“I think about my nonno's mulberry tree. A tree bursting with delicious fruit. I remember the intensity of finding those mulberries on the tree. Food was scarce, and even though we grew the food that we ate, we could only grow whatever was in season. And there I was. Every feeling heightened. Your body is in spasm because you're hungry. Then suddenly there's something to eat. And you’re famished. And you remember being in your grandfather's garden, you remember what it was like to walk on the grass, you remember climbing the tree and biting into the mulberries. I can just conjure up those emotions: desperation, hunger, joy, all of it. I can make a painting out of it.” - Antonia Perricone-Mrjlak
Antonia Perricone-Mrjlak's Fermare Lutto is a profound exploration of culture, memory, and self. The daughter of Italian immigrants, her Sicilian roots infuse her work with a palpable sense of contemplation and self-reflection.
Descending from a family of labourers, each gestural brushstroke holds reverence for the enduring customs and practices that have shaped her family history. A commitment to authenticity, she skillfully fuses notions of tradition and discipline—both crucial in her creative practice. Lutto is one of these traditions—deeply tethered to her familial heritage. It is a pivotal revelation in her discourse; within the sorrow of loss resides a unique celebration of life's fullness.
At the heart of Perricone-Mrjlak's work is the colossal, emotive gestural marks she has become famous for. They unfurl with an almost reserved power, each stroke a new line in her retelling of story and memory. Her palettes are not products of calculated intent, but instead emerge organically from the deepest recesses of her being. Childhood memories of hunger, the despair of scarcity, and the jubilation of abundance each blend seamlessly into an authentic representation of her personal history—bookmarked moments in her life.
Through observation and recollection, she blurs the lines between the spoken word and the unspoken lexicon of tradition. It is here that we discover the intrinsic teachings of her cultural background: the need for stillness in order to observe, learn, and connect with the language of her memories.
These cultural traditions, rooted in reflection, provide a comforting refuge. At its core, her work is a conduit for the endurance of practice and observation—an unbroken line that forms between her works and the discipline inherent in her unique cultural diaspora. Like a lyrical tapestry, Antonia Perricone-Mrjlak expertly weaves the threads of tradition, memory and identity, yielding a masterful confluence of past and present.
The evolution of Fermare Lutto is a compelling testament to Perricone-Mrjlak's maturation in both practice and self. In it, she makes audacious choices to confront and, where necessary, obliterate entire compositions, forging a fearless path ahead. She has pushed through the hunger and desperation to get to this final moment—the denouement of her practice: climbing the mulberry tree to finally enjoy the fruits of her labour.