The current exhibition in Bagni di Lucca’s Town Hall foyer was for me quite a revelation. Having been used to Antonella Prontelli’s contribution to art as being a painter of the characteristic gesso statuettes of Bagni di Lucca, a task which she did with the maximum care, I was unaware of the creativity which permeates the paintings in her exhibition.
Prontelli’s steady hand is evident in the preciseness of lines and the attention to even the smallest details but now for the first time she has emerged as a true artist in her own right. The exhibition pictures could be divided into political statements, natural history representations, domestic commentary and pure abstract.
In the first section the migration crisis may be interpreted in stylised Saharan desert scenes, a sub-aqua diver (could it be the dream fulfilment of drowning migrants or those sent to discover the corpses?), the mirage of a terra firma, and a Madonna of Mercy who reveals beneath her cloak instruments of war like tanks and warships. Below her is a characteristic death-boat crammed full of the migrants which are now flooding into Italy at a rate of a thousand a day, to say nothing of those who didn’t make in those cheap Chinese inflatable dinghies they now use (since Frontex, the border agency, has had orders to destroy all wooden boats carrying these desperate people and used by people-traffickers).
The second section reveals silhouetted outlines of some insects but the silhouette is confounded by abstract patterning and surrounded by different colour frames. Here there is an optical tug-of-war between abstract pattern and reality outlines. What do you see first?
The third section is for me the most successful. Here the wooden board is either painted on or inscribed and there are male and female human faces discernible in the outlines of the picnic lunch foods represented on characteristic tablecloths. There is clearly a close relationship between food and love symbolised here and again the details are excellently rendered.
In the centre of the hall is a piece of pure abstractionism. Whether it is a painted sculpture or a three-dimensional painting is something to ponder since the wooden board it is painted on is bevelled in round curves reflecting the picture itself. Again, the steady hand of Prontelli is something to wonder at.
It is most pleasing that the artist has finally displayed her true creative bent. Prontelli more than compensates for the relative scarcity of production in recent years by her artist partner Gilberto Malerbi (his own retrospective exhibition was cancelled – the only one to be so in the gallery’s history). It’s almost as if she has been able to channel his artistic aspirations into her own inimitable style which, although comprehending such influences as Op art, Chiricoan surrealism, neo-realistic tendencies and an almost Escher-like draughtsmanship, could , aside from a supposed abstract-surreal-realist label, truly be regarded as her own in every way.
We, therefore, look forwards to future developments in this artist’s technical and imaginative creativity with great interest.
The exhibition is on until 27th May and is open Monday to Saturday from 8 am to 2 pm.