UK Basketry Revisited at the Ruthin Craft Centre

Propius, Lizzie Farey, willow
Propius, Lizzie Farey, willow
© Lizzie Farey

Works by a notable group of artists are on exhibit in Basketry: Function & Ornament at the Ruthin Craft Centre in the UK through October 13, 2019. The exhibition, curated by Gregory Parsons, looks at current practice of some 30 makers from throughout the UK including bg artists Lizzie Farey, Dail Behennah, Tim Johnson, Rachel Max and Laura Ellen Bacon. Basketry: Function & Ornament brings together functional vernacular work from various parts of the country, alongside pieces that are sculptural and ornamental, providing “a survey of a craft that has been somewhat sidelined in times of great technological advances, yet offers a sustainable answer to so much of our modern day throw-away habits.”

Keeping Time Baskets
Keeping Time Baskets,
© Tim Johnson, 2019

Tim Johnson’s artistry is represented by baskets from his “Keeping Time” series. “These ‘keeping time’ baskets, like all baskets, take time to make,” he says. “The twining, folding and stitching that holds them together marks increments of being, a declaration of presence, the makers time is kept in the work, a trace of activity. “

Thatched and piled textile structures date back to Neolithic times, Johnson says, providing insulation and weather protection in our ancestors garments and shelters. “In the ‘keeping time’ series I am happy to work in this tradition and relate the basket’s captured spaces to the containment of ancient clothing and architecture.”

Ventus, Lizzie Farey, willow
Ventus, Lizzie Farey, willow
© Lizzie Farey

The other artists in Basketry: Function & Ornament include influential makers Lois Walpole and Mary Butcher, the remarkable Irish basketmaker Joe Hogan and Lise Bech along with Mandy Coates, John Cowan, Mary Crabb, Jane Crisp, Jenny Crisp, Alison Dickens, Rosie Farey, Eddie Glew, Charlie Groves, Stella Harding, Peter Howcroft, Anna King, Annemarie O’Sullivan, Sarah Paramor, Dominic Parrette, Polly Pollock, Ruth Pybus & David Brown, Clare Revera, Lorna Singleton and Maggie Smith.
RUTHIN CRAFT CENTRE
THE CENTRE FOR THE APPLIED ARTS
PARK ROAD, RUTHIN
DENBIGHSHIRE
LL15 1BB
OPEN DAILY
10.00AM – 5.30PM
ADMISSION FREE


Happy Summer Hiatus!

Stonington Maine
Stonington Maine, photo by Rhonda Brown

At browngrotta arts we have a boatload of projects in the works for Fall. To concentrate on those — and on a couple of great trips we have planned — arttextstyle is taking the month of August off — to recharge our batteries and do some big picture thinking. We’ll be back in September with new posts, ideas, information and loads of luscious artwork.
Happy Summer!!


Art Assembled: New this Week in July

We always want our blog to be a place for textile and fiber artists and collectors to be inspired, and a place to see and learn from the best. We started the summer off hot and July was no different. We kicked off the month of July with artist Lija Rage. She is influenced by many different cultures. She is particularly interested in drawings of ancient cultures on the walls of caves in different parts of the world. Eastern culture with its mysterious magic, drawings of runes in Scandinavia, Tibet and the mandala, Egyptian pyramid drawings. 

Lija Rage wall sculpture
3lr My Sun For Everyone, Lija Rage, bamboo, copper wire, fabric 46.5” x 58.75” x 1.25”, 2018

“Currently, I am interested in new technologies and their use in contemporary fiber art. Textile and fiber art for me are types of modern art that use fiber as their medium. It is the type of art that borders the four fine arts types with the same high requirements and tasks. I believe in its development in the modern world.” Lija Rage New This Week featuring My Sun For Everyone, by Lija Rage.

Tamiko Kawata safety pin wall art
34tk Infinite, Tamiko Kawata, safety pin on canvas wrapped wood 11″ x 11″ x 3″, 2014

We continued the month with works from Tamiko Kawata. Discarded materials are important to Tamiko Kawata, not only for environmental issues but also to reflect his current life. Her choice of materials and interpretation are influenced by the differences experiences between life in America and Japan where she grew up.

“Safety pins function variously as thread, yarn, clay or truss in my work process. I found them soon after I arrived from Japan, out of the necessity to shorten all-too-long American clothing. I noticed their smooth texture and their head- and tail-like details. In the beginning, I found ways to interlock them, as if weaving. I found constructing systems as I went along, using only the inherent structural properties of the pins, and now can create anything from “drawings” to three-dimensional, self-standing works.” Tamiko Kawata New This Week featuring Infinite, Tamiko Kawata, safety pin on canvas wrapped wood.

Wendy Wahl Encyclopedia art
32ww CE/EB #4, Wendy Wahl
Encylopedia Britanica and Comptons pages, poplar frame, 24″ x 32″ x 1.5″, 2011.
27ww EB ’62 vol. 17-18, Wendy Wahl
Encylopedia Britanica pages, poplar frame, 24″ x 32″ x 1.5″, 2011

One thing you could count on as a child was never having to look at an encyclopedia during the Summer and Wendy Wahl made sure of it! She continues to wow us with her use of this material, and she pushes them into a contemporary extreme, somewhere between art and object.
“My art has always been a protest against what I have met with in weaving. I started to use rope, horsehair, metal and fur because I needed these materials to give my vision expression and I did not care that they were not part of the tradition in the field.” Wendy Wahl New This Week featuring work from Wendy Wahl.

Kiyomi Iwata Ogara Choshi
21ki Fungus Three, Kiyomi Iwata, Ogara Choshi are gathered. The surface is embellished with gold leaf and French embroidery knots, 6.5” x 8” x 7.5”, 2018

We wrapped up the month with artist Kiyomi Iwata. In her work, she explores the boundaries of East and West through absence and presence, void and volume.

Fungus Three is made from ogarami choshi. Even though they are all created in the same manner, the elements are all different shapes and tones. The individual pieces are gathered together to make one large bundle. This was inspired by a saying I heard: ‘If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.’  This seems a good thought to keep in mind during these trying times.” Kiyomi Iwata  New This Week featuring work from Kiyomi Iwata


Dispatches: Philadelphia

Philadelphia skyline from the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum

There are no end to art and historical treasures in Philadelphia and Rhonda had a chance to meet up with some good friends and take in a few last week. The Philadelphia Art Museum is a wonder and its annex, the Perelman Building, houses two intriguing exhibits: Souls Grown Deep: Artists of the African American South and The Art of Collage and Assemblage through September 2nd. Souls Grown Deep combines and extraordinary collection of textile art, sculpture, and painting acquired from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation.

Roman Stripes Variation Quilt, 1970, Loretta Pettway(born 1942)

With remarkable inventiveness, generations of quilters from Gee’s Bend, Alabama have created arresting compositions of color and form from worn-out clothes and other repurposed fabrics. Provocative mixed-media paintings and found-object sculptures by Thornton Dial, Lonnie Holley and others are displayed amongst the quilts, whose subjects and materials echo with the painful history of the American South and the conditions of life for many who live there. The collage exhibition includes works by Joseph Cornell, a personal favorite, and other less-expected names including Romare Bearden, Bettye Saar and Pablo Picasso.

Protecting Myself the Best I can (Weapons by the Door), 1994, by Lonnie Holley (American, born 1950), 2017-229-24.
Lonnie Holley/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
Photo: Stephen Pitkin/Pitkin Studio/Art Resource (AR), New York

We found artfulness of another kind at the National Constitution Center’s new permanent exhibition, Civil War and Reconstruction: The Battle for Freedom and Equality. Some interesting textiles are on display, including a fragment of the flag that Abraham Lincoln raised at Independence Hall, 1861 (From the Collection of the Civil War Museum of Philadelphia on loan from Gettysburg Foundation) and an embroidered potholder that reads, “Any Holder but a Slaveholder.” We also appreciated the Anti-Slavery Alphabet from 1847.

Cardbird II, 1971, Robert Rauschenberg

The exhibition has an ambitious premise, to illustrate how the nation transformed the Constitution after the war to more fully embrace the Declaration of Independence’s promise of liberty and equality. The 3,000- square-foot exhibit brings to life the stories of Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman and other figures central to the conflict over slavery. It features the stories of lesser-known individuals, too, in order to shed light on the American experience under slavery, the battle for freedom during the Civil War and the fight for equality during Reconstruction, which many call the nation’s “Second Founding.” Highlighted are the three constitutional amendments added between 1865 and 1870, which ended slavery, required states to respect individual rights, promised equal protection to all people, and expanded the right to vote to African-American men. The exhibition covers, as the Wall Street Journal terms it: “the racially egalitarian society that was briefly wrestled into being after the abolition of slavery, before the ravages of Jim Crow and the hard-fought triumphs of the civil-rights movement.”

Potholder, National Constitution Center, Philadelphia

The artfulness is evident in the matter-of-fact way the signage and artifacts give equal time to the efforts made to reach equality and those determined to subvert each of those amendments — including displays about Ku Klux Klan, complete with original robes, which were not white but maroon and heavily ornamented. Also edifying and persuasive is the neutrally presented, but inescapable, evidence that the goals of these amendments are yet to be achieved. An example, noted by one reviewer, is the 13th Amendment. “The interactive displays…show the debates, the drafts, and the redrafting of those amendments and help to explain how the final draft [of the 13th] actually allowed forced labor ‘as a punishment for crime’ … It does not take long to make the connection between the 13th Amendment and the shockingly profitable system of prison labor and prison farms which still exists today.” (Margaret Darby, Exhibit Review: Civil War and Reconstruction Phillylifeandculture.com, May 9, 2019).

Anti-Slavery Alphabet, National Constitution Center, Philadelphia



Process Notes: Stéphanie Jacques

Studio Installation, Brussels, Belgium, photo Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts
Stéphanie Jacques Studio Visit

Stéphanie Jacques wrote about identity for browngrotta arts’ latest exhibition, art + identity: an international view. Here are Jacques’ thoughts on the topic:

Detail, Ce qu'il en reste
Detail, Ce qu’il en reste, photo Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts

“At the present time, the notion of identity seems to me to be a dimension in constant movement. I can distinguish, however, one coherent element, a sort of red thread : the desire to assemble all that is scattered. 

“Winter 2015, in my studio notebook, I draw a human face.  A woman’s face.  Tears in the form of feet and hands stream from her eyes. That winter, I continued working on a series of sculptures which will become the work Ce qu’il en reste.  A small human figure stands upright. She is in balance.  Hanging from her pelvis is an assemblage of cubes and parallelepipeds which tumble to the floor. 

Detail, Ce qu'il en reste, photo Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts
Detail, Ce qu’il en reste, photo Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts

“Summer 2016, after 15 years of living in the country, I move to a new studio, in town. There, the first thing I make is a series of monotypes. Inspired by the drawing of the previous winter, this time, I engrave an image of the woman’s face on a sheet of linoleum. With each new print, another face appears. Little by little, an open mouth takes the place of the tears.  Blue…. Red…., on this white paper, like an unconscious trace, areminder of the violence which is spreading throughout Europe at that time.  Violence moreover, which still continues today. This face has something to tell.  

Detail, Ce qu'il en reste, photo Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts
Detail, Ce qu’il en reste, photo Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts

“Applying the coiling technique, I stitch bundles of white thread.  First comes an eye, two eyes, then the mouth, the whole face.  Between my hands, a soft and damaged material takes form. One senses anger. It is the first time I create a human face, a mask. ‘Without a doubt one of the most ancient forms of expression of human culture’ so a book on the subject informs me. On a table, are two looped legs covered in plaster. They will find their place, on top of this head. 

“That summer, I spend hour upon hour sewing, cubes and parallelepipeds made of willow and stitching with waxed linen thread.  Small, medium, large.  Assembled and tinted with India ink, they form a structure into which I may enter.  

Detail, Ce qu'il en reste, photo Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts
Detail, Ce qu’il en reste, photo Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts

“Oh Joy ! I dance in my studio, searching somehow through my movement, a relationship with this form. I set up the camera and take photos. My face is veiled. The frame is fixed. As the shooting advances, a story appears. I decide on four images.  Four attempts at materializing this constant transformation, at bringing life to this form.  A series of portraits follows. This time, sitting on a chair, my appearance is modified by wearing an object, a sculpture. Each image incarnates a new state, another state. 

The process here described is necessary for these images to exist. They are not an end in itself but a document of what has passed.Certain emotions, intuitions, propel me to make certain objects. More and more, I feel the need to record their creative impact and this physical sensation which passes through my body as it is positioned in space and time. It is my way of questioning the identity of these forms.  Using image is a means to make them fall from their pedestal.”

Detail, Ce qu'il en reste, photo Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts
Detail, Ce qu’il en reste, photo Tom Grotta, courtesy of browngrotta arts

Stéphanie Jacques
April 2019


Dispatches: San Francisco

Carter Grotta, of our browngrotta arts team, traveled to San Francisco last month. We asked him to snapshots of interesting art. Here are some of the highlights!

First the de Young. There, Carter visited the Saxe Collection at the de Young Museum, where he saw an Untitled work of bark and stone by Dorothy Gill Barnes and ceramics by Toshiko Takaezu and Paul Soldner.

Ruth Asawa installation at the deYoung Museum

A great collection of works by Ruth Asawa, San Francisco’s most well-known fiber artist, is also on display at the de Young Museum along with a unique abstract quilt, A Bend in the River, by Joe Cunningham.

A Bend in the River by Joe Cunningham
A Bend in the River by Joe Cunningham
SFMOCA digital installation

Next SFMOCA. Carter was quite taken by this remarkable digital installation, part of snap+share: transmitting photographs from mail art to social networks, a unique take on transmitting photographs from mail art to social networks. This work illustrates what it means to engage with the technological advancements of the 21st century to create digital conversations in photographs.

Magdalena Abakanowicz Four on a Bench
Magdalena Abakanowicz Four on a Bench

Also housed at the SFMOMA, the sculptures of Magdalena Abankanowicz, like Four on a Bench, are representative of the oppressive historic conditions of her native country, Poland.

Jannis Kounellis Untitled piece of steel
Jannis Kounellis, Untitled

Also at SFMOMA, was this interesting Untitled piece of steel, crucible, tar and rope, by Italian-born artist, Jannis Kounellis, in The Doris and Donald Fisher Collection.

Tanabe Chikuunsai IV bamboo sculpture
Tanabe Chikuunsai IV

Also worth a trip, the Asian Art Museum which features an exciting installation by Tanabe Chikuunsai IV — a 4th generation bamboo artist, that seems to have grown organically within the gallery space.

Federal Court House building in San Francisco
Federal Court House Building

What Carter couldn’t see — or photograph at least — was That Word, a larger-than-life sculpture of twigs by Gyöngy Laky which is on loan to the federal courts where photography is strictly prohibited.
You can see That Word, though, even if you can’t take a photograph. Just one of a series of interesting stops in a city that is great for art tourism!


Who Said What: Josef Albers

“Easy to know that diamonds– are precious good to know that rubies — have depth but more–to see–that pebbles–are miraculous.”
Josef Albers

Pebble Sphere Sculpture by Dail Behennah
Large Pebble Sphere by Dail Behennah
Detail of The Seashore stone ribbons by Keiji Nio
Detail of The Seashore by Keiji Nio, polyester, aramid fiber 48” x 48,” 2019
Thirty Year stone Calendar Art by Sue Lawty
Triginta Annis (Thirty Years in Latin), Sue Lawty, natural stone on gesso 27” x 26”, 2017


Art Assembled: New This Week in June

Summer is finally here and in June, browngrotta arts offered a look at the latest pieces in our collection representing works from around the world. This month, in our New This Week series, we shared some extraordinary pieces by Chang Yeonsoon, Judy Mulford, Lewis Knauss, Pat Campbell and Eva Vargo.
We kicked off the first few days in June with a three-piece work of abaca fiber, pure gold leaf and eco-soluble resin by Chang Yeonsoon, a Korean textile artist who specializes in sculptural fiber works. “I have been studying philosophy and breathing meditation for the last 10 years because I am interested in Oriental philosophy. Chunjeein (天地人) means heaven, earth and human in the East. In the Book of changes (a chinese classic) say that the heaven is a circle, the earth is a square, and the human is a triangle.”

heaven, earth and human sculptures
Chunjeein-1, 2 & 3, Chang Yeonsoon
abaca fiber, pure gold leaf, eco-soluble resin, 33″ x 7.125″ x 6.75″, 2019

Soon after that, we shared a mixed media work, Ancestral Totem by Judy Mulford. “My art honors and celebrates the family” explains the artist. “It is autobiographical, personal, narrative, and a scrapbook of my life. Each piece I create becomes a container of conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings: a nest, a womb, a secret, a surprise, or a giggle.” This work, which Mulford talks more about in a youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3-YTMWD4JM art + identity interview, features “memory chairs” and buttons that she sourced from family and friends.

Button hole stitched chair sculpture
Ancestral Totem, Judy Mulford, mixed media, 34.5″ x 10.5″ x 10.5,” 2019

Next in our June series was Lewis Knauss‘ work, Thorny of woven, knotted linen, waxed linen and reed. Knauss’ interest in landscape originated during his first teaching appointment in Ohio. The textures and materials of textiles have provided him a medium to explore his memories of place.

Lewis Knauss wall sculpture
Thorny, Lewis Knauss
woven, knotted, waxed linen, reed, 17″ x 16″ x 6,” 2018/19

We aim to keep your creative palettes full, and so we featured Kundalini Rising II by Pat Campbell of rice paper, reed and wood. Campbell’s work aims to promote, not divide, the world’s population ethnically, racially and religiously, specifically to promote globalization and world peace. We at browngrotta arts fully support her work and the meaning behind each piece. Her work combines hope for the future, love of where she came from, and a reminder to viewers to reflect the best in themselves to solve world problems.

Pat Campbell Rice Paper Sculpture
Kundalini Rising II, Pat Campell
rice paper, reed and wood, 24″ x 14″ x 6.5″, 2009

Last, but most certainly not least, we shared No. 55 (Book of Changes), by Eva Vargo of linen, thread, paper strings and gold leaves. A Swedish artist who has lived abroad for a large part of her life, she has been influenced by each country in which she has lived. iFrom the time she began using paper strings and papers from old Japanese and Korean books in her woven works, it has been an exciting journey for her and it is still a path she keeps on exploring.

Eva Vargo Book of Changes
No. 55 (Book of Changes), Eva Vargo
linen, thread, paper strings and gold leaves, 31.75″ x 29.375″ x 1.5″, 2019

_____________________________________________________________


Art & Identity: the Catalog

art + identity: an international view catalog
art + identity: an international view; a browngrotta arts exhibition catalog

We produced our 49th publication this spring, a 156-page catalog, art + identity: an international view. The catalog features work by 62 artists who have lived and worked in 22 countries in the UK, Europe, Asia, Africa and North and South America. We asked the artists who participated to provide us works that illustrated how identity and influence are reflected in their art. We selected works by artists no longer living on the same basis. The artists involved took an expansive approach, but as you’ll see in the catalog, a few themes emerged. Some artists, for example, were influenced by  the art of other cultures  — through visiting or study. For Dawn MacNutt, it was classical Greek sculpture she saw at the Metropolitan Museum in New York and then in Greece that she has translated in her willow figures. For Paul Furneaux, influences included time spent in Mexico, at Norwegian fjords and then, Japan, where he studied Japanese woodblock. For Adela Akers it was Peruvian weavers; Agneta Hobin,

Nnenna Okore spread
Nnenna Okore spread art + identity: an international view catalog spread

a trip to Zuni pueblos Nnenna Okore was raised in and studied in Nigeria. Common within her body of works is the use of ordinary materials, repetitive processes and varying textures that make references to everyday Nigerian practices and cultural objects. Katherine Westphal had what one writer called “magpie-like instincts.” She called herself a tourist – “then it all pops out in my work – someone else’s culture and mine, mixed in the eggbeater of my mind…” Others found inspiration close to home. Though she travelled extensively and studied in France, Canadian artist, Micheline Beauchemin repeatedly returned to the St. Lawrence River as a theme.

Mary Merkel-Hess catalog spread
Mary Merkel-Hess art + identity: an international view catalog spread

Mary Merkel-Hess evokes the plains of her home in Iowa like “the bush that burned with fire and was not consumed,” a quote from Willa Cather, which Mary says she, too, has seen. Mérida, Venezuela, the place they live, and can always come back to, has been a primary influence on Eduardo Portillo’s and Maria Davila’s our way of thinking, life and work. Its geography and people have given them a strong sense of place. Processes and materials motivated a third group of artists. “I draw inspiration from age-old Indian and Japanese traditional resist-dyeing techniques such as bandhini and shibori ,” says Neha Puri Dhir.

Neha Puri Dhir catalog spread
Neha Puri Dhir catalog spread art + identity: an international view

Ed Rossbach was also a relentless experimenter who learned and adapted dozens of techniques and unusual materials from lacemaking with plastic tubes to enlarging then reinterpreting images from Coptic tapestries to weaving raffia on a loom after studying weavings from Africa. Susie Gillespie grows flax from seed that she processes by retting, breaking and hackling before spinning it into yarn.  The clay from Shigaraki, Japan is crucial to Yasuhisa Kohyama’s work – through the techniques he has pioneered, he aims to highlight the upheavals evident in its creation, including volcanic eruptions and the erosion of water and wind.
Other artists took a more interior and personal view: Aleksandra Stoyanov of the Ukraine and now Israel uses images of ancestors in her work, this time images from childhood, and she notes that the child comes with us into adulthood. Irina Kolesnikova also grew up in Russia. Aspects of her everyday life there are reflected in artworks that feature her Alter Ego – “a slightly comic, clumsy human of an uncertain age (who is just a survivor struggling to keep his existence balanced).” Personal and universal connections to the sensuality and materiality of the woven image motivates Lia Cook.

art + identity: an international view; a browngrotta arts exhibition catalog

She is particularly interested in the emotional connection to memories of touch and cloth. She’s worked with neurologists to measure brainwaves for people who look at a photograph versus a woven version of the same image. The wider world and related issues were the subject for others. Nancy Koenigsberg’s work for this exhibit originated as a visual and emotional response the scenes destruction from the recent California wildfires and to the unfolding ecological disaster of which they are symptomatic. Lewis Knauss’ work has also begun to reflect the worldwide concern for climate change. American artist Mary Giles began creating wall panels that dealt with her concerns about population some years before her death in 2018, exploring in them ideas of density and boundaries.

photo spread
Norma Minkowtz, The Path (pages 50-51) Lilla Kulka, Odchodzacy and Co-Bog Zlaczyl (pages 114-115) Gyöngy Laky, Neo Rupee and Reach (pages 40-41)

The catalog includes an essay, The Textile Traveller, by Jessica Hemmings, Ph.d., Professor of Crafts, University of Gothenburg, Sweden, which creates perspective. This exhibition, “reminds us that the textile is an expert traveller – adept at absorbing new surroundings and influences while retaining elements of previous contexts and functions. Many physically embody the buzz word of our times: resilience. Attention to the textile’s many histories and journeys can help us trace and begin to understand the, often overwhelming, complexities contemporary societies face.”

Marianne Kemp horsehair weaving
Marianne Kemp 5mk Drifting Dialogues horsehair, cotton, linen 45” x 42” x 3.5 “, 2018

The catalog can be ordered for $50 plus tax and shipping on our website at browngrotta arts: http://store.browngrotta.com/art-identity-an-international-view/


Process Notes: Federica Luzzi on the White Shell Series

Federica Luzzi
11fl White Shell Tongue n. 2
fine art print on baryta paper 
78.75” x 32.75” x 1.25,” 2006

9fl White Paper Shell
paper cord
10.5” x 10.5” x 9.5,” 2015
photo by Tom Grotta

Below, we share thoughts from Federica Luzzi about her works, White Shell Tongue, n.2, White Paper Shell and White Shell. The works were featured in browngrotta arts’ recent exhibition, art + identity: an international view.

“From a simple daily gesture, observing the white, knotted shapes just finished and resting on my black, low and Japanese-style lacquered table, White Shell Tongue was born. My mother bought the table many years ago and it has always been a reason of great attraction for me, every object projected far away on it; you have to sit down on the ground to use it. Also, a turquoise silk kimono brought for me by parents from SoHo, New York, when I was 6-7 years old. My father, Mario Luzzi, was an expert and journalist in jazz music, and in the 70s and 80s, my parents’ house in Rome was a continuous coming and going of American and European musicians who also stayed with us — Ornette Coleman, Don Pullen, Muhal Richard Abrams, Max Roach, Noah Howard, Paul Bley e Byard Lancaster.

“Everyone’s dream: to know a foreign (strange) language and yet not to understand it: to grasp the difference in it …” writes Roland Barthes in the beginning of “The language unknown” in The Empire of Signs. Mine is a eulogy to the slowness of the gesture. A pure gesture that leads to the conscious cancellation of the subject, the beginning of that “visual vacillation” of which Barthes speaks when “the text does not comment on the images. The images do not illustrate the text”. A calligraphy whose author disappears taking “in some part of the world (down there) a certain number of ‘traits’ (graphic and linguistic terms) and with these traits deliberately forming a system,”writes Barthes. It is necessary to find a voice and a language that are foreign to themselves; a musical score, whose interpreter will read and imagine in a different way, moving away.

Detail of White Paper Shell
photo by Tom Grotta


From Frascati’s DAPHE particle accelerator, which I had left to create this series of works, I have come to confirm my old intuition: in approaching each other, we do not recognize ourselves in an alien matter. 

Nostalgia is a feeling that I have felt since I was very young for Japan: a country that until a few years ago I had never seen but where I felt I had already been. In 2017, I presented my works for the first time in a solo exhibition, Shell, in Osaka, at the LADS Gallery, which mainly deals with Gutai artists and is directed by Toyoko Hyono San. Everything that I have always imagined of Japan began to take shape deeply, in particular when two of my works, usually exhibited separately, were put together there. The LADS Gallery, with its partially modifiable and openable space with sliding walls, has the possibility of creating a sort of niche that I immediately identified by visualizing the White Shell Tongue fine art print which, due to its vertical disposition, recalled to my mind the paintings or calligraphy on paper or silk, kakemono, displayed in the tokonoma, an intimate space of traditional Japanese houses. A sacred space where I put together my sculptural work made by knotting paper cord resting on a raised wooden structure.

Federica Luzzi
13fl White Shell
knotting technique, cotton cord
15” x 15” x 7.25”, 2018
photo by Tom Grotta

As a woman, I never appear physically in the works, but it is through my body that I touch and look at things, entrusting my story to long and narrow strips of paper as ever-changing languages. But if writing is an act of “dispossession” as Marc Augé makes clear, in my idea of dissemination that void of speech is vibration; small invocations dispersed in the cosmos.