What has not been said, written, even shouted about Venice? Stereotypes about the Queen of the Adriatic, whether good or bad, cloud the minds of visitors even before they see her silhouette from the end of Ponte della Libertà–the only connection between Venice and the mainland. Quotations from a thousand and one authors deafen the perceptions of visitors. Venice is music to Nietzsche’s ears; Venice is love, beating in Peggy Guggenheim’s breast; Venice is a dream in Abraham Yehoshua’s nights.
Venice is everything. And the opposite of everything. Look at her in August, pushed underwater by the feet of millions of tourists. With no rain in sight, umbrellas wave in her skies: only it’s the umbrellas of tourist guides, using them to lead the way for the long columns of people, sweaty and bewildered. The Venetians are hibernating on the Lido or in the mountains, fleeing from the heat, the humidity and the crowds. Only the souvenir shops remain open. August is a glimpse into a dystopian future on which tourists base their cold judgments. “Beautiful, but I couldn’t imagine living here” is the eternal refrain that resounds through the calli.
In mid-September, when the calli become less and less crowded and the last person at the Venice Film Festival boards a train to Milan, Venice slowly and timidly resurrects. Venetians peep out of their homes and plunge once again into the daily routine that gives the Serenissima the resemblance of a city every autumn. Not as many words have been spent on the Venetians–Venice’s only real hope. Despite everything, they insist on calling the city home. Yet on their faces, anonymous in their timeless everydayness, Vittorio Marella’s brush lingers.
A 25-year-old Venetian, Marella has been professionally painting since his penultimate year of high school. Born and raised, both personally and professionally, in the city, the young artist certainly does not pursue the token, conventional images of postcard paintings. His research, based on personal experience, is aimed at Venetian reality.
“Painting the Venice of stereotypes does not interest me. My intention is not to make the city recognisable. I am convinced that only a Venetian or a particularly fond tourist could recognise it in my work. Venice is and is not in my paintings.”
In the spaces of the Lineadacqua gallery Moving Stillness (his first solo exhibition in the lagoon) portrays the everyday moments in people’s lives when they come face to face with themselves. The gaze of his paintings’ protagonists, almost always hidden from viewers, is lost in the horizon from a real and metaphorical perspective.
Moving Stillness Linea 51
Moving Stillness Linea 4.2
“I am convinced of the need to rediscover a truer and deeper connection with the world, now polluted by consumerism, and to learn to still be curious about the simple things. Through painting, I cultivate this attitude that allows me to sincerely and passionately study everything around me, even the most seemingly trivial things. From this profound obsession with my natural surroundings comes my need to paint, and Venice being my city, it can only emerge, albeit indirectly, from my paintings.”
The allusive use of shadows–which Marella’s figures, often caught traveling on running vaporettos, throw themselves into or escape from–is the bridging element between reality and a utopian elsewhere. His work, often described as presenting elements of magic realism, has an underlying mesmerizing dualism. On one hand, his characters are often immersed in their own solitude, absorbed by their restlessness: they are individual, tending towards the exclusion of the other. On the other hand, the absence of distinctive signs marking the singular persons make his art extraordinarily susceptible to identification by the observer.
In the painting Moving Stillness: 4.2, the growing loneliness of the Venetians is emphasized by the figure of a young man who enters a vaporetto and is swallowed up by the shadows. The face, which we see in one of the rearview mirrors, has the expression of a man being carried by the current towards an inevitable destiny. The shadows that dominate the painting and into which the man surrenders are a metaphor for the historical parabola of Venice, now destined to aridity at the hands of mass tourism. And it is always the shadows, on whose balance Marella’s paintings are centered, that condition the warmth his paintings leave on the minds of the beholder. In Moving Stillness: 5.1, the painted person is in the same spot on the vaporetto as the character immortalized in Moving Stillness: 4.2. In this instance, the man is seen from inside the steamer, thus reversing the point of view and the symbolic meaning of the image. The painting is imbued with hope, infused by the light in which the vanishing point is placed. Although loneliness is also present in this piece, proving the ubiquity of elements of social denunciation in Marella’s work, the boy in the painting stares at the horizon, his gaze turned towards the world and the warmth of its light. As if to say that perhaps, for the moment, all is not lost.
“The choice of representing distant, inaccessible and solitary figures is not only motivated by my personal taste. I want to speak about a city that is suffering but resists, like its inhabitants, even though there are fewer and fewer of them. If we took away the millions of tourists invading the city, Venice would be just like in my paintings.”
It is a human, Venice, that of Marella’s paintings: real but suspended outside time and space thanks to the transcendent importance of the existential questions painted between brushstrokes. A Venice that is little talked about, far from the hubbub of the crowds and the gold of the mosaics. A Venice that is a slow city, at a walking pace, where humans are able to reflect upon themselves in the green lagoon waters and join a chorus of ancient and universal questions. A Venice that still exists, but is gradually being lost.
Museum: Ca’ Pesaro and the Natural History Museum. I like the Natural History Museum very much, and I go there very often.
Off the beaten path: The end of a street near my house on the Lido overlooking the lagoon. I walk past it almost every day and I really like to turn my head as I walk, just for a second to see the horizon with the water and the islands and then go straight on.
Area: Via Garibaldi, where I love to drink the typical draft beer.
Place for a walk: I Murazzi, the ‘wild’ Lido beach.
Primo Pomeriggio con i cani
Studi di bagnanti
Uomo in battello
Studi di bagnanti