'Nothing escapes the mirror. The great space is in the mirror, time (whole time) is already in the mirror and space has the dimension of time' (Pistoletto quoted in Inside, Inside the Mirror, 1987, reproduced in Michelangelo Pistoletto, exh. cat., MACBA, Barcelona, 2000, p. 30).
The magnificent scale of Cristina che passa, 1968, makes it a superb example of Michelangelo Pistoletto's quadri specchianti or 'mirror paintings', which depicts his daughter Cristina. Pistoletto often used friends, family and people he knew as subjects. In a recent conversation with Michelangelo Pistoletto, the artist recalls being struck by his daughter Cristina at age eight as she crossed a room and in that very moment capturing her image in an instant photograph. Isolated against the reflective panel, Pistoletto's subjects began to assert and question the difference between the world of representation and the reflective 'reality' of the mirror.
This series formed the core of Pistoletto's oeuvre in the 1960s and since then, as the artist himself acknowledges, have run like 'a golden line' through his entire artistic career. (Pistoletto quoted in Ossian Ward, 'Interview: Michelangelo Pistoletto,' Time Out, 12-18 December 2007, p. 48)
Pistoletto began his first mirror paintings in 1961, and until 1971 when he began to silkscreen directly onto the mirrored surface, these first quadri specchianti, as here, were made by the complex and painstaking process of blowing up a photograph, cutting out the silhouette of the figure, and then tracing it onto a semi-transparent onion-skin paper with oils and pastels. This image was then glued onto the reflective metal surface. The mirror paintings evolved out of a series of self-portrait studies that Pistoletto painted in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The result of these studies was a realization that 'I understood that the moment had arrived to make the laws of objective reality enter the painting'. (M. Pistoletto quoted in G. Celant, Identits Italiennes, exh. cat., Paris 1981, p. 81). Pistoletto used the mimesis and reflectivity of the mirror as a way of letting reality and the life of the person, be it himself or the viewer, enter into the painting as both a subject and a performer.