Giulia Nelli at TRAMANDA

Italiano (Italian)

Featured photo: Madre Terra, 2019, black tights of different weights (den) and white wool yarn, diameter 61 cm. Finalist of the YOUNG FIBER CONTEST Premio Città di Chieri 2020. Photo: Giulia Nelli

MADRE TERRA (MOTHER EARTH) by Giulia Nelli is one of the works on view at this year’s TRAMANDA in Chieri, open until 15 January 2022. Giulia, a young artist from Lombardy (1992), holds a degree from the Brera Academy of Fine Arts and a Master in Exhibition Design from Milan Polytechnic.

The interest in design and art, in the role of gesture and the value of manual skills, through which she comes into contact with matter, has led her to experiment with the textile medium, especially tights. She creates small to large scale works and site-specific installations using a technique of deconstruction and re-composition that brings the material back to its fundamental element, the thread, creating new balances. For her, “making, unmaking, knotting and re-knotting is life’s history and image, it is the craft that allows all the women of ancient mythologies to reunite emotions, words and silences, stories and ties, memories and hopes for the future in a common weave”.

This participation in the Chieri event is the latest among her exhibitions, and it was an opportunity to discuss, through this interview, her path, aims and projects.

Giulia Nelli. In the background “Shadow of a sigh”, 2021

Your work MADRE TERRA (Mother Earth) has been selected and is currently displayed at TRAMANDA. Can you describe this piece for us?


Mother Earth is the result of an innovative way of understanding the technique of contemporary tapestry, where the weft is still predominant, but the warp remains visible and takes on a role of its own within the design. In Mother Earth, the white warp symbolises a light rain that generates new life in nature: an ancient metaphor for the life spirit’s renewal, even in one’s inner self, where the seeds of happiness and genuine emotions can finally sprout.

The work encapsulates some of the topics that I later fully developed as part of the ‘Humus’ project during 2020 in the face of the pandemic’s environmental and economic issues. The project is a metaphor for an underground journey; it draws on plants and animals symbiotic bonds of cooperation in the soil to provide a new perspective on how to meet the challenge of survival by caring for the habitat and the reproductive capacity of the earth. Bringing to the fore what lies underneath, as in Mother Earth, is also a call to dwell on the importance of the deep values that sustain a community and make it strong and resilient.

Natura velata, 2021, watercolour, black pen and black tights, h61x60 cm. Finalist of the Morlotti Prize – Imbersago 17th edition 2021. Photo: Giulia Nelli

 Humus, 2020, tights of different weights (den), white threads and Ink, h97x70cm. Photo: Giulia Nelli

In profondità, 2020, tights of different weights (den), and ink h70x50 cm. Foto: Giulia Nelli

Tights are still your material of choice, but how have your works and research changed over time?

My work began by tearing the fabric of the tights to reduce them to their essential element, the thread, and to rework new textures tied to rigid supports or frames: these early works exploited the contrast between empty and full spaces, created by the laddering of the tights, and the contrast between black and white to create soft and yet incisive, solid and dramatic signs.

Later I tried to work more on the background by treating it with inks or extensive pen chiaroscuro.

I have recently been trying to bring my works even closer to textile art by breaking away from fixed support to create large-scale installations. Here, tights of different thicknesses are used as a background fabric and combined to create nuances and transparencies. At the same time, I am trying to emphasise the materiality of my work by letting the material overflow from the empty spaces. In other words, I want to make art that uses the more minor gesture of tearing and dismembering, assembling instead different pieces left intact in their physical form.

Il volto dell’altro, installation among trees, June 2021, Basilica di San Celso, Milano. Photo: Giulia Nelli

We are entering the second year marked by a global pandemic. How has this affected your work and your artistic career?

The pandemic immediately left its mark on me because of the drama of so many lives being quickly cut short and the importance of mutual respect in everyday choices. This gave rise to the urge to portray the need and importance of strong bonds and the beauty of lasting and responsible relationships that can make a difference for oneself and others.

I have combined the concept of bonds, always at the core of my art, with the topic of human life’s fragility. This is meant to point out how we can find a cultural and socio-economic resurgence in the communal bonds between people.

Liquefarsi e legarsi, 2021, black tights of different weights (den) ink on paper, h195x100 cm. Photo: Giulia Nelli 

Vecchie e nuove fragilità, 2021, black tights and Ink, h105x65 cm. Photo: Giulia Nelli 

Forza nelle fragilità, 2021, Black tights and Ink, h42,3×42,3 cm. Photo: Giulia Nelli

Nuova alba, 2021, Black tights and Ink, h42,3×42,3 cm. Photo: Giulia Nelli

Respiro vitale, 2020, Black tights 100 den and Ink on paper, h176x130 cm. Photo: Giulia Nelli

Over the last year, your experimentation with large-scale installations, including site-specific ones, has made you tackle three dimensions and, above all, the concept of space. How has this affected the genesis of your work? And can you comment on the artist-work-audience relationship?

I am very interested in large-scale installations because I can put into practice the exhibition design knowledge I acquired during my studies concerning the relationship between the space, the work and the viewer. For example, the installation Su ali d’aquila (On Eagle’s Wings) exhibited in September at the Scuderie di Palazzo D’Adda in Varallo Sesia allowed me to experiment with the interaction of the work of art with ample open-air space. Furthermore, the installation’s location, which made it visible right from the building’s entrance, almost made it seem like a constituent element of the architecture, thus granting a “monumental” quality.

I have also designed several projects, unfortunately still on paper, where the installation employs a load-bearing structure. Designed specifically for this purpose, it creates a microcosm in which the visitor can, for a moment, completely immerse himself in the atmosphere of the work, in harmony with the extended environment that houses it.

Su ali d’aquila, 2021, black tights and natural-coloured tights (three-part installation), September 2021, Varallo Sesia. 

Looking ahead, what projects do you have on the horizon?

My plans for the immediate future are to create large-format works that combine tights with other support materials and use a controlled use of light.

This year I will have the opportunity to further develop the subject of the web of relations within the cultural and historical context of a territory and its landscape thanks to an artist residency at Villa Greppi.

In the future, I would like to explore forms of interaction between the artist and the public, already widely experimented in the field of performing arts, which allow the creation of works thanks to the active participation of the public without undermining the artist’s message.

Su ali d’aquila, 2021, black tights and natural-coloured tights (three-part installation), September 2021, Varallo Sesia. 

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.