The opening of the solo show for Vanni Saltarelli this past Friday at Rome’s 6° Senso Art Gallery was an extraordinary experience, akin to encountering an old friend. The charming, charismatic artist came down from his native region of Lombardy with a small group of friends to celebrate his first show in Italy’s capital. Saltarelli has had solo exhibits all over the world in the galleries of Paris, Vienna, Rotterdam, New York, Hamburg, Monte Carlo, Venice and Milan, displaying works in which he consistently celebrates the magnificence and strength of the female form.
“Perhaps not it is not a very original thing to say”, explains the artist, “but for me the female body is the shape of life. It’s the beginning of life. Something constantly beautiful. Animals fascinate me because they too are constant and unchanging, undergoing only minor mutations throughout the centuries. Nothing crucial in either physical aspect or habit. Putting these two subjects alongside one another is my quest for perfection”.
Despite maintaining his single distinct style throughout his body of work, Saltarelli’s pieces surprisingly accomplish to evoke moods of very different eras. The exhibit’s central work titled ‘Chicco D’Oro’ is modern, sexy, and suggestive. Whether intentionally or not, his crimson-lipped siren absolutely recalls the delicious pin-ups of the great Gil Elvgren. The work’s theatrical glam-grunge factor seems to almost mock the rest of the exhibition’s somber and dark tone; the schematic, dynamic nude exudes power, her steaming espresso suggesting energy and the cerise shoes her fleeting quality. In other words, if this were the world of fashion, these would be front row seats to an Alexander McQueen show: experimental, dark, and infinitely racy.
One the other hand looking at ‘Voglia di Volo’, depicting a crouching female nude from the back, overpowered by celestial force, introduces a different concept. Many of Saltarelli’s paintings, due to their inclusion of animals and nude female forms, unmistakably recall scenes from Greek mythology. ‘Voglia’ may be read as a sinister interpretation of the infamous encounter between Zeus and Danaë, during which the god turns into a shimmering cloud and visits the latter, fathering in this fantastic manner the hero Perseus.
A certain tension prevails between the graphics and the color in Saltarelli’s work: color is used scantily, yet when applied it often overwhelms the canvas, rendering an uneasy effect. The uncontrollable use of black, the artist explains, comes from the very same search for perfection – the painter begins with a rudimentary form and re-works it in the manner of a Penelopewerk, until all that is worthless disappears to reveal the principle and perfect, faceless female figure.
‘Corpi di Vento in Scena’ by Vanni Saltarelli
November 11 – Novembre 30, 2011
6° Senso Art Gallery – Via dei Maroniti 13/15 – Rome, Italy
by Ally Novgorodtseva