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Canvases, therapeutic colors and surrealism: the artistic cure of Maria Luisa Bertoni

Maria Luisa Bertoni as a girl had a secret dream: to become a writer. Life took her towards a job in the public sector, but her creativity never stopped smoldering under the ashes; until 2011, the year in which, following a series of meetings, she picked up the paintbrush. “My first painting is called Energy,” says Maria Luisa. “I sold it, even though I was very fond of it.” Maria Luisa Bertoni is a person who is socially committed, both at work and in her private life. In order to deepen her relationship with painting, she chose a therapeutic path linked to art: in 2012 she enrolled in a course of theory and practice of art therapy held by a teacher of the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera (Milan). Maria Luisa explains: “The course was created for people who use art as a therapy on a professional level; but for me it also meant taking care of myself”. A few years ago, the artist had to face a period of psychological recovery herself, a long journey marked by physical and inner pain. Maria Luisa says: “My suffering had to do with the inability to manage emotions, especially those related to my body. To express them I used to put colors on the canvas.” In that period, around 2013, she exhibited two paintings (entitled “Dissociation” and “Eros”) at the Angelica Library in Rome. During the move to the capital, she manages to obtain the transfer of the working place from her home town in Liguria, Sesta Godano, to the capital of the province, La Spezia. The artist says: “I had exhibited my works for the first time in my village, ashamed also a little because I was under the eyes of all those who knew me. Then I realized that the public liked my paintings. Since then I have participated in several exhibitions, because I love to share art with those who see it and with other artists. Living in a city has helped me in this regard as well.” 

During the therapeutic art course, Maria Luisa learns to use colors to heal the soul (“Blue is educational, it’s the shade that gives you the right distance from things”) and shifts her focus from figurative to abstract art, using colors in a material form. She even invents a limestone compound, made from the fossils she collects and synthetic putty for painting. “I love nature,” she says, “and I can often paint with what I find in the woods, a place where I go to open myself up to the world and not be afraid to move away from known things and people.” In the first months of 2021, Maria Luisa Bertoni painted a picture entitled “Hera” using fragments of a pomegranate fruit: “Most of the time I paint on a board because canvases risk collapsing. Basically, I prefer oil painting”.

Maria Luisa Bertoni admires Van Gogh and Kandinsky, but she has been trying for a long time to build a personal path, without imitating the greats of art. And, when she chooses to exhibit, she prefers social engagement. In 2018, she participated in a group exhibition in Charleroi, Belgium, to commemorate the 1956 tragedy in the coal mine at Marcinelle. Maria Luisa recounts, “It was the first time I painted for a theme requested by the organizers. Each painter was associated with a victim of the collapse; I was a Belgian, but many people from my country worked for years in that mine”. Another great passion of Maria Luisa Bertoni is cinema. In the summer of 2021 she takes part to the collective exhibition “Troisi Poeta Massimo”, in Naples, dedicated to the great actor Massimo Troisi. For the occasion she paints some works dedicated to the film “Il postino” (The Postman) and, by a series of coincidences, she personally delivers one of these paintings to Troisi’s nephew, the director Stefano Veneruso, assistant director during the shooting of the film nominated for five Oscars in 1996. “I knew little of Massimo Troisi’s films, but, thanks to this exhibition, I saw them again and read his poems, which inspired me to write some myself,” Maria Luisa continues. “Then the meeting with Veneruso, a kind and easy-going person who also told me some details about his uncle Massimo’s personality.”

During the lockdown period due to the pandemic, Maria Luisa Bertoni painted several pictures. “It took me a while, but then I found inspiration,” the artist explains.” One of the works I made during that time, a textured and rather large canvas, is called precisely The Cure.”