Danielle Rovetti’s work doesn’t need to sell you its appeal. We don’t need stories of themes, motifs and symbolism to feel an attachment. Sure, they’re there. Her work is cerebral and fascinating, but it’s the raw essence, the evocative nature of our desire to touch and to feel, that really draws us in.
The way her layered textural paintings are formed is through a unique pressing technique using oil paint and spatula, where uneven blobs of paint fall into line as uniform blocks in the construction of something entirely whole, abstract, expressive, immersive.
Like the rolling hills of a Tuscan landscape, lush textural topographies that, in each stroke, carry a contradiction of rawness and exactitude. These ‘brushstrokes’ are kinetic expressions, cogs that function as part of a machine, a greater whole consisting of multiple nodes. The sum, naturally, is far greater than its parts.
How patterns are made and shapes form, in nature as in the built world, seems to fascinate Rovetti. Some of the paintings feel finished and polished. Others carry with them qualities of experiment and process, like she’s working out what’s happening as she goes, mirroring the way nature produces its own art.
In this process, there’s the distinction that I touched upon earlier. Highly controlled hand movements build up these diverse images, whilst never being in full control of the painting’s fate. There’s a unique life in each of them, imperfections up close that, at a distance, fade away into something unblemished, something perfect.
There’s probably never been a more suitable metaphor for life itself - those pieces of art that appear ‘different’ or bearing divergent properties as dictated by the proximity of the onlooker. Life is a bit like that. People, too. When we look on from a distance, everything is just right, in place, curated. But up close, we see all the strokes , we see the work it takes and the living biographies of blemish.
Working out of South Africa’s Johannesburg, Rovetti’s experiences were formed in the corporate world, in branding and identity work. Maybe that’s why perception and behaviour are of such interest to her - the way people interact with her works and, on a philosophical level, how her works interact with the world itself.
Beyond the metaphor and symbolism, there’s a practical element of interaction too. The paintings' textures pick up light in unique ways, transforming works from gloomy and shadowy pieces suffused with melancholy, to bright and uplifting works - if caught under the correct lighting. The painting itself never changes, but the environment it’s in and the eyes that see it are constantly shifting. The mountain might be the same, but each climber has a different experience.
Combining the depth of layer with the composition of colour and subject, Rovetti teases out themes of duality - when something can be unmistakably one or the other, or, alternatively, when a painting sits somewhere in-between, refusing to be dualistic itself. Again, the artist only retains so much authorship over this, it’s the natural, innate, emotional response of her audience that fills in the gaps. In all art, there must be some degree of chaos.
Utilising mixed materials adds to the eclectic and holistic feeling that her work exudes, like we’ve actually got a slice of nature hanging on a gallery’s crisp white walls. Through the mini valleys and the uneven contours, Rovetti aims to strike at a fundamental human truth in her paintings, something honest, serene, contemplative. You just have to spend time with them, like nature itself, to become happily lost and find your own way.
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