In 2011, Michele Lambo drew my attention to this artist from Terni, Caterina Ciuffetelli, assuring me that her work would interest me. Curious, I took a look on the internet to see what she was doing. From Michele’s descriptions I had understood that she focuses on signs and I was pleased to confirm this.
I became familiar with her early works, which were concentrated on signs and on the memory of them. Recently Caterina wrote to me asking me to look at her latest works and to give her my opinion of them, something I am glad to do. The nineteen works of art, small in size, using frottage, wax and monotypes, refocus her attention on the line of inquiry that she has been following for some time. Playing with references and signs, she seeks to offer new meanings and suggestions that evoke the insuppressible value of signs understood as traces, as evidence. Caterina recognises the value of the controlled and manipulated material and she makes an expressive use of it by ways of stratification and well-aimed interventions. In my opinion, she declares a strong affinity with writing and above all with signs to which she entrusts much of her expressive intentions. With nonchalance and using skilful stratigraphic signs, Caterina Ciuffetelli communicates with the observer in a narrative path that weaves its way between painting and literary influences, and her systematic contamination of genres and languages lead to interesting results and articulate a journey of untrodden paths.
This artist, by way of monochromatic overlapping and glazings, intercepts and highlights, layer after layer, grid after grid, the continuous flow of transformations and cross-referencing
of signs, which she creates using abrasive devices and lacerations that reveal her passion for the fragment which is capable of revealing unknown imaginative places and spaces and tells of oblivions and forgotten evocative representations. Erratic surfaces generate metaphors of contamination of sense and language; they become allegories of ideas that are alien to painting per se, troubling urban signals, fragments of lost civilisations, tales of neglected details of the urban reality. It is almost as if the artist is invoking an echo of a past to recover.
These new experiences, which fit into Caterina Ciuffetelli’s creative development that evolves from previous works, place her work within a genre of painting that can be described as refined and self-conscious. The artist’s conceptual palette is asserted by blacks, whites and ochres that become non-colours or hints of colour that operate in non-painting settings, in a self-confessed sharing of the precarious certainties of our confused and problematic brief human existence.
In these incomprehensible thought processes that lead to associations and references, which I sense in her work, there is a certain underlying tragic nature of material expression that she plays with using a refined calibration in those marks of pain on the surface that appear like wounds of the earth that metaphorically recall the traces of pain on a suffering face.
The titles of the works of art are not arbitrary; rather they reveal the artist’s clear plan and unveil well-defined intentions and interests.
The hole connotes an inside and an afterwards and hints at overlooked contents tied to expectation and desire. While the enclosed form of Random, between accidental and unwanted, keeps in consideration the formal balance of the structure. With Primordial and Prehistoric, an appeal to the past is entrusted to probable etchings on paper showing the artist’s interest in the value of the sign as trace of a foregone past. And, if to these we add One by one, which defers to the narration of a unspecified but definitive past, then her intention becomes very clear.
Landscape through casualty and invention, etchings, signs and lacerations, tackles the theme and analysis of human geography perceived with symbolic and cultural aims in a space rendered describable by the rectangular enclosed form in a dry and arid territory. The other conceptual work Diagram, a conventional representation of a structure being developed, explains and completes itself with Double question, one answer as a suitable reflection on a question to examine and resolve with a single solution.
It becomes evident, if not assumed, that the emotive suggestions and prompts as well as the evocative strength that these works offer could, to the militant art critic (which I am not), constitute a further reading of correlations and cultural references to examine.
To not appear in Caterina Ciuffetelli’s eyes as an uncritical critic, I avail myself of the convergences with other artists who are undoubtedly part of the artist’s cultural baggage. I am convinced that the artist, given that art comes from art and from its dialectic as Niki de Saint Phalle has rightly enunciated, embraces and understands experiences of previous artists.
These would include the matter painter Antoni Tàpies who with his dense impasto paint crossed by imprints, cracks and wrinkling does not attempt to reproduce pictorially reality, rather reality itself, the enclosed geometries of Mark Rothko sustained by emotive components, and to the dialogical relationship between the artist’s work and material in the informal experiments of Wols, Michaux, Fautrier, Dubuffet, up until Celiberti, and naturally Alberto Burri who worked on the expressive quality of frayed and used material.
Foundational experiences of artists who have preceded us constitute the skeleton and the necessary frame of reference to Caterina’s interesting work which continually asserts itself through the veiling and overlapping of the rigorously symmetric compositions based on the archetypes of the square and the circle as enclosed and definitive forms.
Caterina Ciuffetelli’s recent works do not require a complex nomenclature of materials since they, as well as the light that inundate them, are easily perceptible. In this essential uniformity of materials the surface matter is penetrated by the absorption of light awakening ancestral signs of consciousness signs perhaps better expressed as traces that allow the material to become writing; in this way one gets a sense of handwritten evidence that has the existential necessity of a page which, as a kind of square or rectangular monad, is pervaded by a geometrical contamination that contains a mysterious content. A page whose edges are a continuum of itself, allusive to the infinite dimension of space and time, categories from which it is impossibile to exit and which are impossible to enter.