STRUGGLE BETWEEN EROS AND THANATOS
by Stefano Maria Baratti
If we were to identify a recurrent theme in Adele Lo Feudo’s (known also as “ALF”) oeuvre – an eclectic artist who often stages live performances playing a number of roles borrowed from mythology or literary symbolism – it is probably the sense of immobility in the human form. Lo Feudo interprets the human body as a harbinger of tumultuous physical and psychic forces, and she intentionally subverts balance and geometrical composition by truncating her subject matter while projecting it outside the boundary of the canvas.
In the contemporary art scene, figurative art is often referred to as “the representational celebration of human yearnings,” and it is often substituted by a conceptual – or “informal” – style which tends to cherish the abstract form in a diametrically opposite approach to traditional aesthetic and material concerns. This subversion of reality is, after all, the direction championed by several avant-garde movements: an impossible reconciliation of life and art, form and content, reason and emotion, as well as the deconstruction of the observable world.
In this perspective, Adele o Feudo’s figurative language tends to be a reflective musing on the artist's intricate juxtaposition of her subjects through the five senses, generating individual emotional impacts that illustrate the evolution of the human condition itself: “Deep within myself I kept hiding my passion for art, which my parents objected. One day, out of frustration, I packed all my colors, pencils and brushes into a box hidden beneath the ground, only to reopen it ten years later…” The artist that confronts her past suggests a path to the interpretation of a recurrent theme: the negative emotional connotation of a modern melancholic state of mind evolved from classical antiquity, a philosophical investigation, often populated by disturbing nightmares, aimed at the Cartesian divorce of body and soul. Similarly, in Plato's Phaedrus, the soul is older than the body to which it is chained as a helpless prisoner, and Socrates’ metaphor of the soul-mirror’s reflects the revelation of the Delphic Oracle’s inscription, “know thyself,” (γνῶθι σαυτόν).
Lo Feudo alters the timeless immobility of the portrait by cropping her subjects by virtue of an unbalanced composition without atmospheric backgrounds, resulting in claustrophobic sequences. These are men, women - sometimes self-portraits - immersed in the depths of a caravaggesque chiaroscuro, now appearing or disappearing at the borders of the canvas. These truncated images inhabit the characterization of existential isolation, a series of subjects bereft of direction, and seeking a tentative path among mystery and uncertainty.
The title of Adele Lo Feudo’s current exhibition, Messi a Nudo (“Revealed”) employs a figure of speech which connotes a semantic double-entendre. On one hand, the literal translation from the Italian is “disrobed” (i.e., deprived of clothing, revealing nakedness, or partial nakedness), on the other hand it stands for “laid bare” (i.e., having discovered something that was not previously known) by removing a layer in order to reveal another, as in uncovering a deeper level of meaning.
The exhibition features twenty-one portraits of Italian contemporary artists (all males, with the exception of one self-portrait) whose composition has been rendered from their own interpretation of the meaning of art in their lives: “I have asked them to strike a pose with their upper or lower body, using their hands, arms and legs to best describe their concept of art, as well as their favorite color…”
The paintings’ chromatic drama corresponds to each individual artist’s psychological state of mind, where all cognitive processes and emotions seem fundamentally distinct from the physical body within a mind/matter dualism. The body language adopted by each artist denotes a nonverbal communication often performed by facial expressions, body posture, gestures, eye movement and use of space as a beacon of subconscious enlightenment and inspiration. The embodiment of these subjective performances ultimately seeks a social interaction with the public and the objective world that surrounds them, desperately trying to escape from a claustrophobic deadlock deprived of spatial depth. Lo Feudo’s colors range from warm to cool hues expressing psychological associations and hidden meanings within an asymmetrical balance with varying visual weight that projects the subject matter outside the canvas and onto an unknown - invisible visual field.
In a manner consistent with Irish-born, British artist Francis Bacon, whose bleak outlook on inner human space was the “isolated soul imprisoned and tormented by existential dilemmas,” Adele Lo Feudo reveals both the individual perspectives of a number of artists as well as our contemporary society’s denouement, those secret sensations and inhibitions that are now “laid bare” for public scrutiny and self-examination.
Acrylic paint on handmade Fabriano paper, covered in plexiglass frame
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