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  • Immagine del redattoreFosco Vuličević

Emotion and memory as confirmation of being

Valeria Magini’s approach to drawing began at a young age, inspired by the painting activity of her grandfather and uncle. The first steps were taken for fun, drawing human figures together with her mother, often those of the protagonists of Japanese cartoons from her childhood.

Although her studies led her towards Linguistic Sciences and English literature, her passion for art has always accompanied her, as well as her appreciation for artists such as Van Gogh, Monet, Cézanne, and Degas, but also for the comics of Hugo Pratt. The interest in drawing and literature in this artist intertwines with that for illustration and photography, pushing her towards a course by Chiara Rapaccini and attendance at the Corsetti Photographic Laboratory.

It is precisely from photography especially that of Henri Cartier-Bresson with whom she had an epiphanic encounter at the Ara Pacis Museum in Rome in 2014, that Magini derives the focal point of her poetics. It is indicative, in fact, that her first solo exhibition, held at the Galleria Moderni in Rome in 2022, is entitled “Snapshots”. Looking at her works, they appear as a collection of moments of daily life, suspended and full of tenderness that the artist wants to preserve.

However, there is an important detail in Magini’s work that makes the title “Snapshots” almost ironic, the artist never paints from life. Sometimes she starts from a photograph of a specific past moment, but much more often she draws solely and exclusively from her memory.

The relationship with photography thus becomes asymptotic: obviously, the human hand cannot recreate the perfection of the machine, but it does not even want to. Reality, not perceived by the artist within an illusory present and impossible to find in a distressing future, can only be sought in memories blurred by the fallacy of human nature, and cannot be faithfully returned except in a visually indefinite manner. It is the very indefiniteness of the image that conveys the sensation of memory, the only foothold that confirms reality and its reorganization, as the past, or rather the memory of it, is the only certain and real thing.

This conception of reality largely derives from the metabolization of the idea of the memorable that Joël Candau discusses in “Memory and Identity”, a text that the artist encountered in her university studies. “Time exists as long as it holds a content”, which is not passively archived but recreated and reinterpreted in a present that continually looks back to define itself.

Magini’s artistic gesture is implemented to reconnect with reality based on this premise, a self-therapy against the feeling of being out of place, against a perceived indefiniteness of being and individuality. Her art works certify her presence at a given moment in the past and her identity capable of remembering in presence of creation. It is also a way to try to refute a fundamentally negative conception of reality and humanity, a despair that the artist does not want to represent for fear of being engulfed by it. Each painting is a stake of a fence against this mass of darkness, a medal stubbornly displayed on one side only, to leave the rest in oblivion.

It is easy to understand why Magini’s painting is strongly anthropocentric. The viewpoint from which the depicted scenes are observed is almost never impersonal; it is usually behind the artist’s eyes. At the same time, the object of representation is the humanity closest to her: her husband, friends, beloved ones, or even passers-by, strangers who have aroused in her a certain loving curiosity. Indeed, in most of her paintings, there is a small moment of poignant affection towards the human beings who populate her life and memories.

It seems that her works record or rather recreate those moments of  when she felt a little pang in her heart, a peak of emotion that denotes what is memorable for her. We find ourselves sharing the emotion that binds the artist to that moment, loving her dear ones without knowing them, and together with her, we find ourselves repeating: “I exist, I have loved, and it is worth it, it is worth it, it is worth it, it is worth it.”

In “Salsedine,” Valeria Magini brings a series of selected memories because they are all set near the sea. The curator Velia Littera must have noticed how this theme holds a privileged place within the production of this artist. A place of suspension from daily difficulties, the beach evidently lends itself more easily to inducing those moments of tender contemplation that the artist then remembers and recreates in her art works.

While the human figures are often in the foreground and always the focal point of the representation, the sand, the rocks, the waves seem to become rarefied, and the space seems to become as non-geometric as possible. The artist tries to escape as much as possible from the use of perspective, because what supports the matter in these scenes is not an impersonal and geometric structure but the memory of an emotion that recreates an entire reality.

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