Liminal States of Being
“He who has come only in part to a freedom of reason
cannot feel on earth otherwise than as a wanderer-though not as a traveler;
there must be something wandering within him,
which takes its joy in change and transitoriness.”
F.W. Nietzsche – Human, All Too Human (1878).
For Anaximander (Miletus 610/609-547/546 BC), Greek scientist, astronomer, politician, and philosopher of the Ionian School, a follower of Thales, ápeiron, namely the indefinite, is the source of the universe. Ápeiron means the original, eternal and boundless mixture of all things. The elements are generated from it as a result of the progressive separation and contrast of opposites in a cosmology revealing its own sense in the parting from the indefinite granted to humankind through the burden of conflict, the struggle among beings as definite entities – which vanish and return to the indefinite Whole which they will be recast from. Ápeiron is the boundless mass of matter in which every single thing first breaks down and then dissolves at the end of a cycle set forth and governed by law and its inevitability, governed by an immortal, indestructible and even divine principle. However, said property does not comprise a blend of elements (merged into it, each with its own peculiar features), but it is rather a substance in which said elements are not yet what they are (i.e., facts not already defined).
The concept of Ápeiron is a response to the questions raised by Valentina De’ Mathà’s art because it fully captures the definition of an unaccomplished reality as hinted to by the artist. The indefinite nature of primeval matter concerns the transformation into shape, which hence becomes style dense in meaning without identifying with the sensuality of any bodily element (albeit dealt with and even seducing and manifest). On the contrary, the elements can be sensed with an impetus leading to a farther, inner dimension lying on the edge of any reference to the content of corporeity and hence leaving a formalistic legacy, shells void of any bodily weight, and spurious blots or shapes. The mass of matter seems to be quantitative in nature, but it can be traced to orders of anthroposophical value.
A matter of philosophical anthropology, then…
The idea of «body» escapes the need for recognition. It is the relinquishment of the restoring mimesis to take the system of knowledge beyond the threshold of the pleasure of physical comfort: within the triumph of an entirely theoretical, almost aprioristic, and even ontological nemesis. It is the foundation of a sort of corporeity, which descends from and yet leaves aside the particular through a knowledge prior to determination: a restless formal genesis void of the appropriate repose to reassure truth, a deaf reality in a mental form, not ideal yet spiritual.
Through the unsettled sensitivity of a space bordering on the incorporeal, Valentina De’ Mathà investigates into the body, an open body, a body which, through its own extension, lends itself to a declared extensibility: freed yet constrained by the sacred sense of the cycle. The body is determined by the potential of matter even though space and time are locked within the fractal of their entity, while a boundary exists only as a limit, as the quiver of matter: ready, troubled and already dismantled. Because the being is infinitely strewn in things, opening itself to the absence of an end and to the existence of impossible definitions.
The artist’s work inevitably tends to the transcendent. What the body encircles is always distant, external, outside: beyond what is encircled. Beyond mythology, mystical iconology is almost touched starting from matter, almost by a sort of physical make-up, which may nonetheless encounter religion, as every single thing that contemplates endlessness is exposed to the imminence of divinity. This dimension is still naturalistic yet governed by the laws of the universe, of the intrinsic universal. Everything is the fruit of a certain unrest: prime and eternal motion, unique in its kind, is the dynamic stage of evanescent bodies, capable of fading away until they become transparent (in the memory and dream of a shared universal belonging). Those bodies struggle to solve what they are, as they approach matter, which immediately becomes something else. It is both past and future; a faulty and fulfilled entity: atom, quark, quid, yuga… To reveal the way!
The body never gains a complete and fully enunciated sense, but, slave to its own being; it stands out of its imperfect anonymity, for the balance of its very opposites: first and foremost, formality and informality. It serves the logic of infinite worlds, which follow one after the other in an endless cycle (of birth, duration, and end). The opening of the body becomes the cosmic law of conflict, the application of duality in a change, which does not change, because conflict is implicit in the material perfection granted to humanity: both in the fortuitousness of the antimony between life and death and in the impossibility of escaping it. The body becomes the symbol of the original yet perturbed unity: the fruit of a break, which was first of all separation, namely a contrast based on the diversity from the endless stasis, from homogeneity and harmony, determining the condition typical of finite multiple beings different from one another, inevitably bound to break away from the Whole yet equally bound to return to it.
De’ Mathà’s art is based on this, on the unity, on the Oneness of this original content, which erupts into matter and shapes it albeit never fully, revealing boundaries that are unseemly so, scattered in the surrounding void, fascinatingly liquid, casually diluted. The flood – the witness of matter fresh in form – becomes the rule emanating from an iconography yearning to define it, to capture it in the pragmatic tension of a functional language because it is archeosophical, organic to the point of becoming the symbol of an absolutely contemporary cosmography. After all, it is an abstract propensity of empirics by which a sort of panic gnosis (made of matter representing truth) pertains to the flesh as an ethereal path for the rest – diluted in the nothingness surrounding it, always as light as thought, breaking through all limits by a predetermined variation unstable in essence. Whence the metamorphosis, in a becoming of plain gestural expressiveness, neither hot nor cold, simply neutral as biology; always immature, without any emotional excesses or dramatic hyperboles. Just a trace: the physiological tragedy of life – that immediately brings to mind Nietzsche’s «lucid lunacy» – with its spontaneous rhythm of full or void masses vaguely evoked in the journey towards the unknown, from the micro- to the macro-world, at the pace of contraction or expansion.
Everything and nothing alternate in penetrating one another, in a sort of chase to fill or empty the work: man (with his corporeity) on the one hand, and the world (in the white of the painted paper or the air surrounding the sculpture) on the other. The color of the figure, caught between the immaculate paper and the deserted air, in a pattern of interconnected repetitions: an imperfect subject along the borders, between insidious spaces about to blend what they perceive along the edges. One thing senses another and suffers from it. Always!
It is dependence in the eternal return (of every individual to the nothingness of the whole). Here lies the technical display, in the celebration of the cyclical expressiveness yearning for an unknown narrative, which, however, is knowledge. It is the narrative of the origin of order: from unfathomable yet undeniable chaos to entropy. It returns eternally. It is the eternal return as expounded by the German philosopher F.W. Nietzsche: a role of time in reality; from dreaming (freedom as possibility and fate as will), to nihilism (passive or active senselessness of life). Human happiness means redemption here – because of the salvific omen of circular time. Every instant of our lives is bound to return for always at the very moment of presence (if all things necessarily recur for eternity). The sense of time referring to the chaos which existence consists of is a curved trail in which every single thing perpetually tends to an infinite number of times without any metaphysical rule determining the linearity, the becoming of the past, present and future of moments depending on others. Time, the eternal return, sets the will of vital action, the commitment of human decision: in a chaotic reality of urges, vainly ordered by the deceit of a culture of morality. From a physical perspective, the measure of the universal force is assumed to be definite, but the time in which the cosmos exerts it is infinite: a cosmic rationale, which does not allow time to create anything immutable, but rather yields itself to the continual force of deliberate creativity.
This is the expressive narrative of Valentina De’ Mathà, who employs said energy for art. She is drawn in her necessity and lost in a deep feeling, towards the source and together with the barrier of complex constants. Valentina both charming and ritual. With orientalist charm, she dreams of modern solutions to ageless problems, while with an alchemical aura enshrined in the beauty of secrecy and research, she uses an art consisting in the cult of paper for the supreme ceremony of Matter. All of her works pulse with modern animism, alive by the continuity of each and true for the transience of all: the enchanting whisper of a shared intimism, which first permeates the obscure chemistry of an enraptured woman, then the enthralled taste of those who know how to understand her.
This is the eternal return over Valentina De’ Mathà’s path of the sublime…
The eternal return of morphology as the liminal state of being.
Arezzo, November 2009.