Reality and desire

Romana Loda
July, 1992

They Know and do not Know what acting and suffering are. They Know and do not know that to act is to suffer.

T.S. Eliot

In one of his rare poetic statements, Jackson Pollock wrote:” Painting is a state of being; it is the discovery of oneself. Every good artist paints what he is “. This statement is certainly not new; nor particularly original, but in his case it serves to illuminate the anxious and self-abstractions, following an itinerary of bare truth, bearing witness to his need to act. Within the same framework, his open admission in a letter to his mother is also revealing: “ My problem is not to search for the true art, but to do it”. This recalls Picasso’s J don’t search, J find from which, however, he is quite distance in substance, due to a complete lack of self-satisfaction, in Pollock’s case doing is a required choice, regardless of the result: to make what he is incapable of imagining, while his imagination streaks through the galaxy of the absurd. Action for knowledge, through the tools of art from which those blobs of energy are coagulated that can transform the enormous canvases, similar to the endless plain that he crossed in his ancestral memory, into disquieting images.
Since then the artist was no longer obliged to search for subjects outside himself, even to use ever-changing nature as a model, he painted what he found inside himself, aware that all the ocean tides together cannot hold a candle to an individual’s nightmares.

This preamble to a brief reflection on the work of Wanda Benatti serves to simplify the discussion of the numerous basic affinities that characterize her way of acting. She also paints for a primary statement of her state of being, and acts in a timeless present that is not that her painting is automatic, or that she refuses to plan compositions; rather, it is the result of a slow layering process of lines and colors over the course of upstream navigation in search of a different reality to experience, in the absorbing harmony of contact with the canvas or sheet. An action dominated not by anxiety to define, but by nostalgia of the sublime generated by pulsating desire. Traveling over surfaces, at times forcing their confines, which only appears to be comparable to the irrational agitation of the neurotic as he succumbs to his obsessions, because actually she cultivates and dominates them to the point of cathartic sublimation. And if a times the finished works transmits a sensation of despairing compression, this is due exclusively to her refusal of the self-consoling rituals so widespread today, in art as in other disciplines. For her, and for few others, to recognize oneself as an artist mainly means accepting oneself as different from the faceless, solitary and voiceless crowd, but also from the omnipotent minority. It means drawing aside not because of intellectual snobbishness, but to test the vertigo of the truth, located at the cross-point of the channels of love that flow into the drain of reality. Because of this, her magma-like forms do not suppress chaos, but rater expose it to cold and merciless light of a new awareness. At other times, instead, her continuously evolving forms are suddenly placated in achieving a miraculous equilibrium and are inundated with warm, dense colors, soothing all anxiety. It is not yet free-flying joy, but rather a melancholy purified of all forms of anxiety. It is like the quiet humming of one who walks through the streets at night, in an attempt to chase away the ghosts lurking in the dark: the song is not generated by joy, but from far away its quiet lull is effortless, almost as sweet as a love song.

Wanda Benatti mainly represents, in her work, all forms of discomfort, and her markedly evocative path encircles reality with increasingly tight spiral traveled without unique attention to the rips they might cause. At the end though, she always finds an area in thick darkness, where intense light can still be received. It is a return to the surface after a long stay underground, with a joyful heart and aching eyes at the same time, in an alternating swing, with no continuity. Because of this, in the final analysis, her work is not aimed simply at shaking off the impossibilities that have always been, but also and especially at measuring herself tenaciously, saving no one. Black is her favorite color, from which she can extract milligrams of happiness, as she herself noted in the margin of one of her works, capable of perforating its impermeable compactness. Lines, masses of marks and overlaps make the shapes participate in the miracle of colors that balance and harmonize with each other. Each canvas is a challenge, each sheet of paper a constriction, but the finished work is a victory, is a victory of poetry. Once it is a threatening, swollen eye that scrutinizes through wrinkled silvery splatters ; another time a scarlet flower, almost a poppy that has passed through unimaginable mutations. Or rising spirals vaguely referring to the sacred, and compositions which the fantastic objects have wide rotations with a centrifugal force that projects them out of space, far away in time. Even a vague, headless female figure emerges from the forest of marks, exposing herself shamelessly to our disquieting exploration. The masses bob, navigating above and below the surface; they do not find a safe anchorage and at times flare out the thick layers of color like protrusions of moist desire. One often has the impression that everything can have a different position with respect to its current one: a living, open work-in-progress, which the artist has organized so that our eye can complete is thus closing a magical circle of aesthetic enjoyment and existential reflection. At times the works are sudden and violent, and a time the curves are broad and dense, but they always contain contemplative pauses that leave room for possible returns. Paintings as strips of life, not merely objects to be exhibited. “Life”, someone once said, “ is a ball of yarn that someone has tangled”; knowledge is permanently sterile if it closed upon itself, while dubious action scatters about the black seeds of hope. Doubting and acting means constant living, while inert knowledge is merely an omen of death. Everything can be tried as long as the soul is not narrowed; even art, life as infamy, has the power to cancel out the days against nature and let poetry blossom. The orgasm of action may be followed by anxiety of doubt and regret for all the springs we have failed, but action is in any case imperative in order to avoid succumbing definitively. And, on the other hand, who can take care of us? Not death, which merely gnaws at our soul without concerning itself with the rest; not knowledge, who navigates underground rives pulsing with living fossils. Not even reality can take care of us as long as we remain in this life like trees resigned to a single way of being. Only desire occasionally pays attention to us. It may be more or less than we would like, because it rejects all units of measure, but is shakes us violently and transforms us, while we are resigned or- worse yet- unconsciously content. Desire and anxiety to detour towards poetry, without caring too much about the effort it entails. Only the poet, the artist realize this. The good artist, as Pollock rightly emphasized .Thus Wanda Benatti knows, when she immerses herself in the sheet of paper until shadows are visible. Because of this, as well as for the skill with which she organizes line and color, her large sheets are geographies of a lucid ill-being, at time aching, at times raging, which are transformed into acts of love: ropes stretched through reality, along which one can still experience real life, that of the dream which is finally released.