Dafne Nesti, Paulina gets Married, 1998. Tempera on wood, 11 x 31 inches. Courtesy of the artist.
Dafne Nesti: A Narrative of Hope
“In a time in history, where beauty is under threat, Nesti’s work retains a sense of elegance and deep respect for humanity.”
Dafne Nesti creates vibrant, geometric-based illustrations of figures and animals that are dynamic snapshots of contemporary life. Her work highlights the intersection between contemporary illustration and classical Japanese and Art Noveau styles. Her figures swoon and sway as their elongated bodies are rendered with a deft, delicate, colorful balance. The figures that inhabit Nesti’s work seem to shimmer like stained glass. A multi-faceted artist, her work translates easily into narrative story telling as evidenced by her recent, exciting book Maffilu. Her book like her work visualizes an environment that espouses beauty, truth, and metaphysical thought. Each work takes the viewer on a journey of profound sentiment and the search for other worlds.
Born and raised in Milan Italy, Dafne Nesti began studying and cultivating her outstanding artistic and literary talent, displayed in her work, from the tender age of three. As a child, it was exhilarating to grow up in a country overflowing with abundant artistic styles emulated in so many renowned artists of the past and present. Nesti studied at the School of Art in Milan, School of Comic Books, and the School of Cartoon animation, where she graduated with a Certification as a Comic Book Artist. In her current body of work, these literary and visual pursuits combine in a unique fashion to create narratives that lift our spirits and engage us with humanity.
Contemporary anime typically includes exaggerated physical features such as large eyes, big hair, and elongated limbs. It also references history using elements of Japanese calligraphy and Japanese painting such as linearity of brush work and utilizing the round ink brush traditionally used for writing kanji and for painting. Art Noveau, which peeked at the end of the 19th century, was created by artists desire to break with the history of classical image making and blur the boundary between fine art and craft. Artists, designers, and architects sought a new way of thinking about art that would redefine the meaning and nature of art production to include everyday objects as well. Dafne Nesti combines these approaches in a fresh, contemporary style evidenced in dynamic works like Paulina Gets Married. Here the bold, centralized female figure dominates the panel in soft pinks and cream whites. She seems to radiate inner calm, as she partakes in this momentous ritual. Her body is elongated in a mannerist style and defined by a pink dress with linear, geometric folds. Her head of brown hair is set against two backdrops of rectangular and triangular patterns that indicate a stained glass window and a pathway. There is also an ornamental rhythm that seems to pulsate within it, similar to Islamic palaces. The use of the red rectangular pathway and the stained glass window are two fold, they act as an incredibly exciting visual motif and as an allegory of passage and reflection. Here, Nesti has bracketed this significant event by these iconic elements. Collectively her work explores technical possibilities to create more than just an illusion of reality, they also make a beautiful design or pattern within a given space.
In other works like Lucrezia, we see the profile bust of a redheaded woman encompassing the picture plane; her innocent and alluring face stares back at the viewer. The background has been lovingly painted in a golden amber hue. Nude yet concealed, she is reminiscent of a mythological nymph, both naïve and erotic within the same breath. Her bright, flowing red hair curls upward in a languid fashion, highlighting her lip color. Her stare seems to be inquiring within and inquiring of the viewer simultaneously. This image shares an affinity with paintings by Gustav Klimt, who also explored fantasy-like images of females against smoky, seductive backgrounds. When viewing this work I was reminded of Walt Whitman’s famous poem “Song of Myself” where he asks “What is a man anyhow? what am I? what are you?” Nesti’s work probes this very question in a sweet and sentimental portrait concerning the passage of youth into adulthood and the self-discovery that takes place therein.
Dafne Nesti’s most current and comprhensive work to date is her stunning series entitled Maffilu. Maffilu is a story about a princess saving dimensions in peril. As an Anime story, it is a compelling narrative that offers hope and comic relief. The protagonist is a modern day heroine who wishes to escape the bitter reality of existence. The setting takes place in a mythological world with castles, gods, and kingdoms. Main character Maffilu is the princess of Flowerworld, and the only one assigned to send flowers into the Universe, in the exact quantity and proper season. Therefore, she is the sole provider of beauty on Earth and in her own world. Throughout the book, she faces dangers and resistance in her efforts to keep beauty alive. How she accomplishes this task, is left for the viewer to find out. In a sense, Nesti has placed herself artistically in the position of the protagonist. In a time in history, where beauty is under threat, Nesti’s work retains a sense of elegance and deep respect for humanity. We empathize with Nesti’s protagonist, which requires that we be in touch with the subjectivity of the artist. In Hegel’s “Lectures on Fine Arts” he describes feeling as a pure, subjective emotional state of mind in which whatever concrete thing we are thinking of disappears, and is paired down into a great abstraction. Nesti has taken her abstract emotions namely distress, hope, and escape and fashioned them into a grand narrative that guides the viewer into another transcendent realm. This is the task of the true artist, to find a point of access between the physical and the metaphysical, between the tactile and the virtual.
Dafne Nesti, is a leading illustrator exhibiting breath taking paintings and writing descriptive narratives of the human condition. Emphasizing beauty, truth, and hope, she envisions a new world through her art. Comparable to Art Noveau artist, Aubrey Beardsley, Nesti’s work pays homage to history, employing a fascination with the theatrical style so prevalent in Ancient Greek vase painting and contemporary anime alike. Her transnational mixture of Eastern and Western styles makes her a unique, contemporary voice in the art world. Her new book Maffilu, can be purchased in print and online.