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Pietro Spadafina: The Architect who paints dreams and suffering

“I was at the drafting table and working, and, as I often did to distract myself a bit and take my eyes off the project at hand, I started doodling. But that time the scribble-drawing had a particular attraction for me: it seemed that the lines spoke to me”. Pietro Spadafina, artist-architect, thus recounts the beginnings of his painting, along with the manifesto of his art, the so-called Active Drawing that Spadafina described in the book “L’interpretazione dello scarabocchio”. “I didn’t crumple up the paper to throw it away as I usually did,” the artist continues, “but I kept it and then tried again, trying to recreate that condition of decompression and distraction from everyday life that accompanied the doodles. As I continued the experiment, I realized that, even though I didn’t want to, symbols that belonged to me appeared in the grid of lines. I went on until I realized that those symbols were also universal.” This is how the artist describes the moment of arrival at Active Drawing, a method that, in drawing with eyes closed, draws as much as possible from the unconscious. Among the plots of graphic signs, interesting and explanatory symbols emerge, as in the graphological theory of the philosopher Max Pulver or in the theory of colors of the psychotherapist Max Luscher, both studied by Spadafina.

Pietro Spadafina is an artist with a definite and rational stroke, but his works are characterized by dreamlike images, recognizable and, at the same time, coming from an inner world that has to do with the cosmos and with Carl Gustav Jung’s theory of synchronicity. Among the artists who have left their mark on his path, there are Tamara De Lempicka and Salvador Dali. 

After graduating in architecture in Turin, the city where he lived for a long time, Pietro Spadafina has long since returned to his homeland, Puglia. “For more than thirty years I have been in close contact with the events and cycles of nature in the Apulian countryside”, says the artist, “this dimension allows me to swim in solitude, in the swimming pool that I myself have built taking into account the vibrations, the colors, the plants and the stones that I have used to create it”. But his is not a buen retiro sheltered from the world. In the past, Pietro Spadafina has worked at length with drug addicts, testing the therapeutic properties of his artistic theories, and, more recently, he has tackled the theme of immigration in his land. The artist recounts: “In the drawings of a boy not yet of age, who had already been living in a rehabilitation community for drug addicts for some years, the silhouette of a pregnant woman appeared, less and less hidden. I helped him search for meaning within himself and, halfway through the course, he learned that his girlfriend, whom he saw only on the few days of freedom during the year, was pregnant. Having now taken on a divinatory aspect, the drawing amazed that boy enough to push him to investigate further. During a weekly meeting with his mother, he discovered something he had never suspected and that was that he was adopted and that his biological mother had given him to his adoptive mother when she was still carrying him. This self-discovery freed the boy and gave him the joy of life.” Spadafina, who in his life has experienced the disease, perceived the suffering and the sense of history around him, in the Puglia of caporalato; so, in 2008, he decided to create a traveling exhibition (Foggia, Naples, Rome) that would tell this painful situation. The title of the exhibition, “The dream of the tomato tree”, refers to a sort of deception to which immigrants are subjected, convinced that they will find a decent job.

In this last period Pietro Spadafina has been interested in the story of Ötzi, the mummy of Similaun found in a glacier of Val Senales (Bolzano) in 1991. The artist tells us: “From investigations on his body, it turns out that, five thousand years ago, this traveler-therapist healed people through simple tattoos. The work I’m making about this is called ‘Otzi’s Woman’, because it is through the feminine, the soul, the right hemisphere of the brain, the imagination, that we can dare.” In Naples, Spadafina is present in the exhibition “Troisi Poeta Massimo” with the work “Ricomincio da tre”, a title taken from one of the films of the late actor Massimo Troisi.