At the end of the second decade of this century, interest in the representation of the human figure in the field of art is still remarkable, even after the many attacks against figurative art and its links with objective reality and realism. The body, its gestures, needs and desires have become a key element in the most pressing social and political issues of our time, and this is reflected in the imagery of contemporary artists. Interest in figuration can also be a consequence of the dominant presence of the body on social platforms, photography, film, performance, and activism. These bodies increasingly perform interventions in city spaces and in media environments, seeking the recognition of their differences and equalities, negotiating or fighting for a new conception of the body itself and for new definitions of the self. More than a resumption of the values of figurative art, derived from the traditions of painting and sculpture, what we have now is an artistic practice connected to the same principles that guide the vanguards of our society in their questioning of the traditional notions of gender, sexuality and subjectivation processes.
It is in this spirit of the age that Monica Piloni's work seems to evoke the forces that act upon bodies, through an interweaving between appearance and essence, fact and fiction. The beauty of the female bodies in the artist's work is remarkable, although they appear to have undergone some kind of mutation, or effects of tension, showing a state of disequilibrium in well-modelled forms, but open to some sort of deviation. The female body is always that of a character who mirrors herself, a kind of echo that insists on reverberating in the body itself as if this character were an unfolding of some interiority that cannot be known, and from which what we see is always a folded, refolded, and restricken surface.
Looking at the whole of the artist's work, we are confronted with a kind of cabinet of curiosities, populated by representations that explain a fragmentation and a dismemberment of beauty in a universe formed by a character often without face, whose openings do not shed organs or viscera, but an empty discomfort. In this series, the figures reveal something rather apprehensive and vaguely erotic. The female bodies are grounded on a fetish symbol, which makes them vulnerable and unstable, for on a leap from such height no body can run or escape, if necessary. A precarious balance, becoming hostage of an image, supports the wandering, and the artist herself admits a certain tension under the glamour surface that radiates from her work. After all, some of the sculptures reveal a kind of emptiness where we suppose there is the fullness of forms. When we decide to look for interiority, a nucleus with an identity, what we find is an absence similar to the non-existent content of a book that only reveals itself by its cover, a kind of screen that hides an absent body. But curiously it is this same void that gives support to the figures that seem to levitate in the air as if supported by an invisible force that makes those bodies even more fragile and light.
The search for meanings in works such as Monica Piloni’s, leads us to believe that she hides something to be deciphered, as if a riddle involved the very figure of the artist, since many of her sculptures were made from a self-portrait. The tendency to find hypotheses of readings surrounding her figure is tempting, just as it would be to bring her work closer to the questions of feminist affirmation that pulsate today. But artists, however, never allow themselves to be captured so easily. In representations of bodies with surgical and clean amputations one should not expect an easy clue to the reading of their whole. There is a certain silence and tension in the pieces that at the same time suggest attraction and repulsion for what we have in front of us. Beauty quickly becomes monstrosity, as in the soft, delicate contour of a model's torso, which doubles and bulges in the space in front of a mirror, replicating a reality already unfolded and rebounded on itself, transforming what would be a classic torso into a mass of flesh that seems only focused on the desire for the more eroticized parts of that same body. The reflection – which we always associate with a flat image on the surface of a mirror – was, in these sculptures, duplicated in the structure of a female body, generating an image of Siamese twins. As in their own mythology, these Siamese entities are often linked by their own hair, which seems to be a protagonist in the works of Monica Piloni, in which, as a rule, it reaffirms or hides a mystery. It is with hair between the legs that one of the sculptures hides the well-sculpted vagina of a body that hangs in the space trapped by the mouth, as if hooked by a hook from an unfathomable plane. In other of her works there is a profusion of mouths and genitals, hands that grasp and hair that folds over itself, suggesting a fractured ecstasy, a fluctuation of incomplete bodies in contained orgasm. But all these are conjectures to which this work induces us – as if our judgment could shed light on the shadows of the mystery produced by these sculptures.
Unfathomable Cycle by Mario Ramiro
(multimedia artist, PhD in visual arts and professor at the Department of Fine Arts and the Post-Graduation Program in Visual Arts from the School of Communications and Arts at USP