Dreams of a Night


by Beba Stoppani

The natural counterpoint to my work on the Rhône Glacier — 0° a 5000 mt (0° at 5,000 m, 2016) — which focused on the problem of global warming, this new work featuring Iceland is based on the desire to go beyond condemnation or denial in order to concentrate on the formulation of a valid model of social, environmental and cultural life that can be a source of inspiration for an environmentally sustainable future. Iceland, a magic land where dreams become reality, is — for those seeking it — a wonderful example of life, a fascinating place with striking contrasts, loved and strenuously safeguarded by its inhabitants. With its vast, undulating landscape, this ‘Fortunate island where all men are equal / But not vulgar — not yet’ (W.H. Auden) revives the spirits in the silent immensity of a natural environment that welcomes the visitor with its strong contrasts: seas of black lava and gentle slopes of bright green grass, carpets of moss and lichens, fiery volcanoes and melt water from glaciers. The luminosity of the shadowless midnight light amalgamates all the contrasts as in a dream, with a sense of enchanted suspense. Its numinous energy harmonizes and pacifies the tormented mind and the conflicts of the heart. Everything is possible: we can still try to find a solution, looking ahead to building a future, a new conscience and new knowledge.

by Gigliola Foschi

Beba Stoppani’s most recent work is the result of journey to Iceland during the summer solstice, when the soft, persistent light of the northern day prevails over the night to the extent that it practically eliminates it. This is a journey where every photograph contains powerful traces of an exciting encounter as well constituting a further step towards discovering the quintessence of Iceland, allowing close contact with its dense and sombre natural environment and its history where sagas and legends reflect the violence of the whale hunt.
This photographer does not, however, construct an open and unstable narrative consisting of images forming evocative and fragile fragments, glimpsed almost casually from the corner of the eye, as many — maybe too many — young photographers tend to do. Quite the contrary: each of her pictures has the succinct power of an icon and asserts itself as a forceful presence, laden with references. This has been made possible thanks to visual choices that represent the particular emotions suggested on each occasion by the different subjects that she is dealing with, not by a style of photography good for all seasons. Thus Beba Stoppani brings the scenery of Iceland to life with two polyptychs based on controlled movement, capable of revealing the primordial and timeless energy of its majestic undulating landscape, shrouded in shadows that contrast with the brightness of a never-ending summer’s day. Then, when she penetrates the interior of the huge Vatnajökull Glacier, her gaze becomes close and sharp, as if she wished to rediscover the hidden power and magic of this gelid belly. Lastly, the photographer encounters the weather-beaten skull of a huge whale, a poignant symbol of the whale hunt practised for centuries by the Icelanders. It is displayed in a sort of altarpiece, as if it were the sorrowful bust of an ancient portrayal of Christ: charged with sacredness and hovering between immanence and transcendence and life and death, this work is a warning that, however, offers hope for a future age when humanity will respect the natural world.

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