At the beginning there was the island where the god was born, a land in the middle of the sea. Poets narrate that Apollo chose his dwelling in the farthest land, among the Hyperboreans: “beyond the sea, at the end of the earth and the springs of the night, beyond the unfolding of the sky and Phoebus’s ancient garden”. 1. He let the mortals, in search of a solution “to their higher questions”, go and turn to Delphi (Bacchilide3, 61-62). Apollo is the master of that oracle whose voice, according to Heraclitus, neither denies nor affirms, but “speaks through signs” (semainei)2. Its logos is the world symbol. From the depths of the earth the voice of the god comes. That of Monica Spada is a ‘painting’ of hyperboreal spaces, trustful in this mythical shadow. It is born in the shadow of the Delphic deity, it is omen and distance. Hers is a chthonic ‘painting’. Like the deity’s oracle it raises from the earth, among the rocky rhymes and becomes meaning.
The symbol is once again innocent and in order to become innocent once more it had to cover the distance of the desert of time and history, it had, in this moving forward, to go back to its own origin. We reached the end of time: Klee’s angel (from a famous page by Benjamin) turns its face to the heaven storm which supports its wings and piles up debris (Trummer) at its feet. We are at its feet, makers of debris. Delphi’s deity cannot save us. Apollo’s enigma is contained in the angel’s eyes, in its words. It is a fundamental passage. The gods, according to Holderlin, have abandoned us. And Rilke replied: God is both near and elusive. But in the mundane horizon, Holderlin’s vision lays exactly in that looking behind.
Nearness and elusiveness best describe the characters of divine and enigmatic of its sense and presence. And god’s words are symbolic: the enigma is its image. In the flaming Jewish consciousness (the other pole of Western prophetic tradition) this shows, or better “means” (bedeutet) that nobody can see God without dying first. Man, in order to enter the forest of symbols, must transcend. The strict classicism that Monica’s ‘painting’ aims at, implies this vital core. Her privileged and infinite space is that of the sacred (Heilig). This is what ancient Greeks meant by calling their deities “makaroi”, “blessed”. Bliss is the perfect knowledge of the sense of the enigma. Bliss and sacred represent a central value in the notion of “classical”. It is the aware exercise of the reason threatened by the shadow of time and pain. The form is absolute for its certainty in this extreme dialectics. Her logos is the form of a faithful vision. When the sacred (sacer) shows itself. The sacred is the power of memory, it is the power of desire, it is rite. The ritual connection, the “cultus”, reveals from its etymology (colere), the word to inhabit. Who inhabits a place consecrates it to its existence, to the peculiar and true silence of the things constituting that inhabiting. They are the pure forms of that sacred being born which constitutes the essential alphabet of Monica’s ‘painting’. We do not need too many signs to be able to see the grammar of hope. The night mingles into the light and the disquieting distance of the landscape, now near and then far, and then, like the theatre of Prospero’s island, it will soon disappear leaving behind an inheritance of absence, the sleep surrounding our “little life”.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors, as I foretold you, were all spirits and are melted into air, into thin air: And, like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself, Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve And, like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff, As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a sleep. (…)” (The tempest, IV 1)3.
And thus the theatre of figures is like a Trauerspiel, literally a tragedy. It prepares that space called by Heidegger in “Being and Time” the Lichtung, the “clearing” which expresses the being’s wait. In the Jewish, Greek and Latin languages, the sacred stands for what is separated, the absolute other, interior revelation of the divine4. It is desire and loss, perihelion and aphelion of the object. The ‘painting’ of Monica Spada deals with the ‘before’: before time, before Modernity, before the end… With the world as it was before the gods left it. This is why the object needs to be lost in order to be found. Man and animal together reign over things, they both belong to the same destiny of the being. They guard the places, they are the witnesses of the sacred.
Translation Angela Lombardi
1 Sophocles, fr. 956 Pearson; cfr. G. Colli, La sapienza greca, 3 vol., Adelphi, Milan 1990, vol.I, pg.79.
2 “E semàinein is the proper term for “to mean” (bedeuten). Here is the connection with Heraclitus logos. Even the logos, the meaning, the semàinei, does not speak univocally like the name but nonetheless it hides nothing but it exists inasmuch as it “séma” and “means”. This logos is in fact symbol of the world, because it also simply exists, undifferentiated and unitary, like the universal”, B. Snell, Il linguaggio di Eraclito, curated by B. Maj, Corboed., Ferrara 1989, pg.25.
3 W. Shakespeare, The Tempest, KayeDreams 2009, pg. 117.
4 Cfr. R. Otto, Il sacro, Feltrinelli, Milan 1966.