Top Pick: Mirror of the spirit

THIRTY years ago, after one of his parents had suffered a serious accident, Renato Meneghetti was forced to look at many x-ray images. The over-exposed photographs of bones and tissue fed on the artist's imagination for six months, until he finally started to see rivers, mountains and suns in the images.
"I can see Niagara Falls, the Sahara Desert or the Nile River in x-ray images. You can see many natural motifs inside each body if you are prepared to find them there," says Meneghetti, 55, the first artist ever to investigate the spiritual aspects of the human body through x-rays and other medical scans.


RENATO Meneghetti, a 'radioactive bomb'.
photo: Courtesy of GMB

THIRTY years ago, after one of his parents had suffered a serious accident, Renato Meneghetti was forced to look at many x-ray images. The over-exposed photographs of bones and tissue fed on the artist's imagination for six months, until he finally started to see rivers, mountains and suns in the images.

"I can see Niagara Falls, the Sahara Desert or the Nile River in x-ray images. You can see many natural motifs inside each body if you are prepared to find them there," says Meneghetti, 55, the first artist ever to investigate the spiritual aspects of the human body through x-rays and other medical scans.

Aided by a friend in a local hospital, Meneghetti started collecting x-ray images of various parts of his own body, images which he later painted with alcohol. Once a month he would have himself x-rayed 20 times, a practice doctors forced him to stop because of the danger to his health.

"I became a radioactive bomb," says Meneghetti, who after giving up the practice got doctors to save him images of hospital patients.

When Meneghetti eventually did explode, it was on to the art scene as a leading Italian contemporary artist. His stature has been acknowledged by the Bratislava City Gallery, which is now devoting its entire Pálffy's Palace facility to an exhibition of Meneghetti's work, called Transparencies: Bodies and Other Items. The exhibition is the largest project the palace has ever housed.

Over 100 large-scale canvas paintings hang from the walls and ceilings. Several-metre high illuminated stained glass panels of x-rayed body parts fill the floor space. Portrait-sized x-ray images painted in shiny colours cover the historical building's windows.


THE SPIRIT of the Forest is revealed through x-rays of tree bark.
photo: Courtesy of GMB

"I realise that my pictures are strong stuff, but in the beginning they were even more shocking. I used to present x-ray images of bare bones in their more natural, raw forms. Today my works are rather abstract," he says.

Meneghetti's paintings peer not only into human beings but also into animals and objects. In his vast Spirit of The Forest collection, for instance, Meneghetti even looks under tree bark to find intricate landscapes. "My wish is that in this age, which is marred by an obsessive pursuit of material goods, my works evoked meditation on deeper values," says Meneghetti.

Italian art critic Vittorio Sgarbi adds: "In his [Meneghetti's] own way, he has made x-rays a mirror of the spirit."

The exhibition runs at Pálffy's Palace on Panská 19, Bratislava until June 9. Open daily 10:00-17:00 except for Mondays. Tickets: Sk20-40. Tel: 02/5443-3627. A catalogue of the artist's work (Sk220) is available at the entrance.

By Zuzana Habšudová

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