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The Roots of Heaven


He is one of those infinite journeys at the heart of life, where we must constantly adapt to survive… Initiatory trips, ontological trips, quest trips… Travels of a grandmother, soul mate and model,  in this dreamed Africa where she settled… Giulia, Elena, two women and two destinies, separated by half a century, who intersect and mingle during an exhibition… Giulia’s hopeful travels to Africa with her six children and her entomologist husband. «Man develops with his choices» says Sartre. What would have been her life and destiny if she had not followed her husband blindly and by love in such distant and unknown lands. Total change of scenery and discovery of a captivating country and of the very other. The landscapes are interpenetrated. The two feminine sensibilities are mixed. The gleaming sunsets of a thousand fires palpate at dusk. Mounts vibrating with the sudden blooming of tufts of carmine flowers.


Wide and vast panoramas of savannah, with lying grass, are crossed by a powerful breath. A family advances in the shade of the big mountains to the rhythm of the drums and the awakening nature. In the distance we can hear the roar of wild animals and the leaps of gazelles. A superb frieze unfolds before our eyes, supreme vibration of saffron yellow, hemmed in king blue before the storm. 


The colors of the high plateau, in patchwork superimposed in shades of subtle brown, vibrate in the blinding whitish light. Children walk in this imposing hill circus. The richness of these paintings comes from their combination of reliefs and transparency. Elena Chioccarelli’s free and innovative wash technique, made of large sweeping games with a large brush of chamfered paint and dripping, gives a feeling of amplitude and freedom to all these landscapes.  These vast expanses, translucent like stained glass windows, magically restore the powerful light of Africa. All surfaces under the viewer’s eye become diaphanous, suggesting the Infinite.  A twisted tree, a pillar standing between earth and sky, offers a welcome shelter and shade in the radiance of the sun. Life pulsates and runs along its roots, trunk and branches. The life of several generations waiting.


Elena’s initiatory travels thirty years later in Europe and South America, before her installation in Switzerland. Dreams of Africa from her grandmother’s diary and the wonderful stories heard from  her mother and aunt. A Ethiopia sublimated by the dreams of children of several generations, combined and coupled with the vision of black-white photos interviews. 

Ebb and flow of life. Intersubjectivity. A person with long hair, reminiscent of Giulia, whom Elena admired styling herself, looks towards the distance. The sensations of both marry to become one.  Memories mingle and are born on canvas, exciting and colorful, asking us about the meaning of life that gradually fades away.


 Return trip full of nostalgia, in Italy, with her children, leaving with anguish her husband, prisoner of  war in Africa. Huge exodus, through the deserted plains, hungry, thirsty and exhausted to the «White Ships» of the Red Cross.  A work illustrates this fact, a set of collages and paintings assembled, unfolding in a two-tone frieze in a frame, designed as a window to the future.


Finding a new balance, a new spark, a new meaning… For a new flight. Beyond the oceans, lands and mountains, the couple communicates through the thought and power of their love, which like an invisible thread stretches to infinity. The anxiety is growing. The memories of this enchanting and peaceful African country begin to fade, then fade away as suggested by these original accordion views, enclosed in a treasure box, a metaphor of our memory. The letters of grandparents separated on different continents, where they dialogue with strength and passion through correspondence, are heartbreaking. They remind Elena of the quintessence of life, of Love. The only color of a painter’s palette is the color of Love said Chagall. It is this color that the artist seeks to canvas between the lines of the past, the present and the future. Lines that run and run to infinity, gorged with new stories in the making.

Like an alchemy, colors and lines weave and pulsate on the canvas. Their organization, their colorful intensity and their rhythm, overwhelm and intoxicate the spectator to infinity. Little by little the pieces of their lives are interpenetrating and sticking together as a puzzle. A mosaic is created in the image of their lives interwoven, amazed by so much beauty and shared sincerity...

Elena Chioccarelli’s painting, located halfway between the contemporary Chinese dreamlike painting of a Zao-Wou Ki, and the expressive and wild creativity of a Pollock, surprises us, delights us with the diversity of its techniques, its supports and materials added and worked. Streaks and translucent and diapulent spots maculate these infinite spaces. A breath seems to cross all his work and invites us to dream and contemplation.


Driven by the story and love of her grandmother, Elena Chioccarelli makes us live a great sensitive and timeless adventure that invites us to reflect on the importance of the choices we make, the roads followed and the meaning of life. Conscious of the heritage received from his grandfather, made of courage and dignity, the artist offers us a set of great originality in form and content. An African fresco, which invites us to an infinite journey, where trees have roots in the sky, where heaven and earth converse and speak to each other. And as the contemporary Belgian poet and philosopher Nils Bard said, about his parents, words that could be transposed to Elena’s grandmother, “parents give roots and wings to children. Roots to know where you came from and wings to fly to the future.” 

An Infinite Journey of Emotions, where spectators can surf and perhaps find their way around…   


Patricia Zazzali (art historian - Lausanne)

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