The Narcisi Fragili exhibition in Milan, promoted within the “Women’s Talents” program of the Municipality of Milan by Cramum and Superstudio in the spaces of My Own Gallery i scurated by Sabino Maria Frassà. The group show starts with five female artists to go beyond the idea of gender, telling from different perspectives the precariousness of human existence and the fragile beauty of the image in contemporary society. It is no coincidence that Narcisi Fragili was inspired by the famous phrase of Virginia Woolf: “I had a moment of great peace. Perhaps this is the happiness”. The curator has chosen artists known for “having transformed matter into thought”. Laura de Santillana, the last heir of the Venini glass “dynasty” who, after becoming artistic director, sold the family businesses to devote herself completely to art, works with cracks and splits that take on the value of scars, a positive sign of an experience acquired; Daniela Ardiri, investigates the social evolution of our country starting from memory understood as the remnant of what has been, while Flora Deborah explores the meaning of beauty beyond appearances, transforming organs and bowels of different species of living beings into a work of art. Giulia Manfredi through her “living” sculptures approaches with a sensitivity that we could define baroque to the theme of the difficult coexistence between life and death, while Francesca Piovesan, with whom we talked about the exhibition and her artistic path, creates photographic maps of bodies that try to represent the essence of humanity in the obsessive decomposition and analysis of its fragments.
In recent years, women are increasingly present on the political, cultural and social scene, but still not enough in the artistic one, both from the point of view of the significantly lower percentages of female artists present in private collections and museums than male artists, and from the point of view of the quotation of the works. What reflections did the invitation to participate in a programmatically female exhibition aroused in you?
I am first of all a person and secondly a woman. I am also an artist and I let those who have the skills talk about these issues.
What aspects of the poetics of the other artists present in the exhibition do you think can most dialogue with your works? How important is the comparison between “colleagues” that takes place during a group exhibition for you?
Usually in a group exhibition I “dialogue” first with the works and then with the artists who created them. One of my favorite moments is behind the scenes of an exhibition: during the set-up phase I often observe other artists from afar moving in space, taking care of their works in a meticulous way, I believe there is always something to learn from all colleagues, even by those who seem to have a very distant poetics from mine. Each exhibition and each comparison adds a piece and a new point of view on one’s own work. I am fortunate to meet the artists on display because we share the cramum project, so it is nice on this occasion to also discover the evolution of their creative thinking and the way in which they make their work grow. The artist who fascinates me most is Laura de Santillana, especially because she was a procedural artist: I admire the way she was able to investigate matter and technique, trying to go almost beyond the physical limits. She was then able to play and experience the ambiguity of our times by going beyond the schematisms and definitions of art, sculpture and design.
Your work, which has the human body as its object and tool of investigation, has attracted the attention of critics for its uncanny proximity to the concept of “taboo”: often in front of your works you have the perception of seeing skeletal footprints, death masks or fragments of mummies, all emotionally “uncomfortable” elements for the observer. What processes do you use to make these unique body impressions?
For years I have been using leather as a work tool in terms of materials: sebum and salts present on the skin are elements that contribute to the chemical process that gives rise to the images I create. The skin that I return in terms of images is for me first of all a material. I take body impressions through adhesive tape or glass plates and then develop them through the use of silver nitrate, an element that unites ancient photographic development techniques, the detection of fingerprints in the 19th century and the creation of Venetian mirrors. From this common element the works of recent years have been born, from the first experiments with adhesive tape to the creation of mirrors in collaboration with the Murano artisans.
The essence of photography is to transfigure and make a moment or an image otherwise destined to flow into oblivion in some way universal, while the reflections of things on the mirror surfaces return an image that does not remain without any representative mediation. How do these two suggestions intersect in your work?
The footprints trapped in the subtle silvering of the mirror create a sort of short circuit in which a trace of a lost gesture remains on a surface that is not usually representative. Each mirror I create is an encounter between the self and the other, it is a place of changing relationship, home to a continuous flow of images and contexts. The photographic element is present in the concept of blocking a moment, but I think of the mirror as my skin, a natural border between the internal world and the external world, a meeting surface where meanings are created by the ever-changing coexistence between traces and flow of the outside world.
The concept of “trace” and “imprint” in reference to the physical body has always been the guiding thread of your artistic research. Where do you think your attraction for the shroud comes from and what has changed in this regard over the course of your career?
The body and in particular the skin are places of relationship, the body has always been my first working tool and over time the off-camera photographic techniques and the skin for me have become an indissoluble couple, two sensitive surfaces. In both cases we are dealing with traces of memory, signs of an interaction, this is the part that fascinates me. Unlike the “classic” photographic image, in my case, although I rely on photographic processes, the traces I leave are changeable. In the case of mirrors, the interaction between reflection and trace is constantly evolving, while in the developments with adhesive tape, on the other hand, it deliberately does not block the conscious process of the chromatic changes that the image will undergo. In Narcisi Fragili I exhibit “141 fragments” a four-meter work composed of 141 footprints taken with adhesive tape from the front and back of my body. What is identified with this process is a fragmented and recomposed body that the curator Frassà has defined as a “universal body”. Over the years, if something has changed, perhaps it was never easy for me to investigate not only my body, but also that of other people, from my mother (360 ° – New Formations) to other women (Uneasy cycle).
artists: Laura De Santillana, Daniela Ardiri, Flora Deborah, Giulia Manfredi e Francesca Piovesan
curated by Sabino Maria Frassa’
23 September – 29 October 2020
Tuesday – Friday h 11.00 – 19.00; Saturday – Sunday h 15.00 – 19.00
Opening: 22 September 17.00 – 21.00
MyOwnGallery, Superstudio Più
Via Tortona 27 bis Milano
Francesca Piovesan, 360°- Nuove Formazioni, adhesive tape, silver nitrate, fingerprints, paper, 76 x 56 cm, 2016
Francesca Piovesan, In-visibile (Capezzoli), footprints, mirror, wood, metal, (open book) 20 x 10 cm, 2018
Francesca Piovesan, In-visibile (Benedicente), footprints, mirror, wood, metal, (open book) 28 x 23 cm, 2018
Francesca Piovesan, In-visibile (Orante), footprints, mirror, wood, metal, 14 x 23 cm, 2018
Francesca Piovesan, Frammenti, detail, 2020, adhesive tape, silver nitrate, footprints, paper, 150 x 400 cm, 2020
Graduated in contemporary art, has been working in collaboration with various contemporary art galleries, private foundations, art centers in Italy and abroad.