YEAR 2001 by Franco Fanelli
On papers, the exhibit is ready in that evening of March: a wall as dense as a mosaic, crammed with pastels and their throbbing pigments; on the other hand, the pulse gets back to normal, heartbeats become less frequent, towards a hypnotic biorhythm. The great painting (it looks like marble powder, in that alabaster monumentality of the domestic “landscape”, furrowed by the lying nude) is the filter zone, a screen that purifies and “defoliates” images, while letting them go through itself. If an outfitting has, as it is today custom, harmonize both aesthetic and teaching requirements, Valeria Scuteri’s exhibition dramatizes the contrast between the concretion of gestures and materials on the wall with pastels, and their purification on the one with drawings. In fact she says that the pastels jumble is the starting point, while the threadlike sign – which cuts, like a laser, the yellowish pulp of the pouncing. I suggest an analogy between this path inverting the stated order of the artwork process – from the “painted” to the drawing and, in Scuteri, from the physical “flesh” of a work to the immateriality of thought – and a great part of the second half of the twentieth century research, aiming at perceiving (and, when possible, visualizing) the paramount importance of art. Scuteri’s “I know I do not know (and hence I search to find out)” results in a sudden retreat from a possible placing her work in any “trend”. She tells about her real and ideal masters: Deabate, Devalle, Mantovani, Schiele. To reassure her, we say that drawing as form and “mental” act is not only a peculiarity of the contemporary 1900s. This sign as “forma mentis” can contain a (concise) abstraction which can not only be referred to that tale dissolution as the recognizable style of Modernism. By memory we cite Pisanello, Botticelli’s comedy, and even the “histories” told on the xylography in the Hipnerotomachia Poliphili. And then the angularities of some German draperies, those eloquent hands which come from Durer’s San Bartolomeo Altarpiece reach Pontorno, through the harsh sign of the German burin style.
We think that referring to some narrativity could “convince” Valeria Scuteri, whose microstories, told through symbolic and final gestures – although linked to a recognizable iteration of everyday life – become metaphors of life and mal de vivre , that is an existential status depending on the synonym-antinomy
man-male; the cat presence is constant, to recreate a mellower and lighter iconography of Melancholy in light of the man-animal dialogue. Anatomies by heart, therefore, becoming memory records of the present time. Drawing, in this sense, as a daily practice, needed both to keep the “touch” and to grasp a long time which must be summed up , like a true memorandum, in the meaningful postures of images. Other women artists living in the present day express present in light of stated metaphors of femininity and unsolved problems (embroidery for Ghada Amer, the Koranic Scriptures for Shirin Neshat, Rosemarie Trockel’s loom-painting-machine). Valeria Scuteri’s art is an art of the present, which can do without both installation neomonumentalism and the photogenic quality of the product. That’s why we insist, whether she likes it or does not, on a conceptual predominance (that is not conceptualistic) based on narrative situations which are explicit, since basic, “eternal” since primary, at times painful since radical.
YEAR 1999 - VALERIA SCUTERI, Descriptions and Considerations by Pino Mantovani
As to the theme, we start from obvious facts: they are all bare male forms (I am talking of the exhibited works, huge paintings on canvas, medium paintings on paper, drawings; and the artist might have worked on different subjects), that is to say "nudes", the classical expression of aesthetic and ethical beauty. This certainly has a meaning. As to the manner, it is clear that Valeria Scuteri is firstly a skilled and strong drawer; thus the paintress can go on matter and colour with no need for finishing, straining, or demonstrating - we could say with "nonchalance", a humanistic term - that this is non-mannered grace, a higher disguised artifice.
If we unite the two, or rather three data - theme clearness, structure certainty, non-flaunted mastery - we could conclude this is a case, quite uncommon at present, of both rigorous and generous painting.
But in a moment - this is clear as well - we notice that such forms show either completely strawled nudes, reminding death, or better a "deadly" tiredness (see the lying position, the joint relaxation, the limb drop, following the lack of muscular and nervous control) or greatly agitated bodies (see the straight position, where the lower, but especially the upper limbs are wide apart and the hands have the fingers outstretched in a meaningful gesture showing surprise and despair). In short we could also say: on one hand a body deprived of his vital tension (further sign, the collapse of the sexual monument), on the other hand a body weakened by an excess of tension; but still a body showing an essential dignity in its classical proportions and joints - a dignity regained just where the rational control gives out and the original "nakedness" is back.
As to iconography, we could notice that the lying nude is shown in profile, or tending to profile, thus reminding the deposited or exposed Christ (Holbein, Dürer, Carpaccio...up to the "modern" academies and their variations), but also the lay body of a corpse on the anatomy table. (I still remember a plate in "Anatomia artistica" (Artistic anatomy") by Morelli, a textbook I think was in use when Valeria attended the Art School, and I already knew her) or, to come to everyday life, a naked body exhausted by heat, lying on a summer beach. Whereas the straight nudity is - at least in the exhibited examples - from behind, facing a direct limit, an obstacle against which it is so nearly pressed that the body - and an aggressive endogenous light helps in suggesting that - could look like trapped in the impending darkness (this makes me think, instead of an icon, of a literary invention like that of the "hollow men" by Dumal, air and light bubbles incorporated in the rock of "Monte analogo" (Mount analogous).
If I have to think of an icon, I would think of some transparency and ambiguity effects the new light technologies have improved, by picking up some intuitions from symbolism - between Redon and Seurat). If the pattern is from a reporter account, these could be bodies humiliated by a provoked impotence: for example, they are caught in the stiff posture of a condemned or frisked person.
Since I have noticed something on the figure-background relation as to the standing nudes, similarly I notice that in the lying ones the extent of light power is so strong that it provokes the surrounding jumble (the key colour is yellow, warm towards orange and even red; cold towards green and even blue ) almost up to mingling. I say "almost" because the strong track of the drawing, which is precise even when it is just a touch, outlines the body, freezes any temptation to spread, shuts in its physical and spiritual identity.
Yet the individual is not alone, he has at least a similar companion, who can be visible (where the other is placed in parallel, identical and slightly varied, particularly in limb arrangement) or invisible (where we can imagine the other is placed in a mirror-like way in the hidden side of the limit).
The destiny is one for both of them; a destiny of birth, breeding and death. That is what Valeria tells me, hinting at her "philosophy of life", which could let me cold or perplexed, if it wasn't shown in such a convinced and convincing way in the realized image. More modest than reticent, Valeria shows me the process that leads her to the most demanding outcomes. She starts from an emotion flashing into a figure, then goes through a series of elaborations both from life and in her study, where the emotion and the sensed figure step by step come to the perfect accuracy; she gets to a confidence which releases gesture and taste from bonds of expression inaccuracy.
That is to say that nearly nothing is left to chance, because only this way the fundamental eros - as Plato would say more or less - keeps its whole power and does not burn the figure which holds and represents it. From that core grows what Valeria does not call philosophy but tale. It is in the painting that the tale puts a body on, the most lovely and convincing one. Needed.
YEAR 1992 - THE INTENSITY OF EMOTIONS, by Angelo Mistrangelo
The season of Valeria Scuteri’s painting coincides with the intensity of emotions, with the flow of memories, the energy of the line defining figures.
Hence it is a “writing” soaked with a sort of active emotional involvement in daily events, a call to see the things which each time become part of the feelings sphere, the trepidatious waiting, the subtle unrest.
The style is marked by the cadence of impressions, of a “saying” which links the “codified image” of the man with a tie, caught while he is wearing it, to his habits, to the search of his own dimension, his own way of being and, at times, of standing out
Next to this man we see another one, whose face is missing, far away, deleted by sorrow. Such representation shows, anyway, the relationship between the artist and her dead father, their complicity, the sound of his voice, the repeated gestures cutting through the atmosphere in a slow, moderate manner, as meditated as the thought sequence of an entire life.
Drawings with a strong and vivid sign, paintings with a captivating colour that vibrates from an internal energy characterize the series called “embraces”, showing a suggestive will of communicating the charme of an encounter, of a tension emerging out of the figures in the background.
The players of a football team – in an exulting moment of joy – are created in this line movement.
Hence painting as a witness of life, of impossible dreams, of meaningful silences.
YEAR 1981 - VALERIA SCUTERI, by Paolo Santarcangeli
When we look closely at the paintings by Valeria Scuteri as a young woman, one thing is mainly evident: her nearly aggressive, violent or passionate will of knowing, realizing and expressing the world through her own temperament, her talents and her style. By saying that, we particularly refer to her landscapes, that are full of, nearly overflowing light, in any place or season they are located. And in that painting a young nature open to the world, passionate, is clearly shown as well
Obviously we see such observations have a general character: nevertheless we mention them since – in the human figures we could watch – these aspects are restrained on one hand, and enhanced on the other in an authentic search of the individual truth. That is manifest, and expressed with anguish, in the impressive “Study of an infirm woman”, where we see the feeling of the close end, of decomposition, beyond conscience; or in the image of the young woman crouched in a pose we can see as defence, tiredness, or just rest. We could give such search the really important name of piety, in its double meaning of religious sense of being and will of attending the never ending changing of human destinies.
YEAR 1978 by Piero Bargis
If the most remarkable effect of the historical avant-garde is that of having changed the terms of the relationship between very high quality work and no quality work, inasmuch it is generic and undifferentiated for everyone, according to what Alberto Asor Rosa has recently stated, and if that political utopia of the latest aesthetic avant-garde is true, i.e.poets must speak everyone’s speech and everyone must speak poets’ speech, we can deduce peremptorily the form crisis, the perennial trouble between the artist and the power, a thought of denial and disgregation down to the death of art, a mournful knell which, taken up by Hegel, at this point resounds like an Aristotelian ipse dixit. Waiting for a world reborn by an inexpressible historical tracing, young people are struggling in an extremely cruel row for the new table of values, while the elderly look at them, at times bewildered, at times moved, while thinking of the long torment of their life which, being at its evening, is picking so thorny and embittered fruits.
But such protesting fury lets some heavens emerge, here and there, heavens of a youth who, although suffering from the general atmosphere of distress, disorientation, despair, knowing that there is nothing new under the sun, tries to control such mood, to settle this splitting, to mend tears, to be brave, following the example of great masters who are still so close to us, like Cézanne, Van Gogh, Soutine, Kokoschka, those who recreated the world in their own image, ready to win and lose at the same time, if this is the cross we have to bear.
No doubt contemporary speech is declined in a multivalence of often intransitive and reductive rythms, where communication is tired out to throbs as light as the butterfly wings, or it bursts into the utmost degree of the hyperrealist shock. Anyway if – and please let me repeat myself – American Kubler’s assumption is true, that is that les jeux sont faits as far as great formal roots are concerned, I don’t think the “pre” and the “post” should be so dogmatic, as Norberto Bobbio has recently pointed out referring to some ideas, which seem to be old, but are always new, just like the one according to which an intellectual has to be independent of power. Great linguistic roots always keep a little branch for patient and faithful researchers: if Cézanne or Van Gogh or Soutine or Kokoschka is the choirmaster, wouldn’t like singing with such masters and add their little voice – provided it is authentic – as a nearly neverending variation on those themes?
I was pondering over these thoughts to myself, while coming down the interminable flight of stairs of Teonesto Deabate’s studio, where I had seen some paintings by a woman painter in her early twenties: Valeria Scuteri. After having attended the Artistic High School in our town and some classes at the Academy of Fine Arts, she chose to “go to a bottega” as the ancients said, that is to the studio of a well-known and experienced artist. While they were painting side by side, day after day, the old master and the young alumna held talks full of free suggestions about a technical cunning, a chromatic ratio, too gentle or too strong a light, an ancient or contemporary master. Deabate lets his disciples peculiarly free from any fixed grammar or syntax; he just aims at heightening their sensitivity and passion, by setting an example of a green and vivid old age, peppered by an ironic elf, an ever lively spur towards good work.
“…The fruits of the independence of such a free education can be seen when Scuteri’s works are closely observed. First this artist shows a maturity of ideas that is uncommon at such age; the solid compositional structure does not escape difficulties, actually it is in search of them purposely. The planes rhythm is not geometrical, but emotional, and yet soaked with a solid plasticism arising from correct chromatic relationships. This Calabrian young woman, who moved to Turin when she was a child, often loves going back to the southern villages of Riace and Stignano, where she is amazed by her dear, lonely hills, the blue mountains, the deep green of the scrub, the yellow shades of knolls. So “an irrational dialogue” starts, coming from her inner consciusness, which needs to drive back, and back again, the veil of a naturalistic point of view, in order to replace an illusionistic space with an emotional one. The sense of a suppressed hardly stifled, energy comes from masses and blocks organization, and it goes around to breathe life into light and colours…”
To understand Valeria Scuteri’s poetics and work orientation in depth, we could recall what has been said about a great master like Cézanne who “driven by the concern of integrating the image in a space, the perspective definition of which has changed in comparison with the traditional one and where the atmospheric transparency of the impressionistic colour is replaced by a structure compactness that makes the composition become a coherent organism”.
Speaking of that energy vehemence which seems to overstep every molecule of Scuteri’s space, do stand for a while before “The oak”: an immense sight, yet kept through strong and solid grip, without the slightest structure weakness. Due to an extremely attracting optical illusion the oak looks like dominate the village below; a wild and rocky nature, the dark green shades, the rich yellow shades, the batches of houses concur to the mythical revelation of a special genius loci. To grasp the measure of the talent of our young artist, do look closely at “Blue mountains”. It is a subtle painting, bristling with technical difficulties as to the planes structure, the plastic and chromatic richness, and it is resolved on an impulse. We have the impression that a primordial chaos has just given rise to the dawn of the world, a bright cosmos of lights, colours just settled down shapes, which starts living; a lively, perpetually in embryo nature, in complete osmosis with the artist, who realizes a sort of “nature worship” where all shades of diaphanous violet, deep blue, limpid green, plural yellow – in the fading of the planes cadenced by an open and free syntax – rise up to disclose earliness regained.
Likewise “Heaven and earth” suggests some infinity eagerness radiating from the synthesis process, with no overlapping, of depth soundings. The sky barely veiled by golden clouds, the weavy rounded tideline of the mountaintops and the vibrant range of shining or sun-baked yellow shades, opposing the magnificent green shades, are the gift from an imagination leaning towards universal.
We think that “Wind and village” is one of the most special fruits of Scuteri’s impulsive energy: a painting having an anomalous layout, a slant reminding Soutine, especially in those blocks of houses distorted by a windy fury, hit by a dazzling light, contrasting with the deep and shaded concavity in the foreground. A visionary appearance, a decadent poem having its typical “illuminations”. Those who would like to grasp the wealth of the chromatic key-board of this artist, can observe “Olive trees”, where green has been treated almost exhaustively, while the radiance of houses and the slightly roughed in line of the sky shine in the background, in a light cubism. “The Spouse’s Bouquet” shows how much this artist is pleased with tricky chromatic difficulties, in the lively and dramatic counterpoint: cut flowers are living again as if they still were in the ground, but it is the artist’s spirit that gives them new life, and makes even a common material, like the cellophane they were wrapped in, bright and transparent.
YEAR 1976 - VALERIA SCUTERI, by Ernesto Caballo
From her master Teonesto Deabate a very young Valeria Scuteri learned how to subject landscapes to her own rythms. Through a well-chosen communicative act, the sense of villages and things is conveyed in a space which still is Euclidean, but contemporary as well (and we soon close such matter, since it would require some chapters). Valeria observes and keeps the “naturalness” proposed by her master, through an organized, modulated colour, without clashed shades or tone uncertainty, And then there is the metereological notion, a further, accurate assumption by Deabate, which is a positive fact.
Valeria adds her personal elements: a more uneven geography, mainly in her watercolours, in her China ink works showing landscapes of the South of Italy, of the Ionian coast, where she really finds her origin. No attempt to avoid immediacy, but it is clear as well that the artist asks herself questions, and has her answers, personal poetical solutions (which justify this exhibition). We can perceive an inward search in these expanded scenographies. At times they suggest an enveloping plasticity that does not exclude sign concision, which is quite unusual to an artist making her debut.
A similar observation is true for the still life works: this “date with the everyday routine” takes place through strong visual supports and a study aiming at bringing things back to their origin: a steady friendship pact with nature. Accordances are fine-tuned, but at times the whole gets ready for a new starting; we can say that also Valeria’s canvases depicting fruits, flowers, mushrooms are “baskets full of colours”. Relief is sharp, since a third dimension can be reached from two. Finally we can legitimately see the ambition of crossing the borders of a kind of impressionism, which is confirmed by other paintings exhibited, that are rich in decorative organization which often becomes constructive: notably the compositions with masks, some of which we would like to call unease masks, thus not evoking existential choices, but rather Valeria’s purpose of researching new directions. Figures and portraits – that are not many in this solo exhibit – are the sign of a latent expressionist quality. She says she mostly prefers the human figure, among the possible subjects, because it tells about our destiny, starting from the pure anatomical way.
Rythm is here, where the “writing” tension invents the form; this does not mean a contradictory perspective, since we know that young artists’ work necessarily has its divergent connections.
What matters is identifying in one’s work, free from useless problems and from the troubles of prophecies and preformed systems. It is a freedom that her master Deabate, first among all, suggests and that Valeria is able to run very well, as she knows how to treat consistently her theory of youth.