Cristiana Fioretti’s Diaphanies

Francesco Murano

From the catalogue “Maria Cristiana Fioretti  Light Abstr-action”, pp. 29-30, Ed. Gabriele Mazzotta, Siena, 2010

The word “diaphanous” is commonly used to suggest transparency as well as limpidness and clarity, and if referred to a person, it takes on the content of pale, fair, wan. Thus, the word “diaphanous” embraces both light and matter, and it indicates something that is at once transparent and luminous.
This twofold meaning derives from the etymology of the word, which borrows from the Greek dia the significance of transparent, and from the Hellenic faino, the phrase “I make shine”. Therefore, “diaphanous” may be precisely referred to a material that lets the light show through; for this reason, the Jesuit and evolutionary scientist Teilhard de Chardin describes the Divine Word as “diaphanique”: in fact, it reveals God’s power.
On a more prosaic level, from the term “diaphanous” also derives the word “diaphanoscope”, which indicates the luminous screen used for examining x-rays. The light of diaphanoscopes makes it possible to visualize the hidden nature of the human body, revealing in negative the structural frailty of our existence.
Diaphanoscopes illuminate images and, thus, are a device that allows us to observe a figure by making evident the presence of light. Since x-rays show in transparency the light that illuminates them, it is possible to imagine the immaculate quality that the uniform light emanates from the screen before encountering the graphic lines of our body. The reduction of the luminosity of the screen is thus caused by the contamination of the image of our physical essence, and indeed the scientific investigation of this physical essence obviously ends up by prevailing over the contemplation of the light that materializes it.
The light is utilized to convey images and thus performs a function instrumental to the images themselves, just as occurs with television screens and those of computers. The technological evolution of these devices tends to a substantial reduction of their density, enhanced by new systems for the production of micro-fluorescent sources, plasmas, LEDs, OLEDs, and electroluminescent screens; however, the instrumental nature of their luminous function remains identical. The increased potential of the new sources has also promoted the use of luminous screens used as devices for the illumination of interiors, and this represents, in this sector, a clear innovation in terms of form. Indeed, lighting devices had, and usually still do, the form of boxes containing bulbs that emit light.
A luminous device of this sort can also be visually distinguished by the three main systems that make it up: the system of the physical structure, the electrical system, and the optical one. The flattening and reciprocal integration of these systems instead led to the creation of sources that are visually perceived as single units, panes of light where the electric, the structural, and optical parts all join, coming together to give life to a particular type of light: planewave light. And planewave light, in turn, joins with the planes of the architecture.
The light even manages to replace the partitions of space: splendid, evanescent walls describe spaces utterly pervaded by the light. The light no longer illuminates the space: the light is the space and man seems incorporated by it, his physical presence exalts the immateriality of the light that saturates the spaces. The illumination is pulverized; undirected light becomes one with the artificial atmosphere of interiors, made just as luminous and pervasive as the natural form. The light appears in all its potency and immateriality; it does not illuminate the real, it embraces it and integrates it in an osmotic pursuit of perfection. It is now that the meaning of the word “diaphanous” seems clear: the material, the real, exalt the transparency of the light, and it is the real that lends itself to the service of the light; the architecture itself is conceived in function of it as demonstrated by the luministic architecture of Tadao Ando and Peter Zumthor. The real “sub specie lucis” is also the focus of Maria Cristiana Fioretti’s efforts; she uses electro-luminescent panels in her work. This kind of source, made up of phosphorous deposited in very thin layers able to produce a perfectly uniform light, is among the thinnest, most flexible and immaterial sources of planewave light available today.
The colour and marks that Cristiana has applied to the panels highlight the emissive qualities of these sheets of light. The sheets, veiled with colour and marks, are pressed between plates of acrylic material that highlights their thinness and conserves their existence. The colour is no longer the “sufferance of light in material”, but the tool and method for a refined luminescent experiment, carried out not through the scientific analysis of performance, but as an artistic exploration of their potential. This is why the works of Maria Cristiana Fioretti are “diaphanies”: in them, material, colour, and figures verge on, for their transparency, the divine qualities of light.