Interview with Giorgia Gigí

Giorgia Gigí is an artist and activist for women’s rights. She has been part of the movement “Non Una di Meno” and today of “RU2020- Umbrian Network for self-determination”. She lives and works in Gubbio.

Francesca Della Ventura(FDV): Giorgia, tell us about yourself and your works. Your works are very autobiographical. Who is Giorgia the painter and who is Giorgia the woman?

Giorgia Gigí (GG): My propensity for art started when I was very young, already in the last year of kindergarten I wrote short illustrated stories for my teacher so that she could read them to younger children. She kept them until her last day on this earth, giving me a much bigger gift than she could imagine. The course of study followed this predisposition, I graduated in Restoration and Preservation of Cultural Heritage in the late nineties, learning about painting from the back of the canvas and its processes of deterioration, which only increased the fascination that this particular art has always had on me. Being able to touch an ancient painting very closely, taking care of it during the cleaning, plastering and painting retouching phases, feeling its skin, mood, smells, has given me a deep sense of respect for the artists’ work at all times, respect that over the years has become true love, making it impossible for me to undertake and/or continue along other more “canonical” paths. The images that I produce have always been accompanied by thoughts, poems and long written reflections, which I keep mostly secret, a sort of strange form of graphomania that also includes the production of images, which has allowed me to exorcise the moments of deep pain that have studded my life and to stop forever the moments that have filled my eyes and heart and made me convince myself that life is something worth experiencing. Literature was the other great protagonist of my existence, I practically grew up in the library in my city, where my mother was employed. You’re right, so when you say that my work is autobiographical, it couldn’t be otherwise, the images are born suddenly, completed, in my mind, I just have to hope that my hand is up to giving back to the world what I have seen and commit myself so that my technique will be more and more effective in telling those stories clearly. Images that are the symbolic synthesis of environments, people and facts that really exist and happen and that in life I can hardly face with the harmony and balance that painting, instead, immediately gives to everything, transporting me into a dimension of great inner peace even in the middle of the storm. The “Giorgia woman” is one with the “Giorgia artist”, this terribly entangled and extremely passionate person, unable to interrupt the flow of energy that from heart and mind leads to action, even when I start from the awareness that it will be hard if not impossible. This is the case of the many struggles undertaken as a feminist, which I could sum up in a binge of bitter morsels and small, precious victories. I cried and got much angrier than I rejoiced, but it doesn’t matter. The aim is beauty, that same beauty that I look for in painting, that beauty closer to the concept of harmony in music than to a concept linked to aesthetic taste, and I pursue it at the cost of sacrificing pieces of myself that, selfishly, I should be careful to safeguard.

FDV: You have always been involved in associations that fight to defend women. How do you think art can affect a change (if it can) in this field?

GG: When I was at school they proposed a meeting, which was enlightening for me, with one of the mothers in Plaza de Mayo. Hebe de Bonafini explained to us, with the moral power of great suffering and deprivation, that art was a powerful instrument of struggle and that they too had chosen to use this “weapon” to make the face of their children desaparecidos appear to the world, faces that the regime wanted to erase from the history and memory of Argentina. If we are here to talk about it today, taking stock of the victories obtained by these women, Hebe was right: the cry of art has made the amnesia of the world impossible. This is just one example, but we can also take the opposite path and start from art that turns into a political commitment and a driving force for social change, without bothering propaganda, the history of art of the 19th and 20th centuries is dotted with artists and artistic currents that “changed the world” by changing the eyes of the society that observed them, even in the most critical and suspicious parts such as the academic or the poorly educated.
My path in art began with the representation of a social aberration that is no longer acceptable, such as discrimination and violence against women. A bit like what happened to Artemisia Gentileschi, I used art to denounce what had happened to me and to exorcise the desire for revenge that dominates you when you finally find the courage to “confess” your weakness and to get rid of your torturer. I have always done this thinking that I am not the only one in the world to have lived an experience like this, but that I am part of a sick system that continuously tells women “you are no good”, often ending up convincing them that it is true and seeking “salvation” in building a fake and frustrating but socially accepted life. If you are a mother and wife nobody is surprised, nobody judges you, but if you are an infinity of other things, this is not forgiven. This remains my “mission”, both as an artist and as an activist. I want a world in which no other woman has to live what I have lived.
When I think of art as a form of struggle, today, I think of a clear and readable denunciation in images of all those things that the world wants to hide and suffocate, such as the role of women in those countries of the world that sanction their freedom and equality by law but that in fact are still very close to the echoes of the crime of honour, like ours; like the migrants we would like to be sucked into the waves of the sea of our selfishness; like the planet that cries out to our ears unable to listen, because we are too scared and too incapable of emotionally managing any crisis; like the ethical and moral corruption that affects everyone, without making discounts to those who still continue to point the finger at politics alone, which is nothing but the mirror of what we have become. It is enough to look at any social or open any news magazine to be aware of this downward flattening.
But art is an instrument of struggle in itself, it has always been, proposing and producing beauty in the visual arts, in music, in theatre, in literature, it remains the only dignified trace of the passage on earth of a humanity that has always overestimated itself while sowing horror.
I am sorry for the incurable optimists, but objectivity does not admit subjective interpretations.

Giorgia Gigí, “The Snail Woman”, mixed media on canvas,100x100cm, 2017 © Giorgia Gigí

FDV: If you had to rewrite a history of female art, which artist would you immediately include? Why?

GG: I can’t choose one, they would all have full rights to enter the Olympus of timeless art, all the more so when you think of the enormous difficulties they had to face to be artists. I’ll make you some of them, among those that are certainly part of my personal Olympus for their expressive power: Artemisia Gentileschi, Elisabetta Sirani, Camille Claudel, Romeine Brooks, Tamara De Lempicka, Leonor Fini, Leonora Carrington, Remedios Varo, Kathe Kollwitz, Kay Sage…ok, I won’t go on, because there are still many other painters, sculptors missing, photographers, performers, dancers, actresses…all extraordinary women, who have been approached more often to the figure of the devil than to that of the angel, mocked, relegated to the margins of society, or, when it was good enough, to be “the muses of”.
Even today, it is still a very masculine world that of art, but you have already explained this very well.

FDV: In our gallery there is a very significant work of yours, “The Snail Woman”. You also wrote a poem for this work. Can you tell us about it? Who is the snail woman?

“The Snail Woman” is a summary of all the things we have said to each other so far. She is the woman who is forced to crawl with the weight of the world on her shoulders while everyone is watching and judging her, almost waiting for her to stumble in order to rage. She is the woman to whom nothing is forgiven, neither strength nor fragility, neither beauty nor disinterest in appearance in all its forms, neither distance nor disinhibition. We are all the snail woman, the only difference is that some of us are aware of it.

Francesca Della Ventura
Francesca Della Ventura

Francesca Della Ventura is a journalist, curator and contemporary art critic, as well as founder and director of inWomen.Gallery.