Valter Esposito – Venice, A fish out of Water?

OCEANO, MARE N.1 (2008) 182X92 coll. privVenice. All the way back in 1934, the great Thomas Mann  found himself sitting on a sun bed on a  beach, in front of the Des Bains hotel in Lido, Venice, looking out over the splendid coastline as he wrote down the following words: “No other sea could be more beautiful for a swim and with a city like Venice nearby it becomes unique…”
The extraordinary city of Venice, dipped and cradled in water, has always been a true source of creativity for Marillina Fortuna, a perfect symbiosis with her concept of re-inventing art. And that’s just how this splendid exhibition came about. The chosen title “Venice, a fish out of water?”, not by chance, is taken from the exhibitions central piece which initially took its cue from Tiziano Scarpa’s book “Venice is a fish.” Venice is considered both a point of arrival as well as one of departure on a long journey on the Mediterranean sea…An exhibition route which has taken on the task of giving symbolism to numerous populations and races in the form of flowers, landscapes, but, overall, to fish which is the undisputed protagonist, playing a fundamental part in this artist’s works, born Venetian, but adopted Milanese.
We’ve got the piranha, the shark, dolphins and not to forget those marvellous whales. Above all, though, we’ve got a big sole (as Tiziano Scarpa refers to  it), Venice seen from a bird’s-eye-view. A work which, in a certain way, sums up the whole exhibition. This big sole, perfectly defined as “Venice, a fish out of water”, appears to be in an attempt to get away from its natural habitat and closer to land thus creating a sort of eternal bond. When you come to think of it, Venice with its unique being, becomes to the artist what the boxer is to the world of sports, a sort of metaphor of life, revolving round the Mediterranean Sea.
There is a detachment from superiority, nobility, maybe declined but never forgotten. The works which are sea tales: fish (Junk Fish), flowers (Junk Flowers), and landscapes (Junk Lands), all have a story to tell. These substantial assemblages of rejects, brought back to shore, assume a new form in a well defined image which, in many ways, set the idea of waste as an object against the idea of waste as material. All material is used exactly the way it was found without having been coloured or cut. They owe their new shape and context to Marilia’s elaborative skills giving the viewer pleasant sensations and frames of mind: they really do communicate something. It could be sadness, nostalgia but also joy and immediacy, this is the impact which Marillina Fortuna’s work gives you.  Her figure of speech is the resolute image which you instinctively understand from “Who loves me follows me” (just like the slogan of a famous jeans brand says) an assemblage in wood and plastic depicting an image of a whale showing the way to a group of fishes (cigarette lighters). Some of her works recall certain generalities of Enrico Bay, though their intentions differ, in seeing the Venetian Lagoon and the sea surrounding it as their protagonist.

Rombo (2005) coll.priv

Rombo (2005) coll.priv

As Marillina herself puts it “The sea (Mediterranean ), symbol of all seas: unique in its close relation between water and land and its people. Above all, the fish”.  Fish which might be or could be about to lose their vitality. As in the case of the melancholic, but at the same time, colourful “Bone shark”; an enormous shark in wood, iron and plastic which Ernest Hemingway would have loved. Or, not to forget, the agonizing  “Cat fish in a box” and “Ghost fish in a box”.
Nonetheless, there’s no intended action of protest to be recognized in these works, nor is it anarchic or provocative; if anything you might pick up, with a certain immediacy, on the pure pleasure and desire to create a “new figurativity”, as Omar Calabrese put it. A “figurativity” which recognizes the joyous aspect in the colourful flowers in “Big boss” (Grande Capo) of ‘ Collodi’  writer memory or take melancholic aspect of “Yellow Barbie!” exemplary with its uneasy look which (seems to want to) attracts attention thanks to a gill in the form of the famous american doll’s arm supported by a small cylinder/bottle (oxygen…?!)
With her “do-it-yourself” on the border between abstract and figurative, Marillina Fortuna treats us to  a different Venice (under the aspect of art), but well defined (under the aspect of every day life), as the “beheaded” queen of the Mediterranean sea…

Valter Esposito

This post is also available in: Italian