Art News, Artists, Music and more!

Margaretha Gubernale: The Oneiric Symbolism of Light

The tree, in close connection with the sky and the earth, is one of the icons of her art: Margaretha Gubernale expresses herself with figurative and symbolic paintings at the same time, pervaded by a widespread spirituality. 

Margaretha recounts her long experience and intense life as a novel, from her childhood and youth in a small Swiss town, when she stubbornly cultivated painting almost in secret, to her personal and artistic maturity. “When I was a child, my parents owned a bakery. I would stay and watch my father decorate cakes and try to imitate him by painting,” is how Margaretha talks about her first approaches to painting. “Later, my father pushed me towards business studies, which I did not like, for fear that I would remain poor.” The artist continues, “At that time, in addition to painting, I began to cultivate poetry.” At seventeen, Margaretha came across Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy, a philosophical-spiritual current that would influence her artistic production. “I found a book by Steiner while poking around in my father’s library and started reading,” says the painter.  “At first it seemed a bit out of place in the world; but the more I read, the more I realized that his thought was deep and scientific, even if it requires concentration and dedication, even meditation. So I read many books with his lectures.” 

The young Margaretha Gubernale greatly admires Michelangelo, Botticelli, Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt, Delacroix, later also Brueghel, Klimt, Goya, a lot of Salvador Dali, Odilon Redon, Arnold Böcklin and Chinese painting. “In my paintings today I develop a new symbolism, integrating current techniques and themes,” the artist explains. The men, women and angels of Margaretha Gubernale’s paintings move in a dreamlike universe, but rich in naturalistic images inspired by the four fundamental elements, according to both a human and a spiritual interpretation. Here, then, that the strength of the fire represents the will, the fluidity of the water the feeling, the lightness of the air is the intellect, the solidity of the earth the matter. The human figures of his works tend upwards, where the light is, but, at the same time, they are immersed in the inner dimension of the dream. “I set up my first exhibition in Germany, with money inherited from my grandmother. But I could never be there, because my husband didn’t want to. Before he died, he gave me permission to exhibit in his presence, on the condition that I would have no other relationships after him. A promise I kept; and I believe, from where he is now, he is helping me.” 

Throughout her life, Margaretha Gubernale even endured attacks from the Swiss Dadaists, who dominated the scene in the city where the painter opened her first art gallery. She recounts, “When my parents moved to another location, my husband turned the garage of their house into a gallery, where I could exhibit my work and invite other artists. But the Dadaists, who were linked to the abstract currents, spurned me a lot, until I was forced to close down. At that point I began to propose my paintings abroad and I obtained the first successes”. 

In the course of her life, Margaretha has known the disease, first through her husband, who has assisted until the last days in his homeland, Sicily. In a more recent period, the artist had to turn those cares toward herself as she continued to paint and play the organ in church. Until we get to the recent chronicles and the last years marked by the pandemic. Margaretha recounts: “I had just returned from Paris, where I had exhibited my works at the Grand Palais, when we older people were forced to remain confined to the house, in a sort of captivity. Then we were asked to vaccinate ourselves first and not be selfish. Now there is even talk of a third dose. I pray every day to God to free the world from this slavery and enlighten those who govern us. I even painted a picture on this theme. I called it God’s Lightning against Corona.”