"Manfredi Beninati: Flavio and Palermo - Mary Hrbacek", in NY Arts, May/June 2007
By Mary Hrbacek
In his new paintings, Beninati employs soft, luminous colors to create dreamlike visions of a world suffused with feelings of fantasy and nostalgia. The artist dissolves the boundaries between magical interiors and natural exteriors by filling the interiors with bouquets of flowers and vegetation. Outdoor spaces fairly reek of the beauty created by natural phenomena like aurora borealis, where particles from space stream through the earthís stratosphere in brightly colored, nocturnal bursts of light. Beninati transforms conventional architectural structures into mysterious imaginative spaces by constructing rivers and hills of rainbow-colored lines that penetrate through palatial rooms where elegant furnishings recede into light-filled mist. The viewer is seduced by visions of the luxurious ease found in a Mediterranean culture of another time.
Beninati ups the ante in the accompanying installation replete with detritus from a messy adolescentís room at the beach. A sandcastle provides a natural element that dissolves arbitrary indoor/outdoor divisions. The untidiness of the scene elicits a free feeling that provides space for original, fertile ruminations. This same creative environment is offered the viewer in the artistís paintings.
In the work Pirrina, a small room with a marble lamp table is transformed into a garden by pale green plant forms that spread over the walls, floor and ceiling. Softly colored strokes create a striped river of flowing paint that could be mistaken for streaks of rain on a windowpane. The fantasy garden room is alive with sensuous plant-life, defined by slender strokes and subtle floral markings.
In contrast, the painting Untitled (Palermo), displays a peasant boy on horseback, riding through an open landscape that is suffused with light. The scene recalls the imaginary aura of Thomas Colesí painting Voyage of Life: Youth, in which a boy daydreams of castles in the sky. Again, as if in a dream, there are shards of melting pink, yellow and blue hues flickering upon a pale ground, evoking a sun-drenched afternoon. Small palm trees and bunches of exotic flowering plants hug the ground where strokes of paint form a fantasy river. It is an image of warmth and wellness.
A night sky in Untitled (Fes Hagosh) displays millions of stars, juxtaposed with naked tree branches that flash with emanations from aurora borealis; the phantasmagoric scene inspires a feeling of limitless ecstasy and euphoria. In the work Untitled (Pessede), three fairy women, or possibly sea nymphs, populate a world of delightful vegetation seen through soft white light. The figures engage in a lively discourse (marked by gestures and raised arms) while they recline on a soft mound of striped matter that creates the effect of a bed of moss. Behind the women, grasses flow gently in the blue-brown waters.
In Beninatiís uncanny vision, natural elements penetrate interior spaces in lyric images that transport the viewer into new aesthetic terrain. The artistís sensitive use of the materials fosters the visual ease essential to those who experience his ephemeral images. These works elicit a fantasy world where man-made places are combined with natural forms, to provide an escape into an arena of sensuous harmony.