Paola Santagostino – Milano, Italy
I re-met painting at the height of a long career as Psychoanalyst, but it was a much older and earlier love: perhaps the first. As a girl I was practicing in the studios of artists, but then my life took a different path and for many years I worked in Psychosomatic Medicine, discovering the links between mind and body and the roots of physical and mental well-being. In addition to clinical practice I published many books, wrote hundreds of articles and conducted courses, and I still do, but my love for painting continued to re-emerge in other forms, driving me to explore the symbolic meaning of colours and their psycho-physical effects in the environments in which we live (a topic on which I published the book “Il colore in casa” Ed. Feltrinelli). So finally I decided to registered to the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera and graduated in Painting completing my studies.
Dedicating myself full time to painting, as I am actually doing, has meant for me to open a new cycle of life, in which my artistic and professional passions have magically met, integrating with each other and merging into a daily practice capable of accommodating both knowledge.
My artistic language springs from my professional activity: when I hold a session of psychoanalysis, I need ‘paper and pencil’, not for taking notes but for drawing ‘signs’ that follow the concatenation of my thoughts. They are circles, arrows and sometimes a word, but my brain needs to connect to my hand to work more lucidly. While I speak I follow with drawing the development of the speech, I organize it for points and connection lines, I visualize it in an almost geometric way as a network of concepts. Personally I would throw away those sheets of paper when I finish to talk, for me they have already exhausted their function, but my patients take them out of my hand, even go to recover them from the wastepaper basket, asking to keep them for remember what we said, and really, observing them, I too can see the thread of the discourse we have just done.
While studying at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera I decided to give shape to those signs and to transform them paintings with a pictorial value and their own poetry. I started working on the most common signs in my paper sheets and the one that immediately attracted my attention was the elliptical circle, or rather a series of elliptical circles that in my personal visual vocabulary meant ‘WE’: we, many different people, each one with its uniqueness and its character, which put together create a ‘situation’. As the work proceeded, those ellipses began to appear to me as a ‘stream of thoughts’: a succession of ideas that run after each other and overlap creating a state of mind.
All together my ellipses create an ‘atmosphere’, allude to an emotion: combining gesture and color, I can express a rather well defined state of mind. The acrylic colors proved to be the most suitable because quickly drying allows those continuous overlaps that characterize my work, and because they force me to maintain a ‘intense and continuous’ concentration: this is a type of work that does not allow mistakes or second thoughts, a single wrong gesture ruins everything without remedy. From all this research came the series of painting that I called “PENSIERI”.
Then I took an evolutionary leap: my ellipses were like a single ‘word’ while I wanted to paint the whole dialogue, with all its different steps and links, with all the variations and changes in the emotional tone. From this new research came out a second series of paintings that I called “DISCOURSES”. Here my signs are a sort of ‘writing’ done with closed eyes and the left hand (to stimulate the intuitive right side of the brain) they are sentences connected to each other, painted during a dance that involves the whole body. The more pronounced central line indicates ‘the thread of discourse’ and links together the various concepts, while the thinner signs are the related minor topics, the colors correspond to the symbolism of the theme and of its single elements. In very small but readable characters I sometimes add some considerations or provocative questions, and at the very end I draw a ‘summary’ underlying the most important points with a nearly invisible white oil pastel.
More recently I developed a new series of painting called “PSYCHOANALYTIC SESSIONS”: these are true worksheets of “real” sessions of psychotherapy, they are mental maps of hours of dialogue in which we touched many different themes of the fascinating complexity of the inner life. I visualize the main focal points, the connections between past experiences and habitual reactions, the psychological patterns and mental habits that built the present behaviour: it is all written, drawn, painted on these canvasses.
When we look at an abstract painting our mirror neurons are activated and follow the movements of the artist’s brush, so they reproduce the emotion that has moved those gestures, and allow us to perceive the mood of the artist ‘during’ the execution of the painting: it is a physiological transmission that goes directly from one unconscious to the other and set the foundations of empathy and subliminal understanding of an art’s work. With my paintings I want to convey a feeling of joy, vitality and openness to the infinite possibilities of existence, this is the reason why I have developed a personal technique to convey that specific kind of energy, so my paintings are not just colored canvasses but small spaceships: vehicles for a message that reaches those who observe them and fills the surroundings…
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