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Stasys or on solitude Spicchi dell'Est, Roma, Italy 1999
Vittorio Sgarbi

One of the greatest incentives to write, or to paint, is solitude. He who is alone hears voices. It has been proved that those who are sociable, who have a lively life of relationships, develop an orderly and ngorously rational thought: they don t talk with spirits, they don't see apparitions of the Madonna and they have a normal relationship with physics and its laws. He who is alone, on the other hand, walks on the waters, has visions, talks with God. His thought from rational becomes mystic, and one can say that this condition, which opens the path to the divine, is indispensable to artistic creation. The artist is a visionary and a loner. he spends long hours in front of a canvas or a sheet of paper, and paints or tells of his visions, he cannot feel the cold or the heat, he walks in his bedroom slippers for miles - as did Ariosto; he can even reach the point of being in ingnorance of the existence of other human beings, as it is told of Paolo Uccello who, lost in his studies, which as it happens were mathematical ones (but what could be more visionary than mathematics?) forgot the existence of his wife Selvaggia and left her to die.

The artist has nothing human; he is cruel, violent, unfeeling. He must develop other senses, he must hear voices, he must hear that which others cannot hear, or which they hear but cannot express; he must bring to light that which is in the shadow. Even he who is among others is alone; and solitude is an unnatural but essential condition to man: one is alone above all among others, for what one encounters are other bodies, a sort of exterior orbit. But the mark of solitude is death. Everything can be done with others; not die. Heinrich Von Kleist tried to overcome this obstacle, this impenetrability of souls, and was elated to find a woman ready not to live but to die with him. And together they lost life. Or rather, they dispersed life.

So one may say that all literature is an uninterrupted dialogue with death, represented through the great metaphor of solitude. It is more difficult for painting to represent this condition, of which the supreme champions were Van Gogh and, in this century, two very different and uniaue artists united by a singular obsession: that of always painting solitary human beings. No more family portraits, no more dialogues: Modigliani's and Soutine's characters are solitary people.

Vilnius, in Lithuania, Soutine's city, was the birthplace of Stasys, the painter some of whose works can n�w be seen for the first time in Italy. Works formulated in a most radical manner (almost an equivalent to Thomas Bernhard's literary research) to show painting's aspiration to become poetry, pure lyric expression. Bosch's and Ensor's imaginary is recalled by Stasys without any dramatic intention, as a sheer ery, not desperate but stifled. And, in Stasys' fantasy, to shut mouths one needs masks.

Paper faces which prevent us from recognizing people but not humanity. Behind those clown-like masks we see wide-open eyes, staring at nothing: they don t look at us, they look beyond reality. An obsessive repetitiveness, an endless melancholy which is occasionally presented in a festive arcimbolesaue manner, by having these eyes float in the sky, above the tree-tops, like those of Saint Luda in the iconography of the torments of the martyrs. The melancholy "Carnevale" fiestas, the circus world, the unhappiness of childhood ("But nothing consoles the tears of a child whose ball has been lost among the houses"). It is solitude, solitude. Man is his own mask. Elsewhere Stasys imagines him shut in a man, much too large - between the walls of a house, like a ship in a bottle. Pnsoner of the place which protects him, free only to let the smoke from his pipe slip out from the chimney of the too smali house.

Now Stasys concentrates on faces which takes over the whole surface of the paper, from the smali to the very large formats. Larger and larger heads. Heads without a head, with a fanciful play of cartouches, clocks, birds which form monstrous apparitions, though at the same time always infinitely melancholy, tender, human. Their gazes cali us to ajfect us, to move us. Humanity is desperate, unhappy, but not lost. Man still believes in salvation. And Stasys' paintings represent a painful religious condition. Stasys is not only against the totalitarian regime which annulls man, but also against the negation of man's divinity which is behind the masks. His - as he himself once declared in an interview - is "a positive unhappiness, like children's". That which he has derived from Bosch and from the surrealists is a visual support for a philosophical conception which restores man's central position in a profoundly religious dimension.
Stasys is a mystic, and his painting, behind the masks, regains souls.
Vittorio Sgarbi Art Historian

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