Mobilis in mobile, this was the motto of Julius Verne’s Captain Nemo. Indeed, Contemporary Art is an organism transiting in the asystematic flux of existence; a seismograph of world affairs that deals with the urgencies of society from which it inevitably does not deviate.

Today, more than ever before, the artist is a manipulator of signs that they intercepts and collects, documents, records, decodes, fragments and recomposes from the analysis of a real landscape, producing itineraries in the landscape of the signs themselves in the art work. A negotiating field, art is the magical territory in which the artist becomes a visual anthropologist in a constant state of alert. And Silvia Canton’s alert focuses on a central theme of contemporaneity in the struggle to find a point of connection between the needs of humans and the environment in which they live. Therefore, Il Fiore del Deserto represents a gentle but inexorable practice of resistance, drawn with the paintbrush and fuelled by recycled materials. It is a process that starts from afar and establishes a dialogue between two geographical realities that echo almost in synchrony, like a scream from the planet, and the evidence of a crisis that is already underway, tangibly present. The title of the exhibition is inspired by the poem “La ginestra” – flower of the desert – by Giacomo Leopardi. This plant represents the human struggle to overcome suffering. It grows in impervious places such as volcanic and desert environments, yet it is beautiful and fragrant. In his poem, Leopardi raises the question of a wicked stepmotherly nature. However, he does not renounce an afflatus of hope and positivity. Here, Silvia Canton’s poetic works on this dualism. She narrates of announced catastrophes and the side effects produced by human actions. This time nature is collapsing and we are the prevaricators. The symbolic ground that her art conveys and disseminates catalyses the attention of even the most distracted of visitors being the art work a powerful and independent device, a tireless massager of the atrophied muscle of the collective consciousness (1.).

Her artistic practice is rich in linguistic sedimentation and intercession. It analyses new paradigms, moving the artist into pliability, with understanding and inclusion. The translation she sets in motion through the materials she employs and the colours connected to them, is a necessary concept for creating in a state of emergency, for “translating” – not just from one language to another, but transporting a concept from one end to the other – and during this journey establishing tremors and identifying interstices. The work carried out for the creation of the art works that narrate Vaia is long and arduous: the harvesting of the dismantled wood, the “baking” process through a large microwave oven, the resin impregnating and solidifying, the carpentry process, the incursion of metal supports and finally, the talented skill of brush and chisel. Through this process, Canton does not produce just paintings, but intense, harmonious and seductive wall sculptures. On the other hand, the series of green canvases narrating Venice is a sequence with a more strictly pictorial and traditional technique. The immersion in a single hue of dominant and powerful pigment compresses the underlying image, which appears immersed, even drowned, in water. Likewise, the paralysis produced by the stasis that the overall vision of the exhibition imposes is a way of perpetuating the presence and suspending the chaos inherent in the course of events that are about destruction, but above all open to denunciation. They make explicit the encounter with the art work and the need for each of us to adopt a conscious awareness in order to counteract the entropy currently in action.

In an era in which everything appears to be well-known uncovered and reported, Silvia Canton’s practice acts within a current of research innervated in Contemporary Art that goes in the direction of the anthropological-scientific-exploratory method. This current unfolds in the trace of mapping an intellectual and experiential nomadism that is nourished by incursions into territories and regions with a particular methodology of investigation, and a summary thereof. What interests her is “fiction as a means of grasping reality” (2.), in order to emphasise the urgencies that relate to the environment in which we live. She uses this fiction as a vehicle and the journey as a method of diagramming. Her work searches for and inhabits a boundary space, working on perceptual differences that operate as medians and by minimal deviations.

Pre-Socratic philosophy sought to find in the babel of the world a principle able to demonstrate all things, to establish order. The ambition to employ the force of artistic research endemically sensitive to the social context in which it operates, lies in the attempt to re-establish the path towards a harmony and balance that have always bound humanity to its context, in order to move forward in “the beautiful and right”. Canton’s investigation explores fragments of time and space, trajectories that scour different geographies, like the ethnographic artist described by Hal Foster (3.). In other words, an author who proceeds by analysing the nature of human beings by traces and transits referring to their habitat, to be emphasised or reshaped in a condition of openness to all forms of civilisation, to our whole world. In this phase of his exploration, which culminates in the exhibition Il Fiore del Deserto at the Museo Santa Caterina in Treviso, Canton refers to two particular symbolic examples, two disastrous phenomena as the Vaia storm of October and November 2018, and the Acqua Granda that hit Venice in November 2019. It is a matter of displaying a representation in which even the disposer is disposed, plunged into a parallax, a way that subverts the old oppositions of the study of human making and seeks a different, more harmonic system establishing a shared sense between natural and artificial, innovation and duration. The painting is grooved and enriched by natural materials and by the bark collected after the mountain disaster and populated by the irrepressible reproduction of the spruce bark beetle, a plague that is attacking the red spruce. It is a small, devious beetle that feeds on wood by digging tunnels into the bark, interrupting the flow of sap until the plant dies. A real curse for the forests already suffering from Vaia and from long periods of drought, which has already caused the death of millions of trees. Silvia Canton’s work analyses and composes the emblem of an ongoing battle played out through a path that seeks to highlight a possible direction in a collapsing world with the gentle but determined approach of art. Silvia Canton’s work, flower of the desert, opts to resist. It does so through the positive utopia of art and its intention to change things by going through the everyday, drawing out its inertia. The short-circuit generated by the exhibition heightens elements and details – such as the findings of Vaia as well as the pigments of the Venices – to fragments of a broader construction that creates an extremely intimate, yet absolutely universal field of intensity, an iconic perimeter of change and hope that does not wish to remove or cancel reality. Rather, it aims to establish a dialectical dimension open to a path of consciousness through the prosthesis of art.

  1. Achille Bonito Oliva
  2. Jacques Lacan, Les non-dupes errent (1973, 1974). Translated by the author
  3. Hal Foster, Il ritorno del reale. L’avanguardia alla fine del Novecento, Postmedia Srl, Milano, 2006.