February 10, 2019

Words: Federica Poletti & J. Scott Stratton

Federica Poletti resists identity as a form of resistance
In what she describes as her “anti-portraits,” artist Frederica Poletti works with obscured faces as a form of symbolism for defiance through anonymity.
Artist Info: federicapoletti.com Instagram:@fede_poletti

In doing this interview, Federica Poletti free admitted that her work is not actively resistant. There is a subtly to the symbolism at work in her paintings, which transcends the singular subject of ‘opposition.’ Her work allows the viewer to see the emotion of the subject in a more subjective way. Is the person defying the gaze of the viewer by obscuring their face? Is the person trying to hide in anonymity? Is the subject creating a barrier of safety between themselves that the viewers gaze? Depending on the emotional state of the individual looking at Poletti’s paintings, the perception of the subject in the painting changes.

“My research is unconscious and influenced, in a completely evocative way, by what happens in the inner theater of my thoughts: my work is inspired by the concept of identity and body as a physical and heavy means of expression of what happens in each one intimately, my means of expression has evolved into painting, drawing, and ceramics.”

What I find both fascinating and impressive about Poletti’s works, is the way she has imbued her paintings with emotional moods which supersede her obvious technical skill. I find, that with many painters trained in the techniques of realistic portrait painting, the technical mastery begins to overshadow the intrigue of the subject. Lighting, color, and attention to detail take precedence over whether the subject or composition is even interesting. If you disagree, go ahead and Google realism portrait painting and you’ll find page after page of boring, yet technically detailed, tutorials on how to achieve this.

Armatura Fragile • oil on canvas • 120 x 100 cm , 2018
La routine quotidiana • oil on canvas • 120 x 100 cm , 2019

But I digress. In Federica Poletti’s work, there is a sense of emotion that permeates off the pieces. Yes, she is technically skilled, but that is an after-thought. Similar to the works of Volkano, who we spoke with back in 2017, Poletti lets the shrouding of the human subject’s face tell a story.

Poletti submitted her work to me through our Ello x Blacklisted invite late last year, and I personally was drawn to how her ‘anti-portraits’ connected with the concept of Resistance. This is what she had to say:

“I feel resistance can be passive – to stand against and oppose something without being swept away. One can resist by remaining still, immobile or hidden. Like my “women” in my paintings. They decide that there is a chance to fight the anxieties, fears and daily worries. Through the act of concealing oneself, concealing one’s own face, one’s own word, and one’s own figure to others, to society. To fight the system or defeat him by looking for their own area of shadow – within themselves where they can opposite, be against, disagree. For me to resist is to try to be saved, or wait to leave.”

This resonated with me. In a world where it is becoming near-impossible to remain anonymous, Poletti’s description of her “women” in her paintings, and the emotional power that she is imbuing them with by trying to remain hidden raising questions about the act of passive resistance. Can we actually reclaim some power and authority in our lives by hiding who we are? Is anonymity now the highest form of resistance?

“…chi desidera ma non agisce , alleva pestilenza” • oil on canvas • 120 x 100 cm , 2018
‘Rimasta nascosta’ • oil on canvas • 100 x 70 cm , 2018

“Generally my work is focused on escape. From ourselves. From anxiety. From fear. And, is about hiding. I work on the moods that immobilize us, but at the same time, I’m also working on the moments where time stays still and cannot break us, and on finding the right way to start again. Mine are resilient women.”

Looking across the oeuvre of Federica Poletti’s numerous portraits, all of which have the subjects face obscured or altered, it becomes clear that Resistance is to narrow a subject to define the vastly subjective emotional weight that each painting carries. While the ‘human’ is often shrouded in Poletti’s work, the vast complexity of the ‘human condition’ is unmistakable.


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