Il pittore e la modella

Texts by Ermanno Cristini, Simona Squadrito, Rossella Moratto
October-November 2017

Il pittore e la modella

Texts by Ermanno Cristini, Simona Squadrito, Rossella Moratto
October-November 2017

Pedro Andrare, Simona Barbera, Cesare Biratoni, Vincenzo Cabiati, Gianluca Codeghini, Ermanno Cristini, Leonel Cunha, Mario Dellavedova, Marta Dell’Angelo, Flavio de Marco, Alessio de Girolamo (in collaboration with Elisa Mossa), Gabriele Di Matteo, Ivana Fall, Matteo Fato, Joao Fonte, Pino Guidolotti, Armida Gandini, Giovanni Hanninen, Sebastiano Impellizzeri, Francesco Lauretta, Jorge Leal, Corrado Levi, Andrea Mastrovito, Concetta Modica, Angelo Mosca, Giancarlo Norese, Federica Pamio, Luca Pancrazzi, Giustina Pancrazzi, Pedro Pascoinho, Stefano Peroli, Steve Piccolo, Federico Pietrella, Luca Scarabelli, Carlos Seabra.

Il Pittore e la modella. Il rumore dello sguardo o il corpo che guarda, develops the experience of a group of Italian artists (Ermanno Cristini, Luca Scarabelli, Cesare Biratoni, Armida Gandini and Federica Pamio) who took part in the residency in Aveiro in Portugal in 2016, on the initiative of a group of Portuguese artists, mostly painters. It was because of a conversation between Ermanno Cristini and Simona Squadrito, a young Milanese art critic who also had experience as a life model, that the Portuguese residency concentrated on the tradition of life drawing, apparently not as common as it once was.

Comunicato stampa

35 artists investigate one of the most explored areas in fine art.

Each of them interpreted it in their own medium, taking part in an exhibition/workshop in an environment open to confrontation and debate.

The exhibition was articulated over three floors in the vast spaces of Assab One with paintings, drawings, photographs, videos, installations, acoustic pieces and performances and included a series of meetings correlated with the exhibition held during the inauguration and over the following days.

The Painter and the Model develops the experience of a group of Italian artists (Ermanno Cristini, Luca Scarabelli, Cesare Biratoni, Armida Gandini and Federica Pamio) who took part in the residency in Aveiro in Portugal in 2016, on the initiative of a group of Portuguese artists, mostly painters. It was because of a conversation between Ermanno Cristini and Simona Squadrito, a young Milanese art critic who also had experience as a life model, that the Portuguese residency concentrated on the tradition of life drawing, apparently not as common as it once was.

The preliminary meetings with Luca Pancrazzi, Marta Dell’Angelo and Elena Quarestani at Assab One and the rare availability of its vast and articulated space with the freedom offered by this particular context, opened up the possibility of broadening the sphere of contemplation to a wider variety of artistic practices and extend the invitation to the numerous artists who took part in the exhibition, creating a choral work that remained open to further interventions.

…or the sound of a look, by Ermanno Cristini

“Did you notice anything?” asked Poussin of Porbus.
“No. Did you?”

Thus wrote Balzac, in his The Unknown Masterpiece, almost confirming the words of Celan, for whom “speaks true who speaks shadow”. The painter and the model is a recurring theme in the world of art; its truth lies in the confusion of a body, the model’s, meeting another body, that of the artist.

A “catastrophe”, the painting, that takes place at close quarters and in which the subject is constantly changing. In short, a metamorphic and elusive dialogue that can only be resolved by looking through closed eyes in order to see, with Bataille, what exceeds the possibility of being seen.

So this exhibition was inspired by research into “that other” nudity that goes beyond all nudity; an almost secret dimension, a question of porous, blurred borders, of misunderstood boundaries, pursued in a dialogue between artists engaged in exchanging views on the question: the body? Where is the body?

It originated from a residency/exhibition held in 2016 in Aveiro, Portugal, on the invitation of a group of Portuguese artists and on the initiative of Cesare Biratoni, Luca Scarabelli and myself

Following a few conversations I had with Simona Squadrito, a young Milanese art critic who also had experience as a life model, the exhibition in Portugal decided to investigate this recurring theme in painting, prevalently concentrating on the nature of the ‘relationship’ it implies.

The exhibition in Milan, developed in collaboration with Marta Dell’Angelo, Luca Pancrazzi and Elena Quarestani introduces the nucleus of the Portuguese show but broadened its range with the introduction of other artists and with the intention of “problematizing” the subject, throwing light on the questions it raises, even touching on aspects such as sound, which would appear to be far removed from the “setting” of life painting. The discovery of an element of sound in an eminently visual medium also means investigating the swish of a painting when the body becomes an image or, more in general, fathoming the sound of a look, perhaps because touch might be revealed in this “temporary paralysis” of seeing, the expression of this close contact and condition of the body as revelation of nudity.

Would you like some water before we start, by Simona Squadrito

Little is needed to create a world – a chair, a canvas, a painter and a model.

“How shall I pose?” This was always the first question. An abrupt “just sit” was the reply. After a brief exchange you are no longer a friend, a companion, a critic or even a stranger. You are a life model: a body in a space, a complex object that talks, moves and gets bored.
This becomes immediately noticeable when the relationship changes: the painter changes tone – becomes severe. The words immediately cease to have their function – they become heavy.
The model soon realises that she can no longer add anything.
The painter changes his tone – stops talking.
Sentences are reduced to monosyllables: yes and no become grunts. Questions cease to exist.
The painter’s expression changes: his eyes glaze over, they squint – the distance between them grows.
The blank canvas is in position. A wooden table encrusted with oil paint to the side.
The painter wants his subject in front of him, even during preparation.
The model disappears, even though she is required to remain sitting on her chair.
The painter’s actions are always the same, the same ritual always has to be performed. Time passes and the canvas is still there, between them, totally blank.

The model gets tired before anything has even started: she becomes bored.
She gazes round, distracted, changes her position, looks up.
“Stay like that. Don’t move”, these abrupt words ring out in the the room, their eyes meet.

The painter’s expression becomes increasingly distant. He becomes a stranger, eluding the model’s smiles.
The painter doesn’t want to be found.
Silence falls.
The painter, seated, draws his chair close to the canvas. The chair invariably seems on the verge of collapsing.
It always makes the same scraping noise.
The painter breathes, looks at the model. His gaze appears to go right through her, and yet he is actually looking straight at her. Her body ceases to be a private body, a living body, it relinquishes itself to the realm of objects.

The silence is broken, “Would you like some water before we begin?” The artist’s voice changes – it becomes kind. The quiet before the storm.
The answer should be no: “No thank you, I’m fine”. But instead the model answers “yes please”.
The painter’s expression changes –it becomes severe again, he had not expected the unexpected.
“Stay put, I’ll go”. The chair is pushed back, the noise of scraping is louder than  before.
The model drinks and the painter watches impatiently as the glass is emptied.

Strokes start to appear on the canvas but the model can’t yet make out her body/object.
The beginning is the space.
The body will follow, and yet her future presence already hangs within the canvas. The space is everything, it is what surrounds the body, it is what gives it weight.

Everything I know about painting has this beginning.
My gaze, staring at the back of the canvas, the strokes covering its surface seen through it against the light and the wrong way round. The canvas that becomes darker, more impenetrable. The silence that acts as a sounding board for the brush strokes.
Everything I know about painting has this beginning.
Brush strokes originate as sounds.

The enigma of depiction, by Rossella Moratto

In 1914 Picasso painted a picture called ‘Painter and his Model’. He went on to paint many others, as well as several drawings and prints, on this subject, one of the most repeated in the history of western art from the Renaissance on. The 1914 canvas is an unfinished figurative work: the painter is left as a sketch while the model, part of the picture on the easel behind him it and the wall of the studio on which the nude is outlined, are finished. The painter, his head resting on his hand, is absorbed, sitting in front of the canvas and easel, while the standing model takes central place in the composition, partly wrapped in a sheet that exposes her body; on the right, a table with a dish of fruit, that too only drawn.
Unlike in other versions, the tools of the trade – canvas and easel – are in the background: the act of painting, the recurring theme of which is symbolic depiction, is not central here. But the man, and above all the woman, are: their true everyday relationship of love and sexuality is highlighted. The model, a muse whose real identity is not important for the purposes of creativity to which she is completely subordinated, is in real life a woman – a lover, wife, daughter, mother, sister, prostitute and even, if rarely, a fellow artist. She has a dual existence: a living body and an object/body that ideally is revealed on canvas and in sculpture.
Apart from the stereotype that would have the relationship between artist and model as authoritarian – to the point of bordering on sadism on the part of the painter-Narcissus driven by the desire to see his reflection in his work and authorised to manipulate that body, even to deform it – is a fluctuating and complex dynamic: the model is the otherness necessary for the work, she asserts her presence, becoming the protagonist and immortalised icon. A complicit otherness that can however become dangerous, acquiring, in a reversal of roles, a dominating position, as related by the Goncourt bothers in their well-known novel Manette Salomon of 1867, in which the protagonist is the prototype of the modern model, the destroyer of the romantic idea of the muse.
Denied the ideal, the once passive body has earned the central position in the scene, appearing in any number of reincarnations reflected on by the artists who were invited to this collective experience, which was not limited to painting and the figurative arts but included audio interventions, performances, installations and meetings, becoming a workshop that went beyond being a conventional exhibition.

The model, a body – as it says in the title – that sees through paintings, becomes the pivot for a dual dialogue, one with the artist which remains secret and one discovered with the observer with whom she maintains an immobile and mute face to face, loaded with ambiguity and carrier of the enigma of depiction.


Pedro Andrade (Luanda, 1954) Painting is his preferred medium. He has lived countless lives, learning something from each of them. Indeed the passing of time is for him a perfect occasion for gaining the most from life, with due slowness. He lives and works in Aveiro, Portugal.

Simona Barbera Her artistic approach is based on the integration between audio material and electronic devices conceived as integral part of minimalist installations. Many of the subject matters explored convey considerations on the materiality of digital media and on the micro processes of transformation of the urban fabric. She lives and works between Genoa and Oslo.

Cesare Biratoni (Barcelona 1969). He has always had an interest in the complex relationship between photography and painting: over the years he has developed a poetic that aims to bring together the fixed temporality of the photographic image with the unpredictable dynamics of painting. He lives and works in Busto Arsizio.

Vincenzo Cabiati. His artistic research is expressed through a wide range of languages: painting, watercolour, drawing, sculpture, photography, installations, video. In recent years polychrome ceramic has become his preferred medium. He lives and works in Milan. http://vincenzocabiati.

Gianluca Codeghini (Milano, 1968) triggers concepts and processes in which the relationship with the public becomes crucial for producing short-circuits, tensions and discreet provocations. “Listen intently, to the point in which memory wonders whether it has heard something different or heard anything at all”. He lives and works in

Ermanno Cristini (Varese 1951). The art of dialogue and negotiation form the basis of his creative work and inspire all his main projects, including Roaming, Dialogos, Prière de Toucher, Riss(e), Walking the Horizon, Walkabout e Waltable, and more. He lives and works in Varese.

Leonel Cunha (Porto, 1968) graduated in painting at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Porto, researcher at the Calouste Gulbekian Foundation, he then pursued his education with a degree in Multimedia Technology at the Faculty of Engineering and a Master Degree in Painting. Painting is his preferred medium. He lives and works in Vila do Conde, in the north of Portugal.

Flavio de Marco (Lecce, 1975) is a painter. Many of his projects contemplate the virtual windows through which artists observe the contemporary world. He has held many exhibitions in Institutions in Italy and abroad. He was lecturer in “extramedia techniques” at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts. In 2010 he founded an independent magazine, Rivisita, and in 2013 he published his first book, Stella, which accompanied the exhibition of the same name held at the GAM in Rome. He lives and works in Berlin.

Marta Dell’Angelo (Pavia, 1970). Her research is centred on the human body and focuses on movement and posture, using a range of languages that span from painting to video installation, from drawing to performance. She is passionate about neuroscience and anthropology. She lives and works in Milan.

Alessio de Girolamo (Sanremo, 1980). His artistic research is eclectically expressed through different disciplines, among which he favours painting and sound art. In recent years he has kept an archive on the concept of “psychotronics”, the material collected is used in visual and audio performances and installations. He lives and works in Milan.

Mario Dellavedova (Milano, 1958). He employs different forms of expression, using objects and material from every day life. Plays on words, metaphors, and subtle irony lead to a conceptual sphere that is purposefully in contrast with the sometimes artisanal appearance of the artefacts produced or used, and with the simplicity of how they are put together. He lives and works between Villastanza (Milano) and Taxco (Mexico).

Gabriele Di Matteo (Torre del Greco, 1957) . His artistic work conveys the sensation that the painted images might get up and walk, multiply and spread, acquiring increased power in the process. He lives and works in Milan.

Ivana Fall (Milano, 1974). A gymnast since the age of six, a life model for artists and Fine Art academies, gymnastics teacher and fitness trainer. She lives and works in Milan.

Matteo Fato (Pescara 1979). The process of making marks is the starting point of his research. His work has been invariably governed by an analytical approach to painting, aimed at a “mise-en-scène” of painting itself. In his work objects, words and space are brought together as if on the table of an imaginary still life. He lives and works in Pescara. (

João Fonte (Évora, 1965). His work, mostly focused on painting and drawing, contains references to the contemporary visual culture that lies between the commonplace and the erudite, with the intention of highlighting the mechanisms in political and power relationships. He lives and works in Lisbon.

Armida Gandini (Brescia, 1968). The subject of identity is at the core of her research and developed through different media including photography, drawing, installation and video. The predominant theme in her current projects is the relationship with others, that which determines cultural and identity heritage. She lives and works in Verolanuova (Bs).

Pino Guidolotti (Verona 1947).  He has worked as a photographer for fashion, portraiture and architecture. Loyal to his artistic training and also influenced by his friendship with Ernst H. Gombrich, he now focuses his attention to personal research, art and the reproduction of artistic heritage. He lives and works in Minervino di Lecce.

Giovanni Hänninen (Helsinki, 1976) studies reality like a scientist, but through his camera lens. He undertakes research on the subject of architecture and urban landscape, with particular attention to the critical issues of the present day. He lives and works in Milan.

Sebastiano Impellizzeri (Catania, 1982) His research investigates the languages of painting elaborating a poetic linked to essential pictorial elements: surface, marks, and colour as subjects of art. He has collaborated with many different Italian and international artistic realities. He lives and works in Turin.

Francesco Lauretta (Ispica, 1964). “Painter at last”, is how the artist defines himself after a long and tormented research for the redefinition of (his) painting. He employs various media including drawing, video and performance. Narrator and non-existentialist, he currently lives and works in Florence.

Jorge Leal (Lisbon, 1975). In recent years he has been solely dedicated to drawing, particularly to the graphic exploration of lines. Nature, sex and humour are the central themes of his artistic research. He lives and works in Lisbon. jorgelealartist

Corrado Levi (Torino) is one of the protagonists of the contemporary cultural scene. Writer and critic, artist and architect, he has lectured at Milan Polytechnic and has demonstrated great mastery in many forms of self-expression. He has a Golden Glove in Savate boxing. He lives and works between Milan and Marrakech.

Andrea Mastrovito (Bergamo, 1978) His work is characterised by the reinvention of exhibition spaces and the use of basic techniques, such as drawing and cut-outs, or complex ones, such as synchronised video-installation, in a continuous interaction between public and private. He has recently concluded his most ambitious project to date: the hand-animated film Nysferatu. He lives and works in New York.

Concetta Modica (Modica, 1969) studies and works on the present and its paradoxes. The present as what is left of something. The present as relationship with other artists, with materials, with the different media that have always been connected to sculpture. Sculpture intended as time.

Rossella Moratto (Milano,1965) is a critic and independent curator. She collaborates with public institutions, private galleries, alternative and non-profit exhibition spaces. She writes for a number of specialised magazines including Arte e Critica and Flash Art. She is a member of the artists’ collective E IL TOPO. She lives and works in Milan.

Angelo Mosca (Chieti, 1961). His work speaks of places: simple, lived-in rooms that encapsulate a deep reflection on painting and its potential. A degree in communication and a thesis in sociology, he ponders on the current state of art and the need to break barriers through non-profit projects and collective art experiences. He lives and works between Ortona (CH), London and Milan.

Elisa Mossa (Urbino, 1989). She primarily communicates through a style of drawing that conveys reflection of an ancestral pagan ritual of the earth. Her work thus becomes a “cut” in paper, the opportunity of finding a dimension through black from which personal memories can surface. She lives and works in Urbania (Italy).

Giancarlo Norese (Novi Sad, 1963). He expresses his creativity through collaborations with other artists and institutions, editorial projects, public actions, independent teaching experiments. He was one of the initiators of the Oreste Project and the editor of its publications. He slept for months under a table. He lives and works in Milan.

Federica Pamio (Tradate, 1986). Her research aspires to a formal and conceptual eclecticism, focusing on the relationship between man and his environment (natural/artificial and social). Recently she has started interacting more with space by introducing to her work specific actions/objects/installations. She lives and works between Varese and Milan.

Luca Pancrazzi (Figline Valdarno, 1961), bases his research on the analysis of the artistic medium, on its ramifications, on the creative possibilities of error and the composite use of techniques and materials. Urban space and landscape are the subject matters he deals with primarily through painting, drawing, photography, installations, sculpture and shared activities. He lives and works between Milan and Finland.

Pedro Pascoinho (Figueira da Foz, 1972). Self taught artist and musician, his paintings, drawings and installations create silent environments that seemingly lack any logical narrative. Using an approach that fragments and decontextualizes his subject matter, the artist obtains Kafkaesque results that challenge the observer to search for his own ultimate truth. pedropascoinho

Stefano Peroli (Milano, 1958). After thirty years that were far from free of failures, he definitively approached the human figure painted on canvases without a background, where the landscape is formed by the figures themselves. He lives and works in Parma.

Steve Piccolo (New York, 1954). Began his career in the 1970s in New York as bass guitarist in various jazz groups, including cult band The Lounge Lizards. A versatile artist, he has lived in Milan since the 1990s where he develops creative projects in music, performance, theatre and installations, alternating these activities with teaching.

Federico Pietrella (Roma 1973). His work has always developed around concepts of time, repetitions, daily routines, primarily transferred to a pictorial dimension and occasionally to site-specific work. He lives and works in Berlin.

Luca Scarabelli (Tradate, 1965). He develops his creative research through ongoing experimentation with object sculpture, painting and collage with particular focus on the problems arising from the indifference in observation, the dialectics between order and disorder, the sense of waiting. He lives and works in Locate Varesino.

Carlos Seabra (Aveiro, 1970). He paints people rather than landscapes or objects, using personal photographs or images from archives and mass media. Recurrent themes in his work are the social transformations caused by the economic changes in the global market. He lives and works in Averio.

Simona Squadrito (Catania, 1985) is an art critic and curator. In 2016 she co-founded KABUL Magazine, about contemporary art and culture. She is president of the Casa Gialla Association and director of Villa Vertua Masolo in Nova Milanese. She writes and works for a number of art magazines. She lives and works in Milan.