There is a work by Silvia Canton that could explain poetry all by itself: Il grande pesce. It is a rising tide of gold and earth in which the fragment of virgin cork that signifies the title appears as a brown wound in the centre, while all around the material it is rough and coarse. While the theme wants to make us think of the sea, the playful shades of the palette seem to lead us instead towards bare, autumnal undergrowth. It is a strong, difficult and beautiful work. Its beauty comes from its primitive simplicity which seems to tell of a primordial chaos which is not yet ordered and which boasts of important ancestry, above all of Alberto Burri. There is Burri’s rough canvas in that luminous and iridescent earth, and it is also Burri who carefully handled cork to catalyze the gaze, brown and leathery like its cracks.

The art of Silvia Canton is a fusion of wild pictorial material and elegant references to the great history of art, a fusion of instinct and control, feeling and reason. This new series centred around cork marks a crucial point in the evolution of the artist. Now that the lyricism of the previous works has dried up, Silvia Canton finds a way to give further space to her thirst for depth and reality by introducing this object. Virgin cork is a natural element that can be worked with but which is also indomitable. She loves it for its authenticity and vivacity, and often chooses fragments that still bear traces of the plant life that surrounded the tree. True nature is thus inserted into a substantiated narrative, one that is natural but which does not merely give us a snapshot of nature: instead it is a conscious path, an analysis that aims to recover the history of this piece of nature right down to its primordial elements, detailing its infinite and inexhaustible metamorphoses. The history of its becoming.

Fish are a recurring element, partly due to their religious symbolism. In addition to Il grande pesce there is the spectacular Mattanza, where the shape is reconstructed by sections and the death of a small animal appears to be suffused with solemn drama. And then there is the golden fish of Amo, which makes us think of the first fish, the father of all fish, while the red and rusty sea seems to spring from a beating heart.

The narrative moves across pictorial and genre styles, taking us by the hand back to nature’s origins, its roots. And while works that allude to chaos remind us of the beginning of nature, the origins of man are brought to us by works like Piccola Madre, where the cork is encrusted with plant residues to evoke the uterus, an embrace, while the circular pattern of the background reveals the pulsing of a red light like a small heart.

The figure always remains entrapped. Sometimes there is a sign, sometimes this is only alluded to. At other times this figure appears decisive and explicit, as in the delightful Ofelia, where the feminine face, minimal but fundamental, is hit by a blaze of burning matter.