The first thing I noticed about Irene Meniconi was the caring way in which she touched her paintings. She was exhibiting at a modern gallery in Florence, when I met her. One of her motives was a blue eyed butterfly that had long laces draped as extended wings under the canvas – like a classical ballet dress ripped in pieces and put back together in a new shape.
She looked comfortable while organising the delicate fabric – as if she was combing the hair of a human being – a friend. There seemed to be an intimate familiarity with the insect – a close physical bond. While the butterfly had an ambiguous and quite aggressive gaze Irene, on the other hand, had a radiant and welcoming smile. She seemed both gentle and strong, and my curiosity led me to invite her for a coffee a few days later.
I suggested her a short film project, in which I would follow the creation of her next painting and interview her along the way. During our conversation I understood the importance of the close relationship, she had with her motives. She described them as protective animals, created after she had suffered a traumatic experience as a young girl. I was compelled to understand the impact of what had happened to Irene, and how she had dealt with it.
We started our project in the beginning of January 2017 -almost two years ago. Irene was working on a particularly difficult subject: the nautilus, a sea animal that she described as plant like.
Usually I went to her apartment to film in the morning. We met 11 times up until June that same year. Often we worked in silence. I got hooked on observing her vigirous pen through the lens, and I produced more than 10 hours of video footage. Far too much for a short documentary.
I was drawn by the simple mystery of looking and listening. It became increasingly clear to me how she had worked her way through emotions: while drawing, painting and elaborating the three dimensional texture of the canvas – just as I would later do when editing the material.
Irene finished the nautilus already in February that same year and exhibited it in Florence shortly after. My own process of editing the story was interrupted many times, by life and by other projects. Just like the butterfly, I had to fold the material into my own personal cocoon. I could not release myself from it so easily. No doubt, Irene’s story worked like a mirror on me; as a means to go through my own cathartic process of healing and releasing feelings from the past.
While the butterfly will leave its cocoon naturally; unaware of the automatic process it has undergone in order to develop its wings, a human being must decide and effort in order to shed that which prevents it from being fully expressed. Wether the medium is a paint brush or a camera: to see and recreate an experience, is to transform it in your mind. When you finally know what you are looking at, it changes and you change with it. It is a freeing feeling to let go and share, even if the sharing is molded in the subtle language of art.
Check out the video below (Choose HD quality and English subtitles if needed)
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