A door always implies a threshold, a tear in the fabric of reality. It suggests transition, a passage which is emotional before it is environmental. Even the entrance which opens the Church of Madonna del Pozzo at Porta Monterone out onto the street – and through it, to the city – suggests a limit, a boundary between sacred and profane, past and present, the lived and hoped for. This is a special place, one sanctified by faith and exalted by art every month for the past eighteen years.
Having been invited to design a site-specific installation, Evita Andujar has redefined the small form, connecting both filled and empty spaces, substance and thought. By reflecting on the notion of the threshold – here intended in a metaphorical as well as a material sense, as a demarcation line between the desired and the realised, between feeling and being – the artist has given shape to a sensitive installation, interacting with both the host space and the community which relates to it, regardless of whether the ultimate aim of the relationship is the need for the divine or pure, ecstatic contemplation.
Divine grace encapsulates this liminal state, representing an unreachable destination for man on one hand and, on the other, an indication of heavenly presence and omnipotence.
Grace and threshold are the twin concepts around which the artist has fashioned her response. A miraculous veil, almost a shroud, seems to fall from the Virgin all the way to the miraculous well – an access point beyond the accessible – establishing the small church as an interval between light and dark, human and superhuman. Appearing on the altar shelf by way of a trompe l’oeil opening, the previously invisible cloth becomes tangible at the front before disappearing down the well, site of the magical and miraculous. On the canvas the artist has painted scraps of bodies: a series of new ex voto, prayers for individual and collective grace; these are incongruous images, similar to alchemical transmutations, which Evita gleans from bodily reality, only to then transform them into pure mixtures of light and colour, as the residues of an alienated humanity that leaves behind only relics devoid of holiness.
Foregoing storytelling and any attempt at didacticism in favour of a “pure” form of painting, the artist taps into an abstract dimension, bringing forth the specific – personal – instance, the universal example, and thus transforms the single episode into a human drama of broad relevance. Her painting is characterised by frenzied, primitive and instinctive gesture, where parts of the anatomy are reduced to quickly outlined, simple shapes. Evita focuses her research on themes of life and death with an impulsive hand that is always careful to mine the infinite possibilities of colour – now vibrant, now more subdued in pearly gleams – avoiding all decoration. Her intuition is moulded into the brush, and that inner fire remains engraved in the pictures, rendering the painting a “distillery in which emotional states come alive” (Clark Coolidge). In the course of its elaboration, the work is transformed from an object to be contemplated to a subject which observes and interprets its surrounding environment, in a balanced dialogue that generates empathy with the spectator. By coming into view lower down, the cloth is imbued with profound significance, acting as a thread between the Virgin and the well, and conjuring not only the miraculous properties of its location but also the aspirations of the faithful who have entrusted their hopes to the Madonna for centuries. Today, in an era of compromised faith, the cloth’s descent enacts a cathartic rite through which the spectator can lose themselves in mystery – potentially that of the divine, but also of knowledge and the unknown. Similar to a prayer, Evita Andújar’s painting in Spoleto acts as a channel for grace, drawing our attention to the subversive and at the same time redemptive role of beauty.