Critical Texts

Stefano Gagliardi

Prima Luce

Untitled, or perhaps not: First Light.
The works on show all bear the same title: First Light. Otherwise, it would have been like giving a different name to every single leaf on the same tree.
Stefania Orrù lives in a tiny village in Umbria, in a quiet microcosm not far from town and from places steeped in thousands of years of history. In Umbria, a region where great art has always merged with the pilgrimage of faith and a restless conscious in search of peace and refreshment. She lives there, in a house bathed in light among the whiteness of the walls brought to life by her paintings. She lives alone, but has everything she needs. Above all, she lives in happy and affectionate contact with things and people that exist for her, which speak of her: she naturally lives a sometimes extreme existential choice focused on constant perception of her existence: she lives of art, questioning herself and listening. She listens to herself and, as life’s seasons leave their mark, accepts that questions will arise gradually as time goes by: books read, journeys travelled, loves lived, landscapes crossed, abandonment and loneliness often rescue her, offering the certainties of an answer. The questions that cause her most pain are those that never change, those that give her no opportunity to progress towards greater self-awareness, towards her innate desire for complete spirituality. Hers is a slow, tiring and lonely journey towards beauty; it falls within the existential choice of a modern-day Icarus who, “…burned by the love of the beautiful”1, keeps flying even when his “…arms are broken for having embraced the clouds.“2 In a reality split between what can and must be understood and what can and must be desirable, Stefania Orrù lives essentially in an ethical and spiritual dimension which her creation of art cannot and must not be separated from. An all-round ethical value where, in its artistic progress, beauty is never separated from truth. When she works, she marks her time with almost monastic rhythms and pauses, subject to the precise and binding timing of painting, of frescoes: time expanded within a sedimentation of layers of material, emotional veils, oscillating between the excitement of action and the  composure and control of the mind. She proceeds by small steps, with the perception that she is travelling on a journey that cannot wait, almost as though this were her destiny! In recent years, Stefania Orrù has chosen the portrait, or the “self-portrait”, as her preferred art form. For centuries, self-portraits have satisfied a substantial representation of the, often only physiognomic, individual “self”, to leave a mark of the subject’s existence and work. And this is in spite of the statement in the first century B.C. by Pliny the Elder that the origin of painting lay in “revealing the shadow of a man with lines” and that the talent of the painter lay in showing what was invisible. For Stefania Orrù, this invisible coincides with the re-composition of lost integrity via the deep reconciliation of personal dimensions: in order to “be” rather than simply to exist. “First Light” is an exhibition of an awareness achieved, the power of an “I am” which emerges in every one of her works. It is a silent and pacified “I am”, joined to a time present, anchored less and less to the past and to previous experience. It is the final pictorial act that follows the process of intimate abstraction where the detachment from the inner self generates, activates and perfects new levels (moment-conditions) of acquisition of “being”. Stefania Orrù seems to transfer to painting Arthur Rimbaud’s formula «I is another», which can be translated into that sudden emergence of thought that leads the artist to be someone other than herself, breaking free from the condition of being herself. In annihilating the individual “self”, the artist reaches a higher dimension, a time which becomes dynamic, in terms of awareness and, above all, fluid in the laws of personal formation. The artist transforms her face, the object she observes, into another face, the subject of her vision: in this case, exterior verisimilitude gives way to a combination of other suggestions and knowledge: the object face is transformed into a face that looks at it, that looks at us or perhaps regards us. Stefania Orrù turns herself into a portrait. She creates works that speak of her, of her face, of her body, not as a woman at the centre of the universe, but “as a human being” who offers herself as a container of expanding dimensions; it is only in this way that the artist «… by going through every form of suffering, of love and madness to reach the unknown» achieves what Rimbaud hoped for: “being a seer”. Artists become seers when they are able to indicate new paths of being. Stefania Orrù reaches this dimension, typical of a lot of contemporary art, with the oldest pictorial technique in the world; in her hands and in the constant progress of an ongoing research, the fresco becomes something else: no longer just the classic support on which the artist paints, nor the background for the simple transferral of an image. The fresco develops from its transformation into stratified, organised, scraped, tormented matter, re-composed until it combines intimately with light and colour. It becomes a material condition for the precise identification of a poetic and psychic space. It develops together with the artist, aligning with her pauses and emotional urgencies. In the hands of the artist, the material of the fresco itself is transformed into trace, colour and light. “First Light” tells the story of an enchantment that involves the artist before it is transferred to us, experienced in the moments of her symbolic coming into the light, her return to the light. The works on show are the figurative revelation of the stages of a liberation: the progressive release from the drape-gown, which metaphorically represents another body. The work, “il grande nudo in piedi” [the great nude, standing] becomes the final act of this metaphoric undressing, almost the symbol of a return to the original body: it is the body’s emotion as it encounters out of all time and in every space, its own “first light”, and, as that light crosses it, that body cries out “I am, here I am".
1* - 2* The lament of Icarus” by Charles Baudelaire

Galleria Gagliardi - 2015: Solo exhibition byi Stefania Orru' " Prima Luce",  critical text by Stefano Gagliardi