San Gimignano

Sabrina Mezzaqui

Galleria Continua | San Gimignano

The conceptual density of Sabrina Mezzaqui’s work emerges amid a delicate weave of refined visual forms. For this exhibition, titled “Mettere a dimora” (Planting), the artist presented a series of new works from 2008, including the videos Le libellule blu (Blue Dragonflies) and Lucciole (Fireflies). In these, Mezzaqui focuses on small events: the passage of dragonflies over a river; the nocturnal flight of fireflies around a light. The gaze that closes in on each event isolates it from its surroundings. The video camera records the insects’ movements, but in the case of Lucciole, the circumscribed detail of flight is transformed into an abstract embellishment. Le libellule blu presents another compositional principle that is typical of Mezzaqui’s work—the play of repetition and variation. The rhythm created by the horizontal skittering of the dragonflies is superimposed on a fixed structure of river and trees.

Analogous processes are found in the photographs Vestiti di cielo (Sky Clad) and Campo (Field). The latter, for example, shows frail flowers sprouting through the snow, delineating black rows against whiteness. Whether using video or a still camera, Mezzaqui finds images in which time expands as much as the space allows; the same is true of the seven pen drawings that make up “Navigare a vista” (Navigating without Instruments), aerial maps of islands in the Tuscan Archipelago traced onto white paper. The dimensions of the islands do not depend on actual scale, but rather on their relationship with the sheet of paper, and they lose any basis in empirical geographic size as they are transfigured into mental forms, always similar yet never identical.

A sense of the fragility of things is a constant in Mezzaqui’s work, manifested through delicate materials, such as paper, as in four notebooks (Cahiers [Notebooks]) with cutout pages; in leaves and flowers that grow out of the pages of a dictionary in Mettere a dimora; or in the pierced fabrics used in the performance Con lievi mani (With Light Hands), created for the opening of this exhibition in collaboration with the Teatro Valdoca and directed by Cesare Ronconi. For the performance, the artist designed five impalpable garments (installed in the gallery after the performance). In one, a passage from the Gospel of Matthew on the transitory nature of life is inscribed on the weave of a rectangular veil. The content of the text reverberates with the precarious structure of the shroud, which a performer lifted up to reveal a seminude body, on which the Apostle’s words themselves were also projected. Word becomes shadow, transforming the body into something similarly insubstantial and frail. Another garment is made of two long scrolls on which various phrases are written, taken from notes the artist wrote during a walk. Worn and then uncoiled by a performer, the text evoked the flow of the passage of both body and thought. In another work, Divina Commedia, the book’s pages are transformed into a spiral that refers to the circles of Dante’s Hell. A dazzling image summarizes the poem’s content. Word, image, and body are evanescent, but their dematerialization reveals the power behind their tenuous beauty.

Alessandra Pioselli

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.