Pine wood, rattan, essence of myrrh, beeswax · 100 x 200 cm · 2012
Photo Andrea Scardova · IBC · 2012
Iron wire · Height cm 500 · 2000
Photo credit: Maurizio Nicosia
It was the great classifier Linnaeus, in his "Systema Naturae" of 1735, to introduce the term ‘pupa’ to define the intermediate stage between the larval condition and complete form of metamorphic insects. In Latin the word “pupu” (m) appoint the doll and the baby in swaddling clothes. Shifting in the field of words has always been pushed by the similarities so that we can say that all languages are nothing but wonderful maze of metaphors. In this case the connection between the different uses is not confined to a single point: dolls, babies and pupae share a common the egg-like, stretched at the poles shape; as well as the arrangement of the bandages, which in almost all cultures were used to block limbs of the child, have an extraordinary resemblance to the swelling of certain cocoons, alternating arching and parallel diagonals. But the most relevant metaphor is contained in the condition of development, the intermediate stage of the form. It is undoubtedly for this semantic recall that even the dead were, and are sometimes they still are, wrapped in bandages, in the hope of a rebirth, a metamorphosis of the body. Just as the history of words, even that of images, and of the visual arts, continues to generate and proliferate because of analogies and metaphors. The primary forms of nature are an infinite alphabet of meanings and allusions, synthesis and artistic ramifications. For many years now, with a colourful perseverance, a lovely obsession, Graziano Spinosi has been working and researching, designs and manufactures around the archetypal form of the nest. But we can even say around the womb, the chrysalis, the shell, the boat, the gem, praying hands, the pot, the carapace, the thread-ball, the sackcloth, the seed, the skull, the node, to planet. They are all shapes that, before coming to the art, contain different things together: a child, a sailor, a brain, a prayer or a fire, but each plays a role of protection, preservation and shelter. The act of wrapping and enclosing a form, in the mute language of signs, may however allude to opposite feelings, as opposite are the protection and the prison, concealment and care. This dualism has been inhabited by Graziano when the smooth ride of ropes wrapped the big ‘Books’, a cycle of works from the 80s postulating the inaccessibility of thought at the one and same time in which it preserved him . More strongly concealed were his ‘Allegory of the five senses’, closed and obstructed right where they should raise their properties: blind was the sight, labyrinthine the hearing, walled was the smell, altered the taste and prevented the tact. Kaleidoscopic and speaking armour were instead ‘Patocche’. Like a tale of art the different subjects in which the author has forged his footwear are sufficient enough to provide an implied individual dedication, affectionate as well as allusive to inescapable destiny. Then they were woven geometric sandals for Piero della Francesca; mud clogs for Vincent, lead moccasins for Anselm Kiefer; raw blood coloured silk slippers for Mark Rothko. It is no coincidence that just remembering the work of Graziano Spinosi it leads to a form of a systematic catalogue, which features classifiers lists as in the incipit of this same text. Maybe it will be that the term "catalogue", through the metaphor of building "pile", subtly connects to the “cathartic” process. From the simplicity of the list to a pile of objects, ready for purification, for rebirth. But it is not necessary an appeal to the psychoanalysis of language to understand how the design and sculpture are for Graziano a combination of threads, branches, signs that flight after flight, gesture after gesture contribute to build a nest of thoughts. I remember a poster he designed at the time of the Academy for a furniture company, which showed simply a picture of a bird in flight with a branch in its beak. The practice of sculpture is thus arrived to the act of “making a nest” and if there is an artist for whom the process of construction of the form is identified with the concept, with the most intimate sense of any work, this is Graziano.
That’s why I like to talk about his latest ways to proceed. While managing to evoke the filament-like and light silk cocoons for a long time, the artist has used planking of iron and cement plaster, structured in the ways of an armoured architecture with a barely penetrable cage, shaping with a cutting torch, a trowel, pincers and hammer. Winches were used to lift the fossil pupae, and working clothes and gloves were provided with thick leather front pads, welder’s masks and cigarette. The extreme density of the steel ‘Forest’ is, however sublimated and lightened by the Cypress shape, tapered and smoky. The gaps between metal and metal, let us perceive an interior space, a cavity that allows us to imagine spying and imprisoned phantoms. And there is some truth in this suggestion, since each year one of the seven mighty mane has been colonized by communities of insects, especially wasps, which nest in hives built of iron.
Recently the light ‘Rattan’ has finally replaced the rusty mineral. The flexible and durable vegetable fiber extracted from the homonymous palm, endemic in Indochina, has become the main element to model giant kelp and at the same time to represent the plot of a gut, of a mat. One day a book about the specific impact of the tools and materials in the style of artists and on semantics of the forms will be written. At this point, it also radically changes the systematic and determined construction protocol that Graziano over the last years adopted as individual code, grammar of a peculiar style. It could be said that from a building designed according to the structural models of Le Corbusier, Spinosi has recovered a Brunelleschi-like proceeding. That is to say from the verticality of the concrete to that horizontal path that reaches to close the dome via a spiral. A shape that, in the age-old language of the ceramics, has a fascinating and evocative term. It’s called “a lucignolo” (wick) craftwork when in the absence or refusing a lathe (the first true technology of the brick and of humanity) a pot is made to grow by aggregation of circular thin snakes of clay. The word, which passes from the wick of the lantern to the skilled hands of the potter, to the pen of Collodi, leads to a land of toys and vascular eras in order to get to the nests of Graziano. I ‘m sure that this same process of “wick” forming has helped to settle, if not to convert, even the goal of the work by adding sinuosity, internal movements and softness that didn’t take place in previous works.
So these huge pupae stands motionless in front of us but it is as if they were suspended just before their unfolding. A kicking unborn child has turned over in his metamorphic sleep, or tried, unsuccessfully, to pierce the membrane that has protected the moulting. The ambiguity, which often creates value in art, is saved by an untouched shape, enigmatic in the outcome of that catharsis. Human readings are also added to entomological metaphor, pointing not only to the womb, but to that touching relationship between thought and practice, between using and caring, that is behind certain objects, behind tools that every population yield from vegetable elements. The tenacious lightness of this new and primary subject, chosen by Graziano Spinosi, has profoundly permeated even his driest and tightest production. The wall pieces, previously constructed as a regular portion of the wall, fenced in longitude by bars of iron or steel, now welcome warm lakes of beeswax, which show bulrush that evokes canoes in construction, reed and baskets of Moses childhood. The first time I faced the large sculptures Graziano modelled in ‘rattan’, some of which were still unfinished, I instinctively called to mind a story by Tommaso Landolfi I read many years ago. Actually I did not remember the title and I have not yet managed to recall it, but from what I remember it was an epistolary narrative. Through a series of letters a young woman, who was for some reason in a remote, almost deserted region, corresponded with her sister. The first letters showed small eccentricities of the family that housed her, but the anomalies were destined to grow steadily until the last letter in the autumn in which it was revealed that each component of the small community had prepared a large housing wrapping, a big bag hanging from the ceiling, designed to accommodate their lethargy. The letters did not reveal the fate of the young guest.
Fossil wood, raffia, essence of myrrh, beeswax
80 x 120 cm · 2012
Photo Andrea Scardova · IBC · 2012
Rattan Beeswax · 80 x 60 cm · 2012
Photo Andrea Scardova · IBC · 2012
Iron wire Plaster · Height cm 200 · 2001
The voice of the materials
As a child I made little theaters and small cars with discarded materials found on the street: pieces of wood, rusty iron wire and cardboard. I used to lose myself in this lovely game and nothing broke the spell. I used to spend entire days putting this poor material together. I used string to tie cardboard wings to the fuselage of a small airplane and it flew far. I have the same materials in the studio I’m working in today and I lose myself now, as then, but within the limits of adulthood. I no longer know how to let myself go like when I was little but I always start from the material in attempting to provoke it. I take my time approaching the material, trying to hear what it has to say. Some materials are chatterboxes while others don’t talk much. They are a bit like cats, each with its own personality. I try to get in tune with this personality while taking care to respect its physical properties. I don’t like the fact that, to say one thing, you have to deny something else. I never like it. You say something to say that thing, which can be enough. In the same way, I like to say a material to say only that material. This also can be enough. Cardboard is cardboard: it has a dry, dusty and husky voice; Water dissolves it and fire eats it. It’s beautiful, also for this vulnerability. Steel is tense, austere and reliable. Iron is good, tireless and submissive. Plastic is often misunderstood. It’s not nice that plastic becomes fake leather, fake wood and fake plastic. Even though it’s a synthetic material, it has the pride of natural ones. You must approach materials silently, they speak. Wood makes sounds like bread. Even water is a material. Like trees, a road or the horizon. Memory and our existence are materials.