Margherita Manzelli

Born in Ravenna in 1968. She currently lives and works in Italy. She has taken part in a number of exhibitions such as: L’ape e la rosa, Kimmerich, New York, 2011; Due, Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia, 2010; Orientina, greengrassi, London, 2008; Studio Guenzani, Milan, 2005; Castello di Rivoli, Rivoli, 2004; Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, 2004; Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 2004; Museo Nazionale Delle Arti Del XX1 Secolo, 2003; Drawings, paintings to follow, greengrassi, London, 2002; Un cielo senza fine, Studio Guenzani, Milan, 2000. The images in her paintings represent archetypal female characters often positioned in strained postures and with the intent of returning the figure to a set of formal pictorial values. The backgrounds of the works are almost plausible “sets” that jostle with the figures. This background space has equal importance for the visual whole and creates a dynamic tension of visual refusal and acceptance between the female character and her surroundings.

 

The unease one feels looking at Manzelli’s women does not come from their presumed ugliness, but rather from the indecipherability of their experience, kept preciously hidden, as their fixed stare traps the spectator’s gaze. Eyes are the vanishing point of a canvas by Manzelli: they offer perspective and psychological depth. If our eyes wander over the rest of their bodies we will find the typical movements of a concave woman: contractions, retractions, wrists and feet turned inwards, arms folded backwards, chest slumped, indifference to nudity, and we will pay attention to the accessories or to the unusual colour of the background. All these elements conspire to distract the spectator’s mind while holding his or her gaze. No pain is shown by these women, no rebellion; only an infinite consumption drawn from their eternal solipsism and from a mental space that annuls time, experience, and the external world, assigning colours and symbols without recognizable references -if not for the mind which produced them. The unease we feel before these women lies in the contrast between their infantile movements and the agedness of their bodies, between their faces, with their reticent expression and stubborn passivity, and their hunched yet not reluctant limbs. Victims without suffering, the Manzelli’s women are modern sphinxes. They don’t frighten us by haranguing us, but by their refusal to engage with us. Present with no reason for being, they affirm, through their disharmony, the pointlessness and the indifference of human questioning. In the disharmony between their bodies and their faces lies their rebellion, that of someone who disregards the plot in order to deprive the spectator of the illusion of reality. Manzelli’s women move freely and at will across the canvas, wrong-footing us, as if the Christ in Hans Holbein’s Christ in His Tomb (1521) was to suddenly turn and smile at us, while his body continued to lie there lifeless. In order to hide from the spectator’s visual cannibalism, if one can’t flee, one can opt for an alternative approach: look straight at the other without lowering your gaze. The first to give in loses.

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Angela Maria Piga

Photos

Untitled, #3, 2006, Mixed media on paper, 77.5 x 57.5 cm
Untitled, #4, 2006, Mixed media on paper, 77.5 x 57.5 cm

Untitled (12th Istanbul Biennial), 2011 Biennale de Lyon