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Maria Pina Bentivenga or On the Interweaving of Life

by Marco Bussagli

The symbolic value of a knot or of interlacement is explained to us by Mircea Eliade, a renowned religion historian, in his excellent article published in 1949 on Zalmoxis.

Eliade examined the value of the “binder god” that is, he who binds, in life or in death, all beings to their own destiny. Moreover the great power of interweaving can be seen in the beauty of cloths, textiles, carpets, and silk, which are born precisely from one string or many pieces of string which in their own would be of no value. They would remain ephemeral and of little substance. As they are woven together, however, under the pressure of the loom, the slow process of interweaving starts and creates wonders. The separate yarns take form and give life to a soft and changing surface which envelops, protects, and covers. The once solitary filaments take life and transform themselves into fascinating objects and images, with propriety that each separately would never have been able to evoke.

A single sign on a surface remains an isolated and fragile being without life; it remains insignificant. When many signs become interwoven, each one gives strength to the others, creating organization within a complex universe of lights and darks, volumes and backgrounds. It is to this complex language that Maria Pina Bentivenga turns to in her etchings. It is with this vocabulary that she brings to the viewer’s eyes the dryness of her home land, Italy’s Basilicata.

It is this intertwinement of lines that becomes the real protagonist in her work. Often, the lines take on the quality of gloomy, deep dark water, which is rippled only on the surface by the gentlebreeze of life. The forms seem to flower out of the soul’s deep caverns until finally emerging into the light. It becomes of little importance that the image was originally based on leafy landscapes or dried flowers. Maria Pina uses her interlaced marks to slowly remove light from the plate and to dig small grooves into the surface for the ink to deposit into.

Sometimes in the end the image becomes clear and milky, as if intangible spide webs were carefully laid down to cover the dark corners of her interior universe. They seem to be ectoplasmic presences that emit light in order to expose the nocturnal phantom’s fear of the brightness of life.