‘Demiurge of her own spectres, prophet and follower of her own rituals, repressed werewolf, deserter of rules and social impostures, intemperate like a heretic, unbounded in her passions like a mystic, Rama keeps on plunging us and herself into the less explored swamps of the unconscious’ (L. Vergine, ‘Carol Rama: Heroic, Exotic, Heretic,’ 1985, in The Passion According to Carol Rama, exh. cat. Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona 2015, p. 71).
A rich effusion of form and colour, Carol Rama’s Bricolage exudes the passion of its creator. Dolls’ eyes, complete with synthetic lashes, stare forth from an explosive surface of khaki, brown, black and white; reminiscent of camouflage paint or of the primordial ponds of the natural world, the composition ripples with energy, feathery black lines of force or motion radiating from the startling optical constellations at its centre. Bricolage is an outstandingly expressive work from Rama’s assemblages of the 1960s, which employed mixed media including false eyes, claws, beads and resin on canvas as part of her tumultuous investigations of her own sexuality and inner life. Her works caused scandal when they were first exhibited in Turin in 1945, the exhibition shut down by police on the grounds of obscenity. The scatological and explicitly erotic drawings of this early period set out the themes that would preoccupy her until her death in 2015, by which time her art’s richly intelligent psychosexual explorations had brought her to acclaim as an Italian counterpart to Louise Bourgeois. Gazing eerily out at the viewer, the clustered eyes in Bricolage evoke a visceral sense of voyeurism, while the churning, fleshy paint is suggestive of libidinous bodies; the work’s extraordinary vigour conveys the unnerving, overwhelming supremacy of Id over Ego, turbulent with unstoppable and primal power. ‘Everyone has a tropical disease inside him that he attempts to cure,’ she has said; ‘I cure it by painting’ (C. Rama, quoted in Carol Rama: Self Portrait, exh. cat. Castello di San Giorgio, Legnano, Turin 2008, p. 32). Replete with the strengths of her unique vision, Rama’s sensational theatre of fetishism and obsession demands that we return its gaze.