Margherita Manzelli

Via Farini - Documentation Center for Visual Arts (DOCVA)

Margherita Manzelli’s show “Il vascello fantasma” (The flying dutchman) soared on dreams and intimate, subjective tales. The gallery was filled with 25 small oil paintings, hanging from invisible nylon threads. The first paintings one saw hung about one meter from the floor and then, bit by hit, the height increased. In order to read the title, written by hand along the bottom edge of the panel, it was necessary to hold the paintings and turn them.

Manzelli’s phantasms come from the shards of memory, unexpected eruptions of feeling, visual flashes that have struck her sensibility. They give an account of the wavering path that guides the search for identity, taking on the aspect of a text one might leaf through, and at the same time they trace a world in which each person moves, enters, exists.

Manzelli places women at the center of her paintings, thus exhibiting her own female identity while building a space that can be passed through. For her painting becomes a shell for identity. It is a place where the distance between the seeing, thinking, remembering mind, and the hand is reduced to the minimum. In this desire for the total appropriation of expression, one can also discern the need to have the nonneutral voice of a woman be heard. Identity is not investigated in theory, but right on the emotional and creative skin. Everything comes together to create the painting: private images, fragments of films, words heard or read. Thus the titles are not just captions, but integral elements of direct exchange, and this is precisely symbolized in their being handwritten on the “body” of the painting.

There is a reciprocity between word and sign; both contribute to the construction of the figure even if neither is automatically an explanation of the other. They are integrated, they interact like the viewers and move within, outside, and around this “Vascello fantasma.” From one painting to another, she brings us into the images. In Sembrava così facile avere uno scopo (It seemed so easy to have a goal; all works 1993), a woman appears in bed enveloped in a blue night. And the image of the room’s darkness, of sleep, recurs in many other paintings as does her obsession with a corrosive stain. Mi senti, mi senti? (Do you hear me, do you hear me?) focuses on an embrace. In Sembra tutto così facile (It all seems so easy) we see, from a window, a group of women chatting in a sunlit garden. In culo a tutti (Fuck everyone) depicts two women with a gun; the image was stolen from a Laurel and Hardy film. A letto vado come a teatro (I go to bed as to the theater) is a completely blue night scene, in which two naked women lie stretched out. It is difficult to make out the genitals of one; perhaps she is an androgyne. Manzelli may be saying that knowing oneself signifies also knowing the Other who, perhaps, lives within us.

Francesca Pasini

Translated from the Italian by Marguerite Shore.