Axel Vervoordt Gallery is pleased to present the exhibition, Ida Barbarigo–Self-portraits / Cose che incantano, which occurs during what would have been the artist's 100th birthday. Together with Axel Vervoordt, architect, curator and former director of Palazzo Fortuny, Daniela Ferretti has selected works from two enigmatic series that are less-known to the public, but which represent important themes in Barbarigo's oeuvre. Being a long-time friend of Ida Barbarigo, she explains: 'When I think of Ida, most of the times I imagine her sitting at one of the cafés on the Zattere, or at Piazza San Marco or along the Parisian boulevards, contemplating the chairs and above all observing. Observing the mysterious, enigmatic voids and the interstices of simple chairs stacked in piles or abandoned in random geometric lines, she waited for a new vision to come to replace the usual image of these daily objects designing them to reveal their essence. Nothing comes from anything. Everything takes place in a suspended, motionless time and suddenly in a new space the other image appears, the one that emerges from the deepest part of the soul.'
The first series is comprised of self-portraits—or autoritratti—that were painted in the 1980s and 90s. The works expose layers of the artist's personality while conveying aspects of melancholy, a dark side that's mysterious, yet fascinating.
A second series is a group of works from the mid-1970s that Barbarigo entitled, 'son cose che incantano' (Spellbinding or Enchanting Things) or 'Les plages d'Orphée' (The Beaches of Orpheus). Both series are based on intensive research and personal introspection while revealing how the artist's layers of flowing, dripping lines approach an enchanting abstraction.
Barbarigo had a profound familiarity with the psychological condition of the human being. The artist's career consists of thorough and patient iconographic research of a number of themes and symbols. These include chairs, flowers and leaves, judges, faces, demons, beaches, and city views. Barbarigo developed these connotative signs over several decades in deep silence and an almost obsessive manner.
Art historian Giuseppe Mazzariol described the enigmatic and evocative character of Barbarigo's work as follows: 'The signs recur obsessively, each time losing their descriptive dross and producing images of greater connotative depth, in other words becoming more essential and less explicit, more suggestive, but in the end more definitive.'
The human figure appeared in her work from 1964 onwards. These were never 'real' portraits as such, but she attempted to invoke the silent spirit of the present and the dormant energy of the figure. The starting point for the self-portraits was an unexpected emotion that she felt upon noticing a white apparition moving behind the numerous paintings of flowers and leaves in her studio. She described it as a pale, fugitive, and mysterious figure. Her portraits evoke a certain anxiety, which is at times a definitively tragic atmosphere.
In 1992, whilst visiting a museum in Vienna, Barbarigo was affected by an Egyptian head she encountered. The sculpture haunted her dreams and she instinctively translated the portrait through her canvasses. In an interview with Michael Peppiatt in 1995, she described the strong emotion that came to her like a shock and greatly intrigued her that she had to paint and draw them obsessively.
Writer and journalist Paolo Levi explains: 'The Sphinx is a mysterious, disturbing presence that lives in our collective unconsciousness and dwells in us. Suddenly, in fact, a shadow figure appeared on the surface between the meshes of beautiful material, on a dark background, without any hint of light.'
In the second series, 'son cose che incantano' Barbarigo presents a vision of 'another' world, like a spellbinding dream becoming a nightmare. Infused with a deep melancholy, these works present a dark side which is enchanting, yet fascinating.
These works are derived from one of the most central themes in Ida's oeuvre–the 'chairs'. Omnipresent in her oeuvre, Barbarigo's reproductions of chairs sought to capture the energy of the unseen. She sensed the atmosphere and vibrancy of life on city squares and aimed to express this in a material way. In this case, she gave body to the energy surrounding the silver chairs from San Marco's Caffè Florian, chairs which were abandoned and deserted in winter.
As Barbarigo stated about her use of chairs as signs/symbols: 'They are an agile and ambiguous group who live elsewhere and in another time. I haven't understood if they are calling me or waiting for me.' Indicative of many of the artist's series, the works of 'son cose che incantano' present an atmospheric and emotive reawake of the buried images, as archetypes, like images reemerging from a deep psychic abyss.
The grey, black and white tones of these works evoke the fog and the 'disconsolate solitude'. Barbarigo derived the title from Le Nozze de Figaro wherein the third act Figaro sings theenchanting aria, 'Son orse benigne...'.
In the artist's notes, we find confirmation of the impression of deserted places populated by mysterious presences: 'There was a time when Piazza San Marco appeared to me like a great silver beach. In the foreground, the chairs of Florian's interlaced in a convulsive crisscrossing of backs, seats, metal feet like the "cold spirits of Hades", who, like flagellated clouds, rush towards Orpheus.'
Press release courtesy Axel Vervoordt Gallery.