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CRITICS
 

An artist’s development has it own time frame and occurs in mysterious ways. This si certainly the case of Marianita Valdinoci, who didn’t start painting until about ten years ago, following a long period of interior maturation... She needed more than the urgent call of creative genius and that uncontainable upwelling of feeling to justify her taking up the brushes. What she was waiting for was a profound motivation, the support of a strong faith and that special flash of magic that transforms the craft of painting into a wondrous mission, capable of interceding between the obtuse world of the indifference and our solitude...With her first exhibit Valdinoci wants to stress the moral underpinnings of her endeavor. This commitment, however, becomes immediately obvious from the initial confrontation with the dense poetic language of each painting, the way they resonate with our musical memories; in the violent storms of color that seethe beneath the apparent calm of backgrounds bathed in turquoise, purple, yellow and sulfurous reds; in the bare-bones depiction of hermaphroditic figures, bald and completely nude, twin replicants, except for the subtle hint of a grimace, somewhere between crying and laughing, regret and nostalgia.Take for example, “The childhood room” (1988): the painting is imbued with the melancholic atmosphere of a rite of passage. The protagonist is a not quite solid figure (the age of games) clutching a blue mirror; the whole scene seems to be sinking into a hellish, reddish background (adulthood), flattened, squashed and stretched into filaments, with a technique that recalls some of the surrealist “automatic” paintings. Then there is “The mothers remain”, a sorrowful meditation on death whose composition displays an almost gothic rigour and a profound sense of Christian piety. There is something ancient, biblical in the mothers, silent before the bodies of their children. The landscape is almost abstract, the strips of land intertwine with the sky, streaked with midnight blue – mournful and threatening, redolent of an infinite sadness. The imagery in “The sound of the cello” (1996) is quite different, with fairy tale elements: in this work Marianita Valdinoci seems to have rediscovered the mythical basis of happiness, the memories and fantasy of her private world. An atmosphere of enchantment and expectancy imbues the painting, ethereal as the stuff of dreams.
Melisa Garzonio 1997

...Her Pensieri dipinti conjure up a metaphysical atmosphere in which the silence of the image becomes power: a force capable of overcoming reality because it is backed by research and perfection...Abstracting the forms and stopping time are elements that serve as starting points for exploring a new approach to art...The feeling evoked by the scene out of life are none than a sense of eternity and candor. Living material capable of stopping even time.
Luciana Baldrighi 1998

...Valdinoci does not paint landscapes, figures or flowers, but rather meditations. As she herself explained, the picture comes afterwards, resolving, in the slow application of the oils, the thoughts that have become obsessive over weeks and months. This is how Valdinoci’s long titles come about: “Despite everything, it is spring. The earth, now replete with the dead, once more brings forth the eternal spring”; “Birth. As from the trunk of a tree, so from the mother’s womb life springs eternal”. These are not so much the titles of the paintings as the thoughts which gave birth to them. For Valdinoci, this modus operandi is the only one possible, although long and arduous. Her first works were sculptures, some of which I have seen in her studio, early works from the time she attended the courses held by Marino Marini at the Brera Academy. Marvelous terracotta heads, intense portraits full of surprising and modern irony. But they no longer interest her, being too close to the random nature of life. When in 1987, after 30 years devoted to her family, Valdinoci took up her brush and palette again, it was because it seemed to her the only way to express herself: “The external aspect of people does not interest me”, she says, “but their internal life. This is my consuming passion and what I try to depict”.
And so the wiry figures that inhabit the monochromatic backgrounds of her paintings have no recognizable faces; they have no clothing or headgear that would assign them a social ranking or historical period; they don’t even have a sex. They simply represent humanity. They move across plains which are painted blue, purple, brown and dark green: in velvety, dusky hues, as if echoing the sound of horns. And across these velvety scenes, white figures flutter - at times with no sustance or shadow, like the Madonnas and saints of the gold backgrounds on Sienese tables dating from the 14th century. Other references to past or contemporary artistic trends, apart from an indirect hint of surrealism, are hard to find. And how could this be otherwise - for Valdinoci does not just paint for art’s sake, but conveys a spirit of form and colour - in a highly individual manner.
Francesca Bonazzoli 1999

...Her painting is nourished by musical and poetic suggestions, intellectual sparks that ignite her figurative visions, condensing emotion into the dreamy depiction of a miraculous event: the unexhausted force of life that withstands all potentially destructive onslaughts.
Armando Audoli 2000

…Marianita Valdinoci with her vibrant colours evokes a kind of mystical, lyrical world floating in a surreal sphere and dissolving into the air, dominated by a sacred and apocalyptic silence. Her work entitled “L’attesa” (“waiting”) features a female figure guarding the door of life, the personification of Mother Earth. The work entitled “Kafka” features a fragile figure immersed in a nightmare world, oppressed by a sense of guilt, standing before an ultra-terrestrial court. In the work “Insieme”(“Together”), man and woman are fused in a single body, awaiting the miracle, resigned to a common destiny made of light and shadow.
Gabriele Turola 2001

Close to the most famous Romanesque Lombard monument there is a small chapel worthy of attention. The old Oratory of the Confraternity of Passion, built at the end of the 15th century and adorned with splendid frescoes by Bernardino Luini, stands below the Canonical bell tower between the Atrium of Ansperto and the renovated 15th century canonical dwellings. Since 1986 the Oratory has been the venue of contemporary art exhibitions. Young and established artists such as Remo Brindisi, Carmelo Cappello, Giò Pomodoro, William Congdon, and many others have exhibited here. The common denominator of all the exhibitions is the sincere search for “beauty”, irrespective of the immediate religious value of the work. In John Paul II’s 1999 “Letter to Artists” the dedicatory incipit reads thus: “to whoever passionately seeks new manifestations of beauty to offer to the world through artistic creation”. As an artist himself – a playwright - the Pope acknowledges the role of “creator” to whoever “uses something that already exists, giving it form and meaning. This trait is unique to man, as the image of God.” Thus the Oratory of Passion hosts the works of artists devoted to searching for the heart of man, regardless of the subject depicted. A true and sincere artist, as collaborator in God’s creative work, is religious. Romano Guardini, prominent early 20th century theologian stated that “an authentic relation with a work of art becomes something religious.” That is why the Cultural Commission of the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio hosts, in an area so close to the highest temple of Lombard religiosity, expressions which at first glance are not, and cannot be, religious or sacred images that we would expect in these types of places.
The works of Valdinoci fall into this category. Elements of a research that the artist has conducted for years. References to Greek and Latin classical literature and to the world of the figures of memory. To paraphrase Guardini, explicit figures of a journey that helps us to seek out our own inner-self which we will meet when the world does too.
Carlo Capponi 2001
(Honorary Curator of the museum of the Basilica of Sant’Ambrogio)

Marianita Valdinoci’s paintings seem to elude the grasp, like a half remembered reverie, touched by magical charm, or by a strange beauty of movement. Their charm is the justification for the ‘unmotivated and miraculous’ act of creation. Vladimir Jankélevitch described that "charm" as that "certain something", that ‘almost nothing’ - (the presque rien of musicals scores)- which defines it and which by its intrinsic nature cannot be held, only briefly and electrifyingly touched: like a subtle game of the heart.
Valdinoci’s painting are almost impalpable, suspended in a sort of imaginary absolute and unreachable time and space, which is both infinite yet paradoxically enclosed in the incorruptibility of intrinsic ethereal detachment. The highly original subject matter covered by the artist is drawn from the depths of memory. It is from the rediscovery of sub-conscious memory, reworked in the paintings, that beliefs, truths and torments take shape in a series of imaginary hermaphrodites that Valdinoci represent as being in mystical expectation. As if symbolizing the ancient universal archetype of the Question and Answer. These are fundamentally “fragments of an amorous dialogue”, part of that inner dialogue which the artist reveals, shaken by disturbing questions. These enigmatic alter ego representations, finally bared (Ophelia in her madness-truth, Romeo and Juliet, the Hypocrite, and the shadow of “Nostalgia”, to name but a few) evoke an ambiguous and agnonizing tenderness that is almost human. What Valdinoci does in fact is to portray the incurable conflict between the values of the sacred and the profane, alluding to the tension and doubts about truth, identity, and justice (as depicted in the painting puzzle, entitled “Kafka” dated 1994), and all the great sentiments of life, exposed to the bitter destiny of metamorphoses; as clearly illustrated in the works “La Nascita” (1996) and “Petrouchka” (1998), dancing its own death.
In her first paintings these figures were often concealed in “minor whims” of the psyche, like the claustrophobic enchanted niche in her work “L’attesa” (1998) or “La Stanza dell’Infanzia” dated 1989, only later did they begin to form the focus point of a wider pictorial perspective. They then appear amongst untamed landscapes etched with deep fire and rock filled ravines, or amongst trees intertwined in a suffocating embrace, or as towering flames, all swayed by the wind of absolute and narcissistic immortality. It is in these later artistic compositions that the contradictory harmony created by the use of blue and red begins to dominate. The artist adapts these colours through the experience of primitive times, colours that tend to create a kind of “ideal surface”, reaching out to intricate and subtle transparencies; blues of purity and the supernatural, light blues which appear as indifferent and as distant as the sky above us, and dramatic black and purple shades. Contrasted by the tremendous energetic force of deep reds, transformed by yellows into strong oranges that translate on the canvas into a movement that radiates like the sun, before dissolving.
“Art unleashes a profound inner need, in which love, meaning a movement towards the other plays a fundamental role”- explains Marianita Valdinoci as she paints ‘six characters in search of an Author’. And it is in the encounter with the other that the long wait will perhaps come to an end and time will start again.
Silvia Castello -“Archetypes rediscovered” -2001

The Milanese artist Marianita Valdinoci is on show at the Circolo della Stampa until the 31st March. The 18 oil paintings deal with the theme of “War and Peace”, expressing negative sentiments (and their consequences) as well as the positive ones which unite people: a concept conveyed by the last painting (displayed in sequence) entitled “Peace in our world”: a green landscape, two figures, hand in hand, look into each other’s eyes, searching for truth and sincerity… Valdinoci’s work, large colourful canvases of landscapes expressing an inner world where the individual is naked, elflike, defenceless, weighed down by ancient toil, full of hopes, often deluded, seldom fulfilled… It is no accident that her works form part of just one cycle, entitled “Painted thoughts”, inner experiments where psychology is the background, reminiscent in some respects of Salvador Dalì, a surreal world posing real questions.
Luciana Baldrighi 2003

Fiery reds that, without warning, engulf the canvas; dizzy blues that extinguish the flames and draw the eye through the clear mirror of the painted surface to the depths of a spiritual world that reflects infinities: beyond the seas, beyond everything. Turquoises, solid and compact as ideas, “adamantine”, like ideas embedded within matter. Yellows, running the entire gamut of implicit possibilities: gems applied with a brush, droplets of light and lemon. Orange, forthright and sweet, like a slice of sunshine. Violet, the seed of madness in the mind of the eternal Ophelia. The long awaited green, forerunner to the coming miracle…
Colours. Or should we say “the colours”: those of the thoughts of Marianita Valdinoci, their every hue investigated in her paintings’ lyric sensibility, almost a challenge to an antagonistic reality, almost keeping the cruel and incomprehensible unreality of the world at bay, transforming it into a dreamlike representation of the unconscious? Revealing the secret thoughts expressed in the mind’s sophisticated, nocturnal code; a long-running drama that is acted in the wings, eccentric and visionary.
The colours of the mind, belonging to the exclusive realm of the inner world, tinged with the artist’s deep sentiment and dissent. Colours arrayed perfectly with the instinct of a medium; colours that cover the canvas, driven – by a tormented inner tension – towards the temptation of a darkness from which there can be no return. Tones that enrich the theme, rendering it clear and sharp as if cut by a hard gem; like a tile of a gigantic, complex mosaic: a never-ending mosaic of visualized ideas, a work without boundaries. The oeuvre is continuous and exhausting: inspired equally, as the case may be, by a news item or newspaper article, a work of literature or a philosophical thought, a piece of music or the voice that recites, a prayer.
These large, multi-coloured, mosaic tiles seem to entrap the changing, ageless, sexless figures that are so typical of Marianita Valdinoci’s work: white, asexual souls, larvae of beings, essences (darkness from which there is no return: the darkness of the womb). Sometimes a light tinge of pink, sometimes blue or azure, ochre or ruby (note the pitiless silhouette of Salomé), these disembodied personae behave artfully, theatrically, like dancing spirits, flitting from one picture to another, gliding with the mysterious lightness of specious, acrobatic shadows, all engrossed in the delicate balancing act of miming the complicated emotive rhythms the painter (by chance or necessity) seeks.
The painter, have we forgotten? The puppeteer who in her own private theatre directs the mysterious creatures she has invented, diaphanous and wraithlike, naked and fleeing, imprisoned forever in the coloured pastes of the stage scenery.
Take, for example, Pétrouchka: the puppet more gifted than the others and therefore more vulnerable and prone to suffering; with his wooden head and sawdust filled body, the sacrificial victim, martyr of life’s tragic carnival, immortal symbol of the immortality of the spirit. Inspired by Stravinsky’s genius, Pétrouchka is one of the key themes, the nerve centers, most representative of Marianita Valdinoci’s poetry.
Valdinoci’s painting is not far from the mystics’ trances: it is a losing oneself, abandoning oneself, letting go. Forgetting and momentarily renouncing the ego. Enthusiasm, in the literal sense, possession by a god, is absolute invention.
“ I follow the brush, wherever it takes me…”, says Valdinoci. Her voice is accompanied by an unforgettable expression, inspired, like a Sibyl throwing words to the winds, on dancing leaves.
Her paintings are in fact Sibylline charts, oracular spectres of an excess of feeling, a heightened sensibility that can capture and absorb every tremor: from the subtlest vibration -- at the subliminal end of perception - to the resounding crash of tragedy that deafens the ear and moves the heart.
Armando Audoli 2004 - The colours of the mind


What has always struck me about Marianita Valdinoci is her sense of otherness, of being from another world rather than this one, an elf-like figure who marches to the sound of music that only she hears. Marianita seems far removed from the mundane, the daily grind, public debates: politics, ideologies... This is just my impression: she has a down-to-earth family life and has brought up children, so it goes without saying that she is all too well aware of the ways of the world, with its joys and sorrows and all the rest of it. At the end, this is what remains, this is what counts. But this impression is in many ways strengthened by her work, by the artistic choices it entails. Her latest exhibition in Rome is at the Bocca della Verità complex, entitled  Peace in the World and only someone who is sublimely above the worldly can dare face the challenge of a theme which, surrounded as it is in a cloud of hot air, of sound and fury, has been suffocated of meaning. Never before have there been so many pacifists as in this third millennium, where war is casually waged in the name of peace... Never before has the term pacifism become so debased that even military missions, the soldiers themselves, are presented as messengers of peace, warriors of peace...
Given this state of affairs the non-topicality of Valdinoci’s work becomes somewhat surreal, because standing in front of these paintings and reading their titles, it is obvious that the artist really believes in her theme, it is not lip service, a trendy attitude, “political correctness”.
Her non-topicality and other-worldliness allow Valdinoci to re-instill life and vigour to what empty rhetoric has devalued and political self-interest has betrayed. To the artistic spirit that is noble and aloof, free from mundane decisions, these themes rediscover their true meaning: the guiding principles of things, peace between nations, love triumphing over horror. So it is that we enter a pictorial realm where our human, all too human, destiny is touched by the hand of grace, the possibility of beauty, a moment of happiness. The artist sees what stuff we are made of, the hypocrisy, malice, pride and ego-centrism that tie us down to our earthly existence, but also that it is only in our ability to live, make mistakes, fall by the wayside, triumph, recreate life, that our greatness lies.
Not being a professional critic, I will not presume to trespass by discussing the brush-strokes one by one, but I accepted the curators’ invitation to write this brief note with pride and pleasure, as a mark of my regard and admiration for this artist. However, my amateur status does allow me to appreciate those elements which are above and beyond the technicalities: the colours, proportions, the portrayal. These are all linked to the world of ideas, to thought, to a way of life, elements that allow the viewer of these painting to recognize the thin red line linking idealists despite themselves, romantics from a time without illusions, stubborn defenders of human dignity in a world that more than ever before wants to take it away.
"The Philosophy of Marianita Valdinoci" STENIO SOLINAS 2006

I meet Marianita Valdinoci in Milan where the artist has lived since the 80s, in her cosy apartment in the Brera district, near a rare green area in the hectic traffic of the historic centre. In this oasis of urban peace Marianita has rediscovered a passion for sculpture, an old love she had neglected for many years. On the fireplace mantelpiece she shows me, with some reluctance, almost apologetically, her latest works: the seven deadly sins. They are faces, both male and female, sculpted from clay and painted a greenish-bronze. Pride, greed, anger, lust, envy, sloth, gluttony; the sins Aristotle called "the vestments of evil" are anonymous portraits where particular details – a grimace or a look in the eyes, conceal an eternal burden. These are the vices that have been with humanity since the dawn of time, often rearing their heads with cruelty. The evils of our time: clear and present, and inextricably linked to the human condition. When Marianita leads me to her study to show me her other sculptures - a self-portrait made in her student years at Marino Marini's sculpture course in the Brera Academy and three busts of female subjects including "The Lady at the Hairdresser's", I realize that her works still share the characteristic features and ironic tone. The long gap does not seem to have diminished her profound sensitivity, her sense of what is that makes us most human. The paintings she began in the 80s always depict the human intelligence and its preoccupations. Marianita Valdinoci is a born artist: every painting tells a story with roots in music, poetry and dance. The luminescent creatures moving in the timeless other-worldly spaces of her canvases, however, are expressed with a lucid objectivity born of everyday life and the artist's personal experience. The original inspiration for some was a film, such as Benigni's "Life is beautiful", for others it was a dramatic character, like Shakespeare's Ophelia, or the tragic dance of Salomè, or even music - there is one inspired by Verdi's Requiem. Other times, Marianita tells me, it is personal experience which trigger the impulse, current situations and problems, assimilated and internalized. I think of the two figures lost in the labyrinth of misunderstanding, but who will find their way out via one of the countless opportunities life offers or of "The wall", a clear reference to the fall of the Berlin wall and the hope of peace. The paintings are stark and essential, with few elements – ethereal, elongated figures with particular detail in some features, sparse symbols of the natural world – a stylized flower, a bare tree trunk and an evocative background, generally in strongly coloured emotional tones. Emotion is clearly visible in all her paintings: drama is accentuated in the contrasts of "Landscape", where the intense red is achieved in anguished brushstrokes, while the lush green background embodies calm and serenity; the soul walks a thin line and the stark choices faced by man seem reflected in the gestures of the minute figure. The huge backgrounds of intense greens and ultramarine, with hints of yellows and greys and a marked penchant for a purply red, seem to be large smudges representing bare landscapes: rocks, chasms and mountains, large bodies of water and big skies. All superfluous elements are shunned; the artist focuses on the essential; both in the paintings, where an almost imperceptible detail creates a particular effect and gives the work its meaning, and in the sculptures, the way the clay is worked to lend the figures unique expressions. These recent sculptures have never been shown; the exhibition at Castell'Arquato fills lacunae in an artistic career which, although suspended for some years due to circumstances and family commitments, has always been vital to Marianita Valdinoci's world. She has never lost contact with the real world, with the problems of daily life, with artistic and cultural interests, which have developed over the years, bringing a new surge of energy to new experience.
Simonetta Panciera, March 2008