Critics’ Picks

Marta Sforni, Mirror Fenice II, 2017, oil on canvas, 30 x 24 1/2''.

Marta Sforni, Mirror Fenice II, 2017, oil on canvas, 30 x 24 1/2''.


Marta Sforni

Galleria Riccardo Crespi
Via Mellerio 1
February 22–April 28, 2018

In the five paintings here that are part of “Mirror Fenice,” 2016–, a series that floats between abstraction and figuration, Marta Sforni returns to the subject of her series “Green Mirror,” 2015, which is also featured in this exhibition. In both projects, each work’s surface, built up through glazes of green or red oil paint, depicts a frame belonging to a large baroque mirror that appears to be shattering. The painted surface resembles a reflective glass, only it betrays no interior or person. Instead it becomes a threshold that leads the viewer into depths in which phantasms, memories, and dreams seem to be projected, taking shape in dense shadows and filaments of light.

Sometimes more defined images can be intuited, but there remains a lingering chance that they may be visual deceptions. In Mirror Fenice II, 2017, it seems possible to glimpse a face—someone looking in the mirror?—but it might be only a stain of denser paint. The mirror of Mirror Green #14 is cracked, and the barely perceptible veining simulates a possible breaking of a magic spell. For Sforni, the baroque mirror is charged with a memorial significance tied to both domestic space and the symbology of classical vanitas. The color tones of the “Green Mirror” paintings evoke the waters of a turbid pond. It might bring to mind the observation of the fifteenth-century polymath Leon Battista Alberti that “the inventor of painting, according to the poets, was Narcissus. What is painting, after all, but the act of embracing by means of art the surface of the pool?” Only here, the pool is empty, the mirror less an object of vanity than one of unearthly discovery.

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.