“Soul, love and animals mingle and merge as an intrinsic part of psyche. One is indistinguishable from the other. It is an indivisible knot that binds man and beast, desire and divinity, soul and animal.” With these words the famous Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Gustav Jung wants to affirm that animal derives from soul and that not only the love towards oneself, in the dimension of love for the animal that is inside each of us, but also the love for the others, where love means understanding and respect, will save us.
In the art world there are depictions of animals since pre-history, so much so that primitive man painted graffiti in the caves. This kind of painting was much represented by Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and subsequently found new impulses in the Middle Ages, to know its maximum splendor in the seventeenth century, when the representation of hunting scenes and landscape painting became a real fashion. In the following century exploded the fashion of representing exotic animals, rhinos, tigers, elephants, lions, able to evoke different cultures and distant worlds. In this period animals also enters the dwellings, being portrayed next to the nobles, then represented in its domestic and quiet nature.
Subsequently, with the advent of modern and contemporary art, animal depictions diminished, but these are still reproduced with extraordinary skill even by established artists such as Velazquez, Goya, Rubens, Durer, Delacroix, Renoir. Not to mention the imaginary animal kingdom, made of unicorns, dragons, chimeras or animals considered sacred as the owl and the snake for the Greek goddess Athena (Minerva for the Romans).
Franz Marc, one of the most famous exponents of expressionism, mainly painted domestic and wild animals. In the art of Paul Gauguin, man, animal and nature are represented in a strong and sublime harmony. The presence of animals is even found in Futurist works, as in the painting that represents the dynamism of a dog on a leash by Giacomo Balla of 1912. Even other artists of the 12th century have devoted their attention to the animal world, and in fact we also find animal paintings in the works of Joan Mirò and Paul Klee, who are certainly not interested in figuration. Animals can also be found in surrealist works, from René Magritte to Max René, and in the drawings and paintings of Salvador Dalì. In a sporadic way also De Chirico and Matisse have painted animals. Pablo Picasso paints countless bulls in the collection of tables created to illustrate the first and most classic treatise on the Corrida, La Tauromachia (1957).
The American artist Lesley Harrison in her realistic drawings, made with pastel colors, elaborates figures of white and black horses, wolves and tigers in the snow, ducks and rabbits. Some avant-garde "creatives" use animals with desecrating and ironic intent, as in the case of the Italian artist Luigi Serafini, who adopts roosters, hens and other birds with the technique of taxidermy (technique for the preservation of dead animals designed to confer the appearance and posture of those alive), or as in the case of the British artist Damien Hirst who uses real sharks, cut them in half and put them into formalin.
Among the contemporary artists who focus their work on animal representation, the figure of Simona Liberati emerges overwhelmingly. Born in Avezzano (L’Aquila) in 1969, she began drawing and painting since she was a child, arousing the wonder of her parents, who supported this precocious inclination, accompanying her to museums and art galleries. She has a diploma from the Liceo Artistico “S. Orsola” and a degree in Architecture from the University “La Sapienza” of Rome. Her thesis was on the upgrading of the Borghetto Flaminio. As an architect, she has, among other things, worked on the creation of a new Foyer for the Teatro Valle, on the restoring and re-inforcing of the structure of the Cathedral and the Palazzo del Collegio Raffaello in Urbin; as well as the churches of SS. Annunziata in Camerino and S. Onofrio and Giulitta in Venarotta. Since 2004 she has attended Open University courses on painting, with particular emphasis on nudes, at the “Rome University of Fine Arts” (RUFA).
During the summers of 2011 and 2012 she attended the courses “Expanded Painting/Painting and Space” with the artist Christina Zurfluh and “How to Paint” with the artist Hanspeter Hoffmann at the “Summer Academy of Salzburg”, taking part in the ending courses exhibition. In the climate of comparisons and intercultural exchanges initiated during the experience gained in Austria, she establishes new important contacts with other artists, directing her research towards the themes of neofigurative painting and of the portraitisme d'antan, progressively projecting her artistic and exhibition activity towards the dialectic of ideological naturalism.
She has numerous participations in collective exhibitions and in 2006 she inaugurated her first solo exhibition in Rome, with flattering acclaim from the public and critics. She obtained the Cambat Prize 2012, she exhibited at the Circolo Antico Tiro a Volo, at the Cà d'Oro Gallery in Piazza di Spagna in Rome with the personal entitled Animalia, at the Gallery Gangemi exposing Recent Works (2016, curated by Francesco Giulio Farachi and Massimo Rossi Ruben). Her works appear in private and artistic collections, national and foreign, and authoritative art critics were interested in her production, including Claudio Strinati, Gloria Porcella, Alessandro Riva and Danilo Baciocchi.
Simona Liberati places the animals in the foreground and at the center of her works; freeing them from the realm in which man has confined them, the artist emphasizes in each of them the uniqueness of the individual, an aspect that manages to exalt, thanks to her technical abilities, the extraordinary use of color and the suggestive atmospheres. "The real protagonists of my paintings are the colors, each animal corresponds to a state of mind: Animalia also contains the concept of soul", this is how our artist expresses herself in a recent interview.
Tigers, rhinos, elephants, flamingos, monkeys, panthers leap out of the canvases: a real metropolitan jungle. Many animals are portrayed with their jaws wide open, the menacing gorilla, the eagle with a terrifying look, the roaring tiger, others, instead, are nice and colorful portraits of animals caught in various positions.
The iconography of the animals depicted by Simona Liberati is not the usual one of domestic animals such as cats, horses, fish, dogs, portrayed by countless artists, they are instead animals in ‘captivity’ with a penetrating look, like the rhinoceros, and bright and vibrant colors, as in the flamingo. "The impression that we have is that the picture is three-dimensional, that the animal comes out of the painting and that it is not part of it. The eyes, emphasized by the colors, fascinate and wrap, you feel them 'on'. Some inspire fear, other tenderness. It almost seems like an autobiography on canvas” (Gloria Porcella).
However, the research in Simona Liberati art does not end with the representation of animals, revealing itself in portraits and human figures too. Men, women, children are always captured in the foreground, with a fixed and penetrating gaze towards the observer, capable of reflecting on the mystery and importance of life and rediscovering the emotions mitigated by everyday life.
In these works the artist from Abruzzo shows a remarkable ability to compose on canvas and paper atmospheres fruit of long studies and application, managing to make us lose in the universe, and then let us find immersed in an introspective journey, a path already undertaken by the painter which has thus repeated feelings, emotions, joys and resentments of life, through the expression and the eyes of animals and men, which are nothing other than the autobiographies of all of us, being basically the portrait of the whole humanity.
"The art of Simona Liberati is constantly evolving. The images are energetically outlined and fixed, and yet the idea of visual shock is greatly emphasized in this artist, an electrocution that springs from a well-organized and structured hand and mind, and it is not entirely a coincidence that she is an architect and that her technical dimension has a far more detailed attention than can be believed at first, observing her works" (Claudio Strinati).
The portraits of Simona Liberati are characterized by their personality, having individual expressions that are not symbolic but real, they are portraits of animals and men, which we can without hesitation define as "psychological portraits".