The gift and the body
Daniele Del Giudice


Speaking of the artist ‘s work and of its outcome, Jean Starobinski has referred to the image of the gift: “The gift is in the artwork as the power, of obscure origin, that precedes and sustains the act of producing art,or its future.The act of working itself , which is added to the world,is the drive of a force that imposes its own mark, which recovers and frees itself, in order to reassert and propagate itself more vigorously. Yes, this invention -surplus of the visible – derives from an “inner” gift, and if approved of by the artist, it can be offered in the ultimate gesture that delivers it to the reader or the viewer.” In Serena Nono’s case, the “gift” in question is not just the obvious gift of talent, which clearly speaks for itself, nor is it that characteristic of “surplus” of the visible, of the unforeseen, which is proper to all artmaking. I am thinking, rather, of the “gift” that is a result of her painting itself, a perceptive and overall feeling in our vision of obscure origin, that precedes and sustains the act of working, and which leads, in this case, to what may properly be called: “sentiment of the gift”.

Gift, but of what sort? Gifts may be pleasant or pretty, intelligent or surprising, but in the context of artistic effectiveness the gift is such only when it is an invading gift. In other spheres it is easy to find examples of “invading” gifts, like the Tables of the Law that Moses receives twice. In the making of art, the most useful gift, the only one that achieves its effect, is, precisely, the invasive gift – the one that is hard for us to place, the gift that disquiets, displaces and persuades by virtue of its very presence. Such are the bodies and figures which Serena Nono paints. Do not be deceived by the apparent self-possession, the composed pain, the acceptance, the torpor of sleep or the suspended gesture – this is precisely what makes them invasive, tensed toward what is outside themselves (the exact opposite of many discourses and of much art that vindicates the body with adequate wounds and abrasions, only to treat it in an implosive and intimist manner in the end – the body as “my own little room”).

If the words invasive gift and invading body , make sense in describing Serena Nono’s paintings (and I believe they do), then we also understand the root and the necessity of her arriving at a Passion, we comprehend the strength and beauty of this “series”, told through fragments, sidelong glances (stolen glances), omissions. By the very nature of He who suffers here and the contaminating, irradiating intention of His Passion; it would be difficult to find in History another event in which body and gift are equally consubstantial, and so irresistibly invasive.

Daniele Del Giudice, The gift and the body , Februrary 2000

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