Roberta Silva

Studio Casoli

As communication spreads via the Internet and computers, the resistance to declaring one’s emotional horizons crumbles. This is not “postmodern neo-romanticism,” but rather the freedom to give shape, symbol, interpretation to the tie between mind and body, sentiment and reason. In recent years some astute theoretical interpretations have appeared in feminist thought with regard to this subject, and now the visual arts are announcing that women and men need figures and signs to give a name to this change. Knowledge means knowing the emotions, keeping them in a form that neither sanctifies nor monumentalizes them, but reveals the multiform and unstable profile of their physical life. Roberta Silva has said: “I never repress my childhood memories,” but the “text” that she laid out here was very different from a memory that might be entered in a diary. In the first room, two large sculptures of transparent natural resin, entitled Lacrime d’artiste (Tears of the artist), 1998–2000, welcomed (Tears of the artist), 1998–2000, welcomed the viewer, but they had nothing to do with a stereotype of grief. There was something playful and theatrical about the work: two tears, positioned at the artist’s own eye level; two waterfalls crystallized on the floor. The liquid that springs from crying becomes a workable material with its own consistency, almost a physical testimony to the energy unleashed by a strong, profound feeling that cannot be avoided but is not just a symbol of grief.

Sculpture is Silva’s passion, and for her, the origins of three-dimensionality lie in light. Thus the second room of her show contained Untitled, 2000, an intermittent electric light placed behind a white Plexiglas insert in a plaster-covered wall so one could not determine just where the light was coming from. Passing through the wall and pulsating like a breath, it imbued the empty space with an emotional physicality, even a sort of poetic intensity.

Finally, three other sculptures conveyed a desire to establish stable form without abolishing material flexibility. Titled Mio padre n. 1 (My father no. 1), Mio padre n. 2, and Mio padre n. 3, the works consisted of rolls of transparent PVC tubing filled with mercury. The invocation of the father combined with this material indicates a feeling not only of the relationship experienced with one’s own parents, but of all those encounters in which we recognize germination. What child has not played with the mercury contained in thermometers? Fluid, brilliant, impalpable as light, it is in reality very heavy, as heavy as the coils of rope that a bricklayer going off to work carries on his back, in a photograph taken by the artist. The design of the sculptures comes from this image of an unknown worker. It seems that Silva found a sense of kinship in the precise, affectionate care that the man dedicated to his work material. Mercury also requires care. It can be dangerous if one doesn’t know how to handle it, and it is very precious, just like the ropes the bricklayer carries on his back.

Francesca Pasini

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.