Between scenography and sculpture, the textile works of Mariantonietta Bagliato

Translation by Eleonora Lo Prato

In her artistic research, Mariantonietta Bagliato transforms the fabric – her preferred material – into sculptures, installations and sewn drawings. She attended the Bari Academy of Fine Arts and currently she is Professor of Graphic and Pictorial Art. She also cooperated as outside expert with the Rome Academy of Fine Arts. She participated to several solo and group exhibitions and art projects at national and international level even obtaining several awards for his work (Rome Federculture Award 2012; Venice Art Award 2011; National Arts Award 2010; Ministry of University and Research, Naples; the Pinacoteca Agnelli Award, Artissima, Turin).

How did it happen that you have selected fabric as an expressive medium and which features of this specific material influenced your choice?

My artistic language is characterised by the use of cloths. This choice aroused, or maybe it is better to say that it revealed itself after a long-period experiment of different artistic techniques such as drawing, painting and sculpture. At first, during my research, I was mainly focused on communicating the abstract tale of different possibilities of life and identity. Then, I found an ideal combination by using cloths. These different fabrics, often used, found and experienced have a “synesthetic” power. The visual perception of cloths can summon memories of lived short moments, atmospheres, smells, sounds and tastes where everyone can recognize parts of himself and his life. After having codified the use of these materials, I started creating “soft sculptures”, installations and sewn drawings.

Mariantonietta Bagliato, Una Tragica Commedia, 2011

Your works, mostly the big installations, evoke in a certain way stage design.  For your artistic research, were you inspired by theatre?

There is a huge influence of the puppet theatre in my artistic research. The reason of this specific impact is linked to my family: my mother is a puppeteer from Prague and, since I was a child, I grew up surrounded by cloths, foam rubber, wires and stage design. Consequently, my mother’s job has deeply affected my poetic and aesthetic imaginary.

Mariantonietta Bagliato, Mare morbido, 2017 – ph. Marino Colucci / Sfera

Mariantonietta Bagliato, Mare morbido, 2017, dettaglio – ph. Marino Colucci / Sfera

Is there even an aspect related to childhood, fairy tales and games among the features of your artistic vein?

Yes, in my path I have created various works and installations inspired to symbols linked to traditional fairy tales and game interaction. The re-enactment of these images aims at bringing out the contact with the archetypes of the collective consciousness. Moreover, the interaction can enhance the work vision by adding a more direct experience so that the art work can evoke new meaning feedbacks.

Mariantonietta Bagliato, The puppettier, 2019 – ph. Annamaria Lamastra

Mariantonietta Bagliato, Where is the fox/ E la volpe? – 2016 ph.Quentin Dubret

Is there a dialogue between your installations and their location? How does your creative process develop – do you begin from an idea, a project or from an interpretation of the space?

I think that the dialogue with the space is fundamental. I like manipulating the space notion and transforming a specific place in something else by creating installations in which you can totally dive or pass through or live. As concerns the creative process, particularly in this period, strongly marked by the pandemic and social distance, I understood a fundamental thing in my artistic research: the need of others. Ideas are always created by relationships, dialogue, knowledge and study. Meeting others can “produce” a new speech, a new point of view.

Mariantonietta Bagliato, Avatara, 2018 – ph. L.A.L.D.

Mariantonietta Bagliato, Avatara, 2018 – ph. L.A.L.D.

I guess that irony and humour (you even dedicated an installation to this last one) are a main and recurrent feature of your works, isn’t it?

My artistic path is characterised by different phases, linked also to specific life periods. In particular, in 2010, I realized a work called The Humour: a group of “smiling” sculptures made by cloths and other materials. These sculptures are interactive and they can “move” imitating the smiling body gestures. I have always been fascinated by humour as it represents a way to reflect on what makes human people aware of their feelings by establishing a distance from the emotional link with your own identity and with mankind nature itself.

Mariantonietta Bagliato, Avatara, 2018 – ph. L.A.L.D.

The uniqueness and cloths diversity you use for your works often evoke the concept of “identity”. Which is the exact meaning of this word in our modern and complex fluid society? Which is the role played by “identity” in your artistic research?

At the beginning of my research, the concept of “fluid identity” was a kind of obsession: I wanted to spread and scatter into a great variety of shapes. A sort of pirandellian non-sense representation. Later on, on the contrary, I began looking for its deeper meaning. Being aware of our identity is fundamental as it represents the only way for activating a changing process both at a personal level and at a collective level.

Mariantonietta Bagliato, Through, 2018 – ph L.A.L.D.

You are the living synthesis of two different cultures and I think that this means a rich treasure to draw on. How much are your works influenced by these two cultures? Which are the most important sources of inspiration of your works?

I am the living product of two different cultures. I was born and grew up in Bari, my father’s hometown, in Southern Italy, a region characterised by the white colour of the historical centres and the blue of the sea. At the same time, for almost half of  my life and mostly during my childhood, I spent a lot of time in Prague, my mother’s homeland, where I grew among fairy tales illustrators and stop motion animations made by Czech and Russian authors. Furthermore, I have always been fascinated by the natural and urban landscapes typical of the bohemian region. Consequently, my artistic research is so deeply affected by these two cultural visions that I tried to combine this double identity.

Mariantonietta Bagliato, Gramigna, 2018

Among your last works, there is the installation “Homo F.O.M.O.” which is dedicated to a psychological effect caused by actual hyperconnectivity. Can you tell me something more about this innovative work title?

This is one of my most recent works realized in 2019.  F.O.M.O. is the acronym of the English expression “Fear Of Missing Out”, a type of anxiety linked to the social network addiction that developed in the very last years. I gave an aesthetic shape to this actual fear imitating our ancestors who generated monsters for expressing collective intimate fears. Hence, I created a huge soft sculpture that embodies the “virus” of this current phobia.

Mariantonietta Bagliato, Homo FOMO, 2019

Mariantonietta Bagliato, Homo FOMO, dettaglio, 2019

Mariantonietta Bagliato, Homo FOMO, 2019

May I ask you what are your future projects or am I too indiscreet?

I’m working on several projects but unfortunately – due to the current pandemic and many sociocultural restrictions established by governments – they are on “stand-by” or waiting for the final confirmation. Among the various projects, I can tell you that I was chosen to participate to Tramanda 2020, a competition dedicated to the Fiber Art that should take place in Chieri (Piemonte, Northern Italy) but we are waiting to know if it will be possible to organize this exhibition in the near future.

Mariantonietta Bagliato

Barbara Pavan

English version Sono nata a Monza nel 1969 ma cresciuta in provincia di Biella, terra di filati e tessuti. Mi sono occupata lungamente di arte contemporanea, dopo aver trasformato una passione in una professione. Ho curato mostre, progetti espositivi, manifestazioni culturali, cataloghi e blog tematici, collaborando con associazioni, gallerie, istituzioni pubbliche e private. Da qualche anno la mia attenzione è rivolta prevalentemente verso l’arte tessile e la fiber art, linguaggi contemporanei che assecondano un antico e mai sopito interesse per i tappeti ed i tessuti antichi. Su ARTEMORBIDA voglio raccontare la fiber art italiana, con interviste alle artiste ed agli artisti e recensioni degli eventi e delle mostre legate all’arte tessile sul territorio nazionale.