Cocktail: 1° December 2011 – 6.00-10.00 p.m.
1 December 2011 / 20 January 2012
MAIMOUNA PATRIZIA GUERRESI
I have a personal interest in Sufism and I explore the integrative powers of the body and the spirit, particularly through female consciousness and its proximity to natural, creative forces. In recent years I have focused on the idea of a ‘mystic body’, where only the face, hands, or feet are visible. I often use familiar objects and clothing, which lose their ordinary significance and gain a sacred quality. As with many ancient icons, my figures in hieratic poses recall images of the Virgin, but also celebrate contemporary cultures and religions that have kept their traditions alive. This gives rise to a new and hybrid iconography of the great, pure, and mystical tribal mothers. I have a multiracial family and my two biological daughters, Adji (African) and Marlene (European), often model for me.
My work is part of a new, ‘transcultural expression’, where the elements of formal beauty combine with ancient African symbolic forms. I present a hybrid reality, consisting of eastern and western cultural references, in which ordinary poetics reach beyond what is represented to unite with a universal condition of beauty, mysticism and sensitivity. This kind of intuition is common to all peoples in the world. My photographs often depict mystical figures from Islamic Africa, which I find inspiring for their great charisma. These figures have a common feature: they are large and look as if they have been emptied. In fact, their shape is determined by the cloak being worn, which I see as an independent sculptural form. For a recent exhibition at the Filatoio Museum in Caraglio, Italy, entitled “The Giants’ Rooms”, I created a sacred place for these figures to inhabit. The installation consisted of two small and elongated tubular houses made of steel. They were intended as mystical architectures, projected beyond real space, designed to create that metaphysical and dreamlike state of reflection and ecstatic silence. The archetypal house form alludes to the association between contemporary apartment blocks and Sardinian collective burial sites found in prehistoric times, known as the ‘giants’ tombs’.
My dark-faced figures are like my own great spirit guides, my ancestral icons, where aesthetics and ethics meld into a sensation of mystical renewal. For me Africa becomes the protagonist in the spiritual rebirth of mankind.
These figures have biblical names, such as Moussa, Ibrahim, Fatimah, Genitilla-Al Wilada; a female figure wearing a sculptural garment with a large black central cavity from which many bubbles escape, like brand new, weightless worlds. Another is ‘Solomon’s Throne’, where shadowy steps lead out from a dark belly, symbolising this hybrid and aesthetic metamorphosis of the spirit.
About the artist
Maïmouna Patrizia Guerresi is an Italian photographer, sculptor and video installation artist who presents an intimate perspective on the relationship between women and society, with particular reference to those countries in which the role of women is most marginalized. For over twenty years Guerresi’s work has been about empowering women and bringing together individuals and cultures in an appreciation for a context of shared humanity, beyond borders – psychological, cultural, and political. She uses recurrent metaphors such as milk, light, the hijab, trees, and contrasting white on black to create awareness of the vital unifying qualities of the feminine archetype and its special healing potential. Guerresi’s art is uniquely authentic. Her work is inspired by personal experience and cultural contexts that reference universal myths, the sacred realm, and the female condition, all of which are seen as vital expressions of the human form: an essentially spiritual and mystic body.
Through photographs and videos of silent, austere, veiled women in domestic scenes and individual poses, her work functions as both metaphor and provocation. Guerresi’s images are delicate narratives with fluid sequencing, as well as rational analyses: women dressed in white, enveloped in chadors, fixed within their own tradition and isolated from and by it in the contemporary world. Her Fatimah image suggests the woman as Mother-Earth supporting us in the original energy cycle of Space-Universe-Infinity.