Cosmic dynamism 

Lina Passalacqua is a painter who works in thematic series. Their chronological succession, approximately one every decade, marks the rhythm of her artistic explorations. The present Roman exhibition, in the prestigious setting of the Vittoriano, familiar to Passalacqua, and the catalogue accompanying it, pursue a twofold objective: firstly that of documenting the most recent series, Fables and Legends and, at the same time, retracting, even only summarily, the whole of her career, spanning a period of almost sixty years, to present a true and proper anthological review.

In reality, my brief opening remarks require a few clarifications, which I consider important to a proper look at the career of this Calabrian artist, residing in Rome for decades. Beginning with the very definition of the painter, no longer as effective as it once was, but which instead tends to speak of a true and proper adoption of a position. Today, as everyone knows, there is a widespread disaffection with painting. There are those who consider it a language that has been worn out and rendered banal by too much and too many years of use; a language that has already seen and said all it has to. Lina Passalacqua, instead, remains unshakably bound to the reasons and practices of painting. All the same, this has not kept her, over time, from approaching different materials and techniques, such as bas-reliefs in wood and paper collage, the latter above all as studies for much larger works in oil.

Also the option to organize his work on a ten-year basis, if from a certain point of view it may risk appearing conventional and forced, because then, with regard to the activity of an artist, a time span is equivalent to another, always, of course, that there are no epochal political and cultural upheavals to mark and modify with arrogance the course of history. This choice - I was saying - appears supported by an arcane ordering capacity, as Giorgio Di Genova effectively claimed with his History of Italian Art of the 900s, structured on the basis of precisely ten-year generations (and Passalacqua is deservedly included in it, as it was in the most relevant exhibition concerning the Thirties generation).

Another preliminary, but fundamental, consideration concerns the relationship of Passalacqua with the abstractive language. Now it is undeniable that among the paintings of Fairy tales and legends, but above all, in the gods cycles Voli and Vele, of apparently aniconic outcomes - of an abstractionism, however, lyrical and non-rational, as Maria Teresa Benedetti had occasion to point out - in which the figural presence is reduced to a minimum, there are many. Yet I believe that Passalacqua's painting remains, even in these cases, of a peremptorily figural instance, to such an extent that the concretistic motivations are less than the drives of the true phenomenal, that our artist's painting besieges with an urgent need that cannot be avoided.

The motif abstraction involves another, also of primary importance to the comprehension of this Calabrian painter’s work, in other words the ties with Futurism. Ties that were both numerous and intense (in opposition to the accredited historical-critical opinions of the time, that is the XNUMXs and ‘XNUMXs, which now appear inexplicably reductive) since the debut of a very young Passalacqua, who never hesitated to recognize Marinetti’s movement as one of the fundamental aesthetic trends of the past century, adhering to the watch-world of Futurism: Dynamism. While her initial point of reference was the vastly talented Giacomo Balla (one of Passalacqua’s earliest paintings was entitled Homage to Balla), Passalacqua was offered the occasion to develop strong ties with other historic Calabrian futurists, such as Antonio Marasco and, in particular, Enzo Benedetto. This latter, beyond his own work as an artist, was in fact the principal theorist, though the journal Futurismo oggi, of an operative and not only museal continuity the vital legacy of Marinetti’s movement, even after its founder’s death on XNUMX December XNUMX. This event spontaneously introduced a question of great import, of reflection or, perhaps, one could say, of cultural metabolism, which also involved Passalacqua, conspicuously represented in the permanent exhibition of Calabrian futurists in Cosenza (an group that, by right of birth, includes non other than Umberto Boccioni) where, evidently, the controversy was evidently and undoubtedly been resolved in a positive manner.

Thus we find ourselves with the latest series of works by Lina Passalacqua, still on-going and being shown for the first time: Fairy Tales and Legends, approximately twenty paintings created and completed over the past three years. It is impossible not to experience a sense of wonder at the freshness, the strength, the inventive freedom of this late though incredibly vital period, which embraces some of the most convincing results from Passalacqua’s lengthy career.

As the title attests, her inspiration derives from the fullest affirmation of the world of fantasy. Themes and figures are often provided by absolute absolute masterpieces of universal literature. Texts that only an intellectual approximation has sought to set aside by classifying them as children’s books, and thus of minor importance. While on the contrary they entirely merit the intelligent writings on the fable of Cristina Campo in the cult book Il flauto e il tappeto, now accompanied by Lina Passalacqua’s visual interpretation.

The lead soldier, the adventures of Alice, of Pinocchio, of Aladdin, ofPeter Pan; isThe fire bird, The enchanted forest,the blue birdand so on; or the poetic Arab legend that narrates the formation of the desert, introduce us to the enchanted world of fairy tales that does not end in easy recreation or even in the discomfort of the present, but opens up access to an arcane and deeper wisdom dimension. After all, there are also, to define the complex reality of fairy tales and legends, ancient and modern - presences such as Malefica e Mirror of my cravings, less positive and discounted. It is no coincidence that, in their regard, Passalacqua evokes the image of the mask, ready to conceal the features of the face, to give life to a continuous alternation of truth and fiction. You are amazed observing, with the necessary attention, the energy enclosed in these paintings, for which the reference to the Futurist legacy is even peremptory (more calm is the trend of the Arab legend).

The choice to accompany a finished oil painting with its relative preparatory sketch is both intelligent and highly successful. This collage of coloured paper includes photographs from illustrated magazines, reduced where necessary to thin strips and used like an ideal palette and numerous brushstrokes. I also consider the phantasmagorical sketches to be works of art in their own right, as complete and with the same aesthetic dignity as the oil paintings. They are presented as effective interpreters of the charge of energy unleashed by Passalacqua, who works in a futuristically diagonal direction to accentuate the effect of movement. What is more, this energy is confirmed by pressing chromatic rhythms and a vivacity of colour: we can observe, for example, how fruitfully Passalacqua has interpreted Stravinsky’s incandescent idea of the Firebird.

An analogous discussion can be made of the other series – technically, though certainly not thematically analogous – such as The Four Seasons, and fruit of more than thirty years of work. In particular, in a context of widespread ecological sensitivity, The Four Seasons are dedicated to the world of flora and fauna. In fact, flowers present the most involving lineaments of the cyclical and annual succession of the seasons, of biological and psychic rhytms: a flower, as we know, is little more than a miniscule fragment of reality, fragile and ephemeral, and yet microcosm reflects the macrocosm. Anything can happen.

Look, for example, at Freesias in bloom, and the tender green of the plant, which Passalacqua has chosen as the announcement of the rebirth of life after the great winter hibernation. It is certainly not without significance that the splendor of a flower - in front of which, the Gospel assures us, Solomon with all his wisdom and wealth, could never wear a more elegant dress - constitutes a free gift, entirely useless, wasted, to a merely functionalistic look. I think it is not risky to propose a reading with a cosmological flavor of Lina Passalacqua's painting, just mention the series of Flights, all focused on the elements, not those of Mendeleev's periodic system, as much as the protagonists of traditional cosmologies: earth, air, water and fire . But I would also like to involve in the speech "The sails", an allegorical theme as many as ever, in whose folds the sound of the sea is perceived: inflating the sails is a synonym of the departure, the start of the human adventure, of the Argonauts who aim daredevils beyond the columns of Hercules, beyond lands and seas then known. Just these symbolic associations, and other similar mythical values, it seemed right to evoke the attention of the observer, presenting in 1999 the exhibition of the "Sails", set up in the crypt of the statues of the Siena cathedral.

However , as I have already had occasion to mention, the series from the most recent thirty years of Passalacqua’s activity are far from marking the end of her lengthy and intense work as a painter, as this exhibition justly recalls: there is the happy Pop period of the XNUMXs and ‘XNUMXs; the numerically limited, though profoundly felt production of Sacred Art (the word masterpiece comes to mind when speaking of the XNUMX oil painting The Word Became Flesh: Fillia would undoubtedly have included it in an ideal repertory of Sacred Futurist Art). There are also the more traditional examples from the XNUMXs, that reflect (even in a documentary manner, in images of the studio) the important apprenticeship with the painter and engraver Carlo Alberto Petrucci. Above all, as a minimum we must recall the persistent and most authentic matrix of Passalacqua’s early and late work: drawing. Portraits, more or less elaborate sketches, concepts for future paintings: the laborious matitatoio, mentioned by the ancients, reconfirms the reasons of painting and the solidity in the Passalacqua’s work at a time when the gimmick and paronomasia appear to have taken the upper hand.

Presentation in the catalog LINA PASSALACQUA - Cosmic Dynamism

Gangemi International Editore, December 2017

Anthological Exhibition Museo del Vittoriano from 14/12/2017 to 14/01/2018 Rome