Art does not reproduce what we see; rather it makes us see
Endowed by a wide cultural and personal experience, Beatrice Tosi’s life trajectory has always been connected with the Art world : fashion, cinema, painting… She has exhibited her work in many group and solo shows in various Italian cities, in Europe and also outside of Europe, in Texas, Chile, Argentina. Tosi might be defined as a creator with a strong personality and ” the artist’s muse “. Here she introduces us to her two series of works, Torsos and Niñas.
In the series TORSOS, she guides us through her poetic and visual narrative to the interior of the human being. Defining a distinctive self-identity, the artist’s research generates a personal aesthetic. Thanks to the fragmentation of the human body and the complexity implied in it, the most intimate and hidden appears openly. The essential aspect is that artwork generates passion. The artist accomplishes it in order to express emotions of an aesthetic kind to enable us to deepen our knowledge of the artwork itself. The aim is to go beyond the portrayal having the freedom to establish one’s theme. The artist does not have an urge to educate on human anatomy; this task was previously performed by her predecessors, sublime artists of natural science and anatomy such as Michelangelo, Raphael, Dürer, Leonardo da Vinci or Andreas Vesalius. The latter, physician of Spanish Kings Charles V and Philip II, was considered one of the most relevant figures in medical investigation of all time. In 1543 Andreas Vesalius together with Jan van Calcar, Titian’s disciple, published De humani corporis fabrica, the first Renaissance illustrated anatomy book. At that time women were culturally excluded from fine arts, especially painting and sculpture, although already in the 16th century a few ladies started to transform Renaissance mentality where virtue and wit were meant to be positive attributes for women artists. Among the great women artists in the Italy of that age, Louise Moillon, Lavinia Fontana, Properzia de Rossi, Elisabetta Sirani and Artemisia Gentileschi stood out, and especially Sofonisba Anguissola who distinguished herself more than anybody else. Closer to our times, the German physician Fritz Kahn (1888-1968) used mechanical metaphors to explain how the human body functioned in the society of the early 1920s, where machines invaded daily life. Dr. Kahn’s comparison of the human body to a machine’s gear was a typical study of his epoch.
In the series Torsos, Tosi represents human bodies, both masculine and feminine without head and limbs. Such representation comes to the artist as an inheritance of her own Italian culture; hence the capacity of art as formative potential, because the artwork arises from experience and social input. According to Lev Vigotsky, a Russian psychologist (1896-1934), social environment influences cognition through its own instruments, namely its cultural objects. The artist’s Torsos are fragmented and interconnected in a human matter background essential to life, the cells, bones, lymphatic tissue, amniotic fluid, and cerebral cortex, which is the organ allowing us to perceive, imagine, think and take decisions.
A common peculiarity of the feminine torsos is a belt tied to the waist, its symbology dating from ancient times. The belt was considered an object having curative properties, hence its apotropaic character: a magical power to protect against negative or evil energies. The King Eurystheus ordered King Heracles, in his Ninth Labour, to strip Hippolyta’s girdle. She was the Queen of the Amazons, the mythical warrior women. The belt was a gift by the queen’s father, the god, Ares. The Amazons were women of great physical and psychological strength. They had their male children adopted; furthermore, they cut off their right breasts to use the bow with full freedom. It is in this way that Tosi applies the plastic representation of the belt around the naked skin as a defense symbol to endow courage and serenity to the horsewomen. In the Old Testament, the belt was considered one among God’s talismans.
In the series NIÑAS, the artist decides to put a face to the bodies. She resumes the myth of Medusa, but again under her personal prism. The art historian Panofsky (1892-1968) mentioned the recovery of mythology within Art History starting from Antiquity, through the Renaissance, up to the age of Modern Art. History tells us that the goddess Athena turned beautiful Medusa’s hair into a tangle of snakes, which punished with petrification whoever would dare to look at her with love. This myth came from Libya, where Medusa was worshipped by Libyan Amazons, together with their snake goddesses. Originally, the Medusa symbolized knowledge, feminine mysteries, and nature cycles, although later on, she was turned into a malign monster. Unfortunately, that supreme feminine knowledge had been silenced and its power went under men’s control. Dalí’s enigmatic painting, Comienzo automático de un retrato de Gala, 1932, shows some tree branches growing unexpectedly from his spouse’s hair. Dalí turns his eye to mythology through Apollo and Daphne’s story where impossible love leads to drama. Glen Vause, the Australian painter, recreates the Medusa myth following its original interpretation: that she is a beautiful and intelligent being. Tosi’s Niñas take us to the primordial origin of Medusa. The poetics developed by Tosi transform the niñas into special and magical beings without fear or ties. They are pure beings aiming at improving society in our present historical and artistic context. They are good-natured beings, and we need them because they help us ameliorate our world since they treasure feminine mysteries. Thanks to a realistic technique with surrealistic elements, we find ourselves in front of the artist’s personal oneiric or magical realism. Observing these works we feel moved by a combination of objectivity and imagination through the modification of reality with fanciful actions realistically exposed in a special atmosphere. A pelvis crowning the head, and lungs and a heart suspended in space, are examples where we notice how the artist masters technique and colour. Man’s existence consists of overcoming his own being; therefore, Maria Zambrano, a Malagueña philosopher, claims that one could define man as the being at once enduring his transcendence, as well as striving to transcend his primary dream.
Kandinsky claimed that the artist’s goal is not the imitation of nature, although it could be done artistically; rather, what really matters, is to express his intimate world. In this way, Beatrice Tosi defines her painting as a metaphor; she affirms that we look to our own insides in order to observe our thoughts, and in so doing, we realize the intelligence and beauty of our body, the divine beyond matter, until we come to understand that All is One.
The artist’s work is the result of her personal philosophical research.
Dolores Vargas Jiménez
Art Historian (PhD)