Schiele, Magritte and Ghirri narrated by three students

It is never easy to compare oneself with the masterpieces of art, even less so when one decides to describe them from one’s own point of view. Three students from NABA in Milan tried it

It is a complex practice that ofekphrase, which may involve the description of a work of art not in an academic or didactic manner, but in a personal and very expressive manner. Students at the Critical Writing Course, Biennium in Visual Arts and Curatorial Studies of NABA in Milan challenged some sacred monsters from the last century.

Articles developed as part of the course Critical Writing, Biennium in Visual Arts and Curatorial Studies, NABA – New Academy of Fine Artsyear 2021/2022


Egon Schiele, Naked Boy Lying on Patterned Blanket, 1908

At first glance, he looks like anyone, without any remarkable story to tell.
The only flicker is that this time he is naked, free of frills. He is not dead, he is just lying on the cave of intimacy.
Immediately, the color of her hair and pubic hair emerge: apple green. Nothing but the clear and precise connotation of a boy of about eighteen looking for his confirmation in the adult world. In balance between two indefinite weights, between beat and upbeat, between silence and thunder.
Overwhelmed by his own enjoyment, he stands with his eyes closed, thinking of his short life. Despite having lived so few years, he is aware of how fleeting time is. It’s a recurring thought, it wears out his mind. If he does not retire to his fathers at least once a day, he cannot meet the next day.
That ruminating is good for him because the instinct we have inherited from animals is totally absent in him. It only takes a step forward when the foot knows where to land.
Even this pondering becomes yet another cause for reflection, and just when he can not stand it any longer, he undresses. It becomes a headless body in a few moments through masturbation, the act that precedes the total annihilation of emotions.
But first, it releases a dense series of images imbued with vulgarity lurking in the head. The gross perversions and the most hidden want elbow to triumph over each other. They accumulate violently, quickly, over and over again until they reach a peak of uncontrolled enjoyment. The release of dopamine and serotonin allows the body to get rid of all the stress and tension that has accumulated during the day. Only to take advantage of moments of pure apathy. Here is the reason for this daily practice: for a moment it floats over all the carnal of the world and immediately revel in the dependence on the loss of libido.
IS the enjoyment of stasissimply motionless limbs on a dark rug with contrasting patterns.
Due to its harmony, it almost appears to be in front of the Mirones Discobolus at rest. An arch could be drawn, going from the left arm twisted behind the head to the dangling right foot; and another hose line originating from the opposite arm extending across the groin and following the bent leg up to the foot resting on the bed.
Although the center of the representation is his gender and the hand framing him, attention shifts to the lowered eyelids. That detail gives peace to the face, an apparent entanglement of nerves that seems to reflect the complex psychic landscape of the image.
The gold background does not allow us to imagine anything else about the context in which the subject lives. It could be the story of anyone, perhaps of an icon symbol of modernity, in the wake of the Byzantine masters. You could call it Egon Leo Adolfthird son of Adolf Eugen and Marie Schiele. He rediscovers the main stages of an ordinary everyday life: school failures, the rebirth in academia, the desire for support, the harassing relationship with women.
Will he ever be able to make a living from his art, which Viennese society considers corrupt, perverted and pornographic? His lifestyle and his unusual choices help to attract negative criticism, struggling in the contemporary panorama.
What it does is pure self-expression, an interest in personal psychic and spiritual processes, forgetting what nature has given. It’s all about melancholy, loneliness, despair, the mysteries of sexuality and death … just the story experienced.
Maybe that boy wants to leave Vienna very soon. This society abhors him. People are jealous of him, they are sneaky; the more mature colleagues look at him with hypocrisy. Everything is shadow in Vienna, the city is black, everything smells of intrusion. He wants to be alone and go to the Bohemian Forest.
But on this, dear naked young man lying on a decorated rug, you will think of tomorrow.

Federico Bianchini


René Magritte, The Empire of Lights, 1954. Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium, Brussels

My footsteps echo on the cobblestones on the sidewalk, the noise bounces between the walls of the houses and the sidewalk, then disappears into the void, the canal slowly flowing next to me reflecting the yellowish and warm light from the already lit streetlights.
From the open windows of the houses flanking the canal, muffled sounds come out, even from one of the music, distant, muffled, also scattered in the air. The sum of the privacy of a dozen people living close together, each isolated in their own home.
I stop and look up, even though the street lights are already on and the street is immersed in shade, the sky is not yet darkened, the glow of the day resists the evening even though the sun is now hidden behind the houses. In photography, they call it the blue hour. The temperature is comfortable, it gives a certain immobility, where it is not possible to perceive the difference between body and atmosphere, it becomes like amniotic fluid that fits perfectly on the skin. In the air there is already the scent of spring, a feminine scent, a little dreamlike, like the ether.
I continue to walk in the subdued atmosphere, it seems that the outside world is moving further and further away, as if I had entered a parallel dimension. My gaze alternates between the blue of the sky and the dark path, the oxymoron between light and shadow, between the evening that has already fallen on the road and the day that continues to resist. I take a deep breath. The distance to the real world has now become sidereal. At first glance, the difference in lighting between road and sky gives me a feeling of dizziness, a dizziness accompanied by a shiver down my spine, then this feeling becomes security, to infinite peace. Time seems to have stopped its flow. I enjoy the silence of the rare atmosphere under the artificial light of the street lamp and the natural light of the sky. From here I can admire the oxymoron of existence, where the opposite coexists and penetrates each other. The houses, the lights, the silence become a meditative space where one can look at life for what it is: a coexistence of oxymorons, perfect and unique in their combination.
When I want to look for a moment of peace, I close my eyes and find it there: the empire of light.

Giulia Tortora


Egon Schiele, Naked Boy Lying on Patterned Blanket, 1908

Roncocesi, winter 1992.
The photographer walks alone along the dam that runs along the road home.
At this point of the Po Valley, the hours do not exist, nor do the cardinal points.
Everything belongs to an indistinct geography.
In front of him the desolate and endless landscape. In the midst of all that nothingness, you can hardly see a silhouette: a man from behind walking at a fast pace, there is no way to identify him. Its profile can hardly be felt and dissolves almost in the mist.
Is it her way forward or is it us? I can not say that with certainty.

Before he disappeared forever in silence one evening in 1992, Luigi Ghirri captures with a photograph the last appearance of man in this corner of the earth. The shot remains imprinted on a roll that is never finished, and only developed after his death, where the same mysterious subject is always repeated: the fog. Gianni Celati, author and great friend of his, said that in the last period Ghirri had actually decided that he would photograph the “spirit of the earth” (Gianni Celati, Memory of Luigi, photography and friendship in Photography lessons, Quodlibet, 2010) and who talked more and more about his work as something that turned his gaze to the invisible. Thinking about going in search of this atmospheric phenomenon should not have been a completely random choice for someone who, like him, knew the plain well.
To be born here means to suffer it, the mist, like an eternal blanket of melancholy. It is to have the feeling that nothing extraordinary can ever happen, that apart from the geometries of the plowed fields, the gravel roads, the herons that sit along the ditches and the farmhouses all together, nothing else exists, and that if it ever existed, it would always be too far away from us. But experiencing the plain also constitutes an unconscious training for the imagination: the fog forces you, whether you like it or not, to ask questions, to rebuild the world little by little as it unfolds before us.

Where does the road end? Do you see her?
I do not know, it is completely white“.

Ermanno always told that everyone in the village was named Franco, no one knows why: in the winter of 1985, the fog was so thick and low on the ground that the roads disappeared. One evening, he and his wife, aboard a Fiat Ritmo on the provincial road between Bologna and Ferrara, were forced to stop. He had gotten out of the car, left the woman in the driver’s seat, had walked a few meters and gestured and shouted at her “come forward!”, Followed by a loud curse. The rest of the journey home had been like walking a few feet at a time. He was also completely white that morning when Elena was only eight years old and came from the country by bicycle to go to school; he had fresh eggs in his basket as a gift to the teacher. By crossing the usual bridge, which connected the two banks of the rampart, he had lost his balance, and when he fell to the ground, he had broken them. At home that day, she started crying in horror, blaming all the white fog around to distract her.
The fog is confusing, it is the absence of references and at the same time the coexistence of all things. When you cross it, you can pretend to be everywhere or disappear forever like the man in this photograph, immortalized just before it dissolves into nothingness. Perhaps in this shot, all of our uncertain and lost identities continue, while it is what surrounds us that begs to be looked at and imagined, and expands beyond the field of view toward the unknown. Ghirri regarded the landscape as the last places where it is still possible to have visions; when I first saw the pictures he had left of these misty spaces, I felt a sudden predilection for something that we lowland souls have always struggled with. Instead, it was as if someone had come to tell us that our places might be fine, as they were, that what we were looking for was already here, and there was no need to search elsewhere. That we were still allowed to amaze ourselves.

Martina Nardi

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