Simona Weller
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Various writings by Simona Weller

  • "Visto da lontano", in "La Salamandra", n° 1 gennaio, Roma, 1960
  • "Contro i magliari dell'arte", in "La Salamandra", n° 2 febbraio, Roma, 1960
  • "L'importanza di essere porci", in "La Salamandra", n° 3 marzo, Roma, 1960
  • "Il Complesso di Michelangelo", (saggio), Macerata, Edizioni La Nuova Foglio, 1976
  • "La creatività femminile", (saggio), in AA.VV. "Il privato come politica", (a cura di Gianni Statera), Roma, Edizioni Lerici, 1977
  • "Le donne nell'arte dal Medioevo ai nostri giorni", (saggio), numero monografico della rivista "MINERVA", Roma, 1988
  • "Il mercante di sale", (racconto), in rivista "TUTTESTORIE", n° 2 giugno, Roma, 1991
  • "Il grido del gabbiano", (saggio), in AA.VV. "Il cuore, la guerra, la parola", Siracusa, Edizioni Ombra, 1991
  • "Alba de Céspedes: vivere in anticipo", (racconto), in rivista "TUTTESTORIE", n° 6/7 dicembre, Roma, 1992

     From 1981 to 1996 she had an art space on the monthly magazine "NOI DONNE"


Poetic Declaration

Stepping out of the childhood of art

When talking with friends about my works exposed at the Tenth Quadriennial exhibition, they said: "I liked that lawn… I was impressed by the blackboard… I liked the one that was all written on and then crossed out with those lightings and the word "RIFARE" (start over) at the end… I like the one that says crow in black and wheat in yellow and then the word crow ends on a light blue background that looks like water but instead it says sky, was it water or sky? Oh, see, I got it right! But how did you do the blackboard, with acrylics? The green one reminds me of a Divisionist Balla". I am not writing this last sentence for conceit, but because it is the sentence that most reflected my intentions.
When, a year ago, I presented my work in Rome with a written-painting exhibition born of a research on the mediums of expression of the childhood world, I could not imagine that I would have developed this modern, ironic and in a way desperate way to re-propose pure painting, derived from my starting over from the beginning, imitating my childhood creativity and almost as if I had never painted before,
Living inside culture is certainly very different than following ghosts and blooming about things in a place called Colle Nibbio; I had a chance to measure myself, to have some reference points, to choose what I thought was best for me. It is this way that, last summer, writing, writing, writing in Calice Ligure, I wrote wheat thinking of SEURAT, sea thinking of MONET, wheat thinking of Van Gogh. I though didn't give up the children's blackboards, their notebooks, their freedom of invention, the taste of writing a scribbled word, mysterious and revealing at the same time, things that, for me, represented freedom in front of the canvas seen as a monster, the joy to finally have the courage to do what I had never had the courage to do: stop caring about the fine drawing, of the fine matter, of the fine painting.
This has been the time of the exercises, of the essays, of the blackboards of fast notes for the painting that I was doing right next to blackboard itself, a diptych or even a triptych (project, wrong painting, final painting) as if I wanted to postpone the my stepping out of the "childhood of art".
The adult works followed immediately and naturally, and the "fine painting" exploded again as a passion developed among difficulties. So, the painting saying gras grass grass, with an overlapping writing, colour-light, of the Divisionist kind, looked like a lawn to many observers.
Right now I am already painting works which I wish were different.
The experience of the free sign, of the cathartic scribble is too present with a taste of nostalgia when I work frenetically and close to neurosis, so I write and cross out, cross out and write, because I hope this is my new means of feeling free in front of the joy of doing.

Rome, May 1973

From "Diary on the wall"

No more than a page. Fifty centimetres by fifty. Seven squares by seven years. Seven years of painted diaries: painted, erased, rewritten, seven years of canvas and word rolls, seven years of "worn out shoes and of flasks of shed tears".
From the deep of the conscience, from the deep of dreams, images and words emerge, floating like debris on black backgrounds and on white backgrounds. On a day like any other, I discover that they can become animated shapes, maybe white, maybe with wings… seagulls that let the river current lead them slowly to the sea, on top of the water… And it's all part of this large painting: everyday cruelty, indifferent, uncatchable love between a word and another, frozen despair, from a supermarket freezer.
Incredibly, the inventory can save us, it is the memory of what we have lost and of what is left. Peremptorily it comes towards us from the back of a notebook or of a square sheet of paper, fifty by fifty, maybe on the bottom right, on the wall.
The sentences were copied, heard, found. Not everybody will understand them, maybe they are just for imaginary people or for people that do not exist anymore. Messages left next to the telephone of previous tenants, by unknown friends, by people met on the train, by porters waiting for the penalty kick… a great puzzle with light evidence of a precarious existence…..
…The smoke of a cigarette, tandis que vous vous sentez coupable.
...The day after. Eternity? Morning diluted by the sun.
…Se coucher ensemble, cela était beau, le paysage était beau.
...An uphill road that takes nowhere.
…On top of a tower cut in two.
…I was proud of owning all the possible landscapes.
I made the portrait of doctor Gachet, in the beginning of June 1890.
I spent Valentine's day with an artist dressed in black, a dark guy, a strict guy but then who says that he found celebrities, or chivalrous adventures, or free thinkers in love ridiculous?
…Here's to me, to the story of one of my foolish acts.
…I invented the colour of vowels: A black, E white, I red, O blue, U green.
…May the gone times of the days in love return.
You, since always arriving, going everywhere.

Rome, February 1979

No wave can comb the sea…

No wave can comb the sea… This is the fragment of a poem by Dylan Thomas which has poked my soul for months.
It is maybe chance that one day led me to the sea (an extraordinary year of work). Every morning, a bruised and shiny dawn to surprise me, aggressing me in front of that plain made of water-light-colour.
Waking up in the dark every morning, leaving the gorges and the cliffs that surround my house… every morning a surprise, melancholy, the regret for the paintings of, on for the sea, that for so many years accompanied my life as a painter.
The sea is one hour away from my house, almost two; to approach it, I drive silently for a an hour, sometimes two, the countryside is grey, then it's green, then it's yellow, according to the seasons and the blue, afterwards, reaches me, worn out by light and by the hours, like a new face every day.
The countryside is quiet, always looking like itself for days and months; the sea is never the same and changes from one hour to the next, its hairstyle changes according to the currents, to the wind, to a sailboat, to the wing of a seagull.
No wave gives the sea a final look, no wave manages to untangle it, calm it down, tame it, intimidate it; but a wave can love it, caress it, know it, run over it.
With fury or sweetness, up to its very end, to that foaming (desirable!) end.
One day, the passion for Thomas's poem had become more violent, and I began to insert it here and there in a painting, in a sketch, in a watercolour… the verse and its analogical image, the colour and its memory, its shadow.
Just like when you can't remember a word, a name that you have to mention to someone and that word, that very word, re-emerges at a later time and in a different space… just like that event, the time came in which I understood why I was experiencing such an obsessive attraction.
No painting can "comb" painting …
And the discovery that my name, in German, means "wave maker". Make waves, but why? To try and comb the sea?
But we just said that no wave can: but in its being condemned to rhythm, or in its rhythmic game, for love or for fun, for hatred or fear, it tries and tries to infinity.
I think about my painting a picture after another, year after year, as if it were a wave pushed by the sea by the wind, forming and reforming itself.
The sea just stays there, like art, like painting, ready to change but immutable at the same time.
Unlike the wave, I know how I can change the sea, painting, art but exactly like the wave I will ride painting, art, until that foaming (and I hope desirable) end.

Calcata, July 1985

"Fire in the water"

Simona Weller, you express yourself with painting and writing, which one of the two media do you think best suits your communication?
This is a question they asked me on Sunday afternoon, in Novembre 1995. It was a stranger, a member of a cultural centre in Pescara.
More and more often, people ask me to tell them about myself. I think this is a consequence of time going by and of my many "militancies". In Pescara I am a debutant writer, in Modena a well-known painter, in Verona a critic dealing with the Theory on the difference of feminine sign in creativity…
I answered the lady in Pescara that writing has the ability to penetrate and spread out, a characteristics that painting, even 1800 painting, does not have. A small book, printed in a thousand copies, follows paths that multiply like the circles of a stone thrown in a pond. It speaks, dialogues, thus communicates with many people. A painting, as a unique specimen, never gets this chance. Nor do a thousand paintings by one same author. An artist exhibiting in Rome, may sell in Paris and export to New York, following an itinerary that is unknown to the large audience. A painting, even the most known and celebrated, does not leave any trace behind itself. Except, of course, in the world of art workers, that sort of international sect, in which the economical-political interests are badly mixed with the cultural ones. But this is another story.
If writing has therefore more echo than painting, the communication problem still remains. What can a painting communicate that is different from a book?
If we exclude ideological propaganda, that certain involvement that in the Sixties-Seventies exalted bad work by bad artists, and if we discard feminist realism, another misunderstanding that minced up the talent of many naive amateur provincial female artists, all we have left is the memory of one's own history.
But don't you think that I want to paint a family saga: portraits of ancestors, the stories of grandmothers who were hindered from playing an instrument or from painting.
Memory is the first root of contemporary painting, intimately linked to the discoveries of psychoanalysis, to unconscious, to dreams, to symbols, to the happenings of life. Detail becomes universal. This is what I mean by memory. Where a feminist slogan from the Seventies immediately becomes revealing. So, private becomes political? I think so. My private history is the story of an apprenticeship to awareness. The story of an unsolved conflict between a romantic artist's view and a merciless System. A system that overturns all values, all the certainties of young person who believed in art. Thinking that she was able of expressing herself, convinced to be able to participate, with her talent, in the construction of a portion of the road of human History.
With the recklessness and arrogance of youth, something in between Don Quixote and Joan D'Arc, thirty years ago I knocked on the door of the temple… a masterpiece a day keeps the critic away: these are the words of a late Sixties song by Giamaica from Milan.
Back then, my friends had told me. For my whole life I would have had to prove that I was an artist. Well, their strategy is to wear you out, to make you start over and over again. Just another way to get rid of the weaker ones.
Am I a winner?
Maybe I am, because I worked without commissioners, because I rebelled to the terrorism of critics and fashion, because I always painted, without overexposing myself, while I grew and renovated myself.
I am here to propose a new type of painting, though still linked to writing. A relevant writing, as if overwhelmed by the four elements.
How do you make one of these paintings?
You work on the matter, making it as soft as clay. You work in tension, because each sign must maintain a certain structural consistency.
In order to obtain this, I think of the fragment of a word, one of my words like mare (sea), onda (wave), erba (grass), alba (dawn). This allows me to never make the sign redundant, to not change it into a pattern, but to give it the same elasticity of a handwriting, the same variability of a wave.
The four elements have always been present in my work. I now managed to make them live together, making up a technique of my own.
Sometimes it is the wind that gives air to the painting, some other times it is the water that creates the rain effect, some other times it is fire that burns the sign until it crumples it up, others it is the earth, the idea of the loved earth, to enter the painting like a furrow.
When I am in my studio I feel myself boil, like a volcano. I work in a trance until I am exhausted. In the evening, when I lock the door behind me, I don't think of my paintings anymore. I dive into what surrounds me, the surroundings of Calcata. The green of the woods, the noise of the stream, the sun that rises and sets behind the hill, the moon that encloses the village in an enchanted net, the memories that come and go like night birds. And sometimes they caress you and give you sense of cold, some other times, a sense of heat.
In the morning, when I open the door again, my paintings are there, looking at me from another life. They seem so beautiful or so ugly to me. I face the ugly ones as enemies. I start a body-to-body fight, until the colours start singing again, until the structure works. By structure I mean the space that the painting captures and the space it rejects. The air around it and the load-bearing shadow, the connections between the warm shades and the cold ones.
It is an ambition of mine to make every painting that leaves my studio crunchy as freshly baked bread and, just like bread, warm.
Oven and bread; painting and woman; maybe these binomials hold the mystery of sensual vitalism that inspires my nature and the sign of my difference.
When I rip and tear, when I gather, around my sign, crumpled up draughts of wind, I don't think of Lucio Fontana; I think of Artemisia Gentileschi.
I feel the rage with which the great Caravaggian painter reveals that a woman artist can be fierce when she is forced to survive.
And excuse the emphasis!

Rome, December 1995

Letters to Van Gogh

I have always felt an irrational love for the act of writing, before that of drawing. I was fascinated by my grandmother's handwriting and by my father's, inclined to the right, coloured in blue or green. I still wasn't able to read (but I learnt at four) when I first took a pen-nib in my hands, plunged it into a small bottle of green ink and voluptuously filled the sheets of a black covered copybook. I traced odd signs, carefully inclined to the right, like the handwriting of the adults. I believed I was writing all that I now think and know how to express and that was enough for me. During adulthood I have always written letters to everybody, to understand myself and to understand, to console me and to console. In my archive I keep hundreds of letters written to my mother during the years at the boarding-school. Small, harrowing sheets, decorated with blue ink and little naïve drawings, blurred by tears. Then, after the years at the academy and the painting apprenticeship I found out again and took possession of the poetry of the copybook pages and the children's blackboards. But I was an educated woman by then and through my painting I played the child as well as the child used to play the adult. So the child of the seventies dedicated to Van Gogh her canvas filled with a coloured writing, woven out of words like corn, crow, sky; or else canvas whose background was as black as the blackboards with this writing on:
Composition: paint a cornfield with crows on the wing.
But - like all the things you find by chance, effortlessly - I did not appreciate that intuition and did not work it out the way I should have. I had to go on for a research whose goals were always farther.
In the year two thousand I met Ronald de Leeuw, nowadays director of the Rijksmuseum, but before then of the Van Gogh Museum. Ronald gave me as a present the books he wrote collecting the letters Vincent sent his brother Theo or even the letters written by friends after Vincent's death. Reading those letters, so rich in nuances and poetry, filled with suggestions on life and painting, the imitative instinct of childhood came back to me. So, together with a new friendship (with Ronald), these new paintings (for Vincent) were born. Their background is a light blue, like the ancient writing paper. There are blurred parts, rubbings, superimpositions of sentences and images just like in a notebook or on a blackboard.
Then, of course, there is Van Gogh. Symbol of all those artists that work silently, believing in painting, keeping themselves from limelight. Then, of course, there is me. An old child that after thirty years goes back to a work left unfinished, allowing herself the right to appreciate the importance of her own invention. In some paintings in fact you will find a "well" or a "good"… Just a bit of self-encouragement…

Calcata, March 1985

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