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At Home

Lea Mattarella — At Home, 2008

Let us begin with feet. Or rather, shoes. That is, from the end; from the final image in this technicolor film conceived by Marina Sagona. No two ways about it: shoes speak. "They summarize and define" says Marina.

The shoes in question are propped up against an armchair, there is no body in them; they have no need of one. Alone they are enough to convey the message-let's get it out in the open, let's be frank: the worst is over. The protagonist of this image-tale is gathering her forces. In a moment she will stand up, open the door and leave the home that has in part protected her, in part held her prisoner. The end (a happy one, all things considered). Roll credits.

“I wanted to talk about intimacy and the claustrophobia of domestic life utilizing the phisical space of a home”.  Marina's tenacious exploration of the home deserves close attention, for it is not exactly all that it might appear to be at first glance. Her style is light and lively. Even when monochromatic, her paintings give the impression of expressing itself through colour. Her brushstrokes are soothing, everything flows free of obstacles. Glancing at her works, the viewer is struck by a certain sense of joyfulness: they seem forever in perfect harmony with the world. When drawing, Marina is in control of the situation in every way.

Yet these splinters of life—confined, walled in, trapped behind tightly drawn curtains—also exude pain, the visible presence of absence, emptiness intended as loss and not as a natural, peaceful and even indispensable counterpart to fullness.That bed perfectly made, those raindrops slightly hindered, and a little injured, the marks that cover the kitchen space and finally enclose it, the skeleton in the closet that becomes a mirror of the artists surrounded by ornamental elements; all are stories of melancholy, of silent and intimate solitudes, of fear and anger. Case in point: when Marina depicts household linen, the material she uses is fabric from her own house, one that she inhabited in a previous life. Here between dazzling lemon yellow stripes, her shadows move.

They reside in a beautiful world: this we must acknowledge. Yet one feels that they are forced to be there, vestals that repeat the same involuntary gestures, angels of the hearth whose opinion nobody has bothered to ask. Shattered dreams, dashed hopes. And there you are, doing the ironing. Exiled from yourself.But Marina Sagona is an artist of the Almodóvar school. Her women do not surrender, they shower in their high-heels, and they reclaim life and drag it to safety.  Indeed there is the figurine showering with her shoes on: she seems an icon of daring femininity. “Good ideas flow under the shower,” suggests Marina.

In this case the illumination must really be a stroke of genius—like the one that here chose silk and cotton as materials with which to depict household linen. Linen thereby interprets itself. In the end, and in spite of everything, one perceives the scent of lightness, an irresistible insolence victoriously insisting upon its right to be however and whatever it wants. The clouds looming over the kitchen are whisked away by life's breeze. And then there are the objects. Marina's god of small things transforms them into amulets that exorcise suffering.

Books, a teapot, Mozart, photographs, masks, and so on, represent for Marina “self-portraiture via objects of daily use.” Identity—that is, existence in this world—is composed of so man pieces of a puzzle that mysteriously fit together.

Viewing this exhibition and the book that accompanies it is a little like thumbing through a photograph album in which we finally recognize a part of ourselves.How often have we felt that way, just like her, amid the chairs and tables that flow together and ebb away from one another as if they were people? We can't, at this point, avoid mentioning “Mobili nella valle” (“The Furniture in the Valley”), pieces of furniture that de Chirico imagined in conversation together. We know that it is possible that our frames of mind are mirrored in the corners of our homes, almost oozing from them. Such things do happen. And so, here is Marina's work resembling that of the Proustian author, a "kind of optical instrument that makes it possible for the reader to discern what, without this book, he would perhaps never have seen in himself.

The boundaries of this story, the confines of this living room in which one can be transformed into animals as in the oldest myths (for if we turn to the East, we all have the same destiny) are those where redemption comes in the end. In the room of her own that Virginia Woolf dreamed of  for her Judith one can first and foremost fantasize and collect one's own thoughts, and show them in some way or another. Just as Marina has done by creating her constellation of domestic "moments of being". They are ours, too. For this reason I return to the beginning; that is, to the end of this sequence of images, to those shoes with the little belt cinched tight around the ankle. There, I see them walking, they step over the doorsill. Now, the woman wearing them has her back to me, she’s in the street, wearing the same green dress that earlier she had cut into pieces. She looks a little like Marina. Just a little. For the most part she resembles us.

(Translation by Michael Reynolds)