of a unity of very personal, rhythmical and corporeal spaces and signs. It tells about the time we live in, and its elements can be composed freely and unconsciously, almost as if one was inspired by surrealism.
A painting by Silvia Battisti is a sort of “tablet“ with nothing engraved on it yet, and that everyone can complete according to his own experiences.Therefore, it is not only incidentally that the artist delimits the room where the action takes place. Her signs and objects are almost never completely in the painting, but are held back by some shape such as a page, or a moment.Around, there is room for colour or its negation. And for the signs that assume a shape. Around, there is room for other things, and for other people. Or there is simply a place for contemplation.
In this contribution, you won’t find anything about Silvia Battisti’s biography, and neither any references to her background and education, you can read everything about that in other parts of this catalogue.
What I am going to do is to describe what can happen when you’re observing the paintings of this artist. At first sight, it is easy to discover a first level in her works, a first “superficial approximation, because our eyes glance the material that is rich, sensual and corporal. Our eyes get imprisoned by it, while our hands feel an almost fysical desire to stroke it.
”The dimension of this artist’s works is not immense, which makes us imagine even more that we can control the feelings that these small “canvases” we can take in our hands evoke in us.Then, however, if we are so lucky to have some peace and quiet inside us and around us – which is almost impossible in our frenzied life, but sometimes necessary – a little doubt will gradually emerge, and force us to stop, go back and look at these works with more attention. We will then discover that exactly this surface, that had attraced us because of its riches, will become irregular, perforated and interrupted, influenced by thousands of small signs that pause and find obstacles, unexpected diagonal and vertical cracks.
Horizontal cracks, never, as they could, with their quiet, lead us back to where we started, and thus reassure us.On the rectangular canvas, unforeseen dimensions reveal themselves, almost uncovering deep abysses before us, as if the initial certainty of beauty was nothing but something transient and extremely illusory. The artist knows this exactly, she knows the traps and introduces them to us, so we also get the possibility to feel the ecstasy of the first illusion that is not separated at all from the extremely hard reality.
The first silence being torn apart, we will realise a distant cry that comes closer and closer getting louder and louder.And we will see the precise signs that cross and pursue each other, almost as if they were searching for a new alphabet with which it will be tried not to communicate a new meaning of life to us, but the old one, the one that always existed, the one that we all, day after day, have lost and maybe will only find again if we paused, just like the artist did.
She paused to meditate, reflect and dream, perhaps about how much our language lacks significance, and how much of its fundamental function it has lost, because we recognise the signs, but we don’t attribute the same meaning to them anymore.While we, through wars and the horrors that they bring along with them, could find ourselves confronted with a pessimistic view of life, of man and his brutal behaviour, the artist surprises us again, almost appearing to show us, through her great humanity, not exactly a road, but in any case a path that could still bring along a slight optimism.
Have a look, for example, at The song without voice, or rather at The red of the infinite, where we almost still can hear the Italian poet Leopardi’s voice from far away composing his infinite. Before our eyes we find a very low wall, that much is true, but this wall is so complicated, sombre and terrible that it seems to lock us into a claustrophobic room from which we can only escape because it stops, and does not manage to fill out the whole surface. On the other side of this wall our eyes see a red, intense and passionate sky that stimulates our thoughts and brings along new dreams.
So the works of this artist doesn’t seem to make any noise, because it has always been only in silence and a reduced dimension, as the philosophy of zen teaches us, that we can hear the voice of those who, without making any noise, guide us with new signs through the search of our own soul.
Then it is our turn to interrupt all the noise around us because, as Shakespeare suggests, “the only intelligent Love is to listen with the eyes” (sonnet 23).