*Featured photo: Installation view Natural Fibers – Entangle treads and making, Turner 2017 Contemporary Paola Anziché
Whatever the starting point for her works, Paola Anziché (Milan, 1975) builds them through a constant investment in relationship and exploration: from the study of tradition that expresses a technique to the experimentation of the material, to the interaction with the space in which the work and the artist herself are placed, and – more generally – with the other, be it the public or the community that gravitates to the places of the artistic intervention, her practice is always a dialogue in progress .
Graduated from the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan and from the Städelschule, Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Frankfurt, her work has been exhibited in numerous international public and private institutions, including Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, Florence (2019), XXI Triennale Internazionale, Milan (2016), Kichik QalArt in Yarat, Baku, Azerbaijan (2015), GAM – Modern Art Gallery, Turin (2013), MAMbo, Bologna (2013), Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation, Turin (2010).
She has participated in numerous international residency programs including recently in Guatemala (2021). She has also collaborated with the College of Art of Taiyuan University of Technology, Shanxi, China (2019). Her monograph “La terra suona / The Earth Sounds” was published by VIAINDUSTRIAE PUBLISHING in 2019.
In this interview she told us about herself and her work, her research and her projects.
Textile, both in materials and techniques, has a highly evocative intrinsic characteristic, it contains within itself the memory of many stories and a lot of history. How much did this ‘identity’ figure influence the choice of this medium for your artistic practice?
I study with interest native knowledge related to weaving, but the materials are not always the identity of a place. Fibers have their own memory, a history and this is the first reason for my interest.
In my artistic practice I create soft and tactile sculptures starting from a research process in which I investigate the possibility of art to establish relationships with different cultural fields such as anthropology, ancient rituals, bio-architecture and science. My curiosity leads me to travel and come into contact with different traditions which are then reinterpreted. The manual work, the gesture, the attention to the materials used, with a particular preference for the natural ones, represent the fulcrum of my practice.
“Seeing with your hands” is the expression I use to describe my research, in which each project becomes a sculpture created through the experimentation of different weaving and interlacing techniques. The preparation for manual practice involves the collection of scripts and images that over time have become a real personal archive.The interest in the gestural aspects of weaving and braiding stems from the idea of reproducing the experience of the gesture that develops from time to time through the awareness of the action of the hands to generate unexpected variations, starting often with repetitive movements. The materials, selected for their physical characteristics, accompany the design and operational choices through which it is possible to retrace their history, their context of origin and, therefore, their uniqueness.
In much of your work, the shared, choral dimension of art returns in different forms: from the study and learning of traditional techniques and specificities within the different ethnic communities to large immersive installations in which the public is called to experiment. the space defined by the artist’s intervention. How important and how much does this participation of the other person influence your research and your practice?
At the beginning my work was highly performative, often developed in collaboration with dancers, in a phase that began in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. In fact, I worked at Das TAT, a center for the production of contemporary dance which housed William Forsythe’s company.
My practice became more explicitly environmental on the occasion of the exhibition at the Sandretto Re Rebaudengo Foundation and the performance presented at the Merz Foundation. In both cases the viewer could interact with the work.
While I was studying Lygia Clark’s 1970s research, I made a movie about her lectures in Paris and, from that moment on, I started focusing on the sensory aspect of the work as well. That was a very important experience because it forced me to go beyond the first glance at Clark’s work, considering more carefully aspects not immediately visible.
Today, for my research, I use organic materials such as orange peel, beeswax and natural fibers. My sculptures always have a strong sensorial connotation. It is as if I have deliberately emphasized the physicality of the users who become the center of the experience. For me it is now essential to establish a relationship with the viewer.
What do your works talk about – and who do they talk to?
Some visitors have told me that, by observing or wearing some of my works, they have recovered distant memories, perhaps because I use natural materials (not so common in art) that evoke paths and stories of the past. In the recent project entitled La Terra Suona in the Quartz Studio space in Turin, the work confronts the viewer with himself, with his own subjective perception and with his own behavior in space.When entering, the visitor is invited to walk on the beehive carpet without shoes, and then physically enter the work. Upon entering the work-environment, you will notice the presence of a persistent odor. The smell is actually the scent of beeswax that is released from the net that expands into space from above, a sort of carpet, in which strips of colored fabrics, soaked in beeswax, intertwine. Beeswax has a calming effect. The smell of beeswax stimulates the nervous and perceptive system of our body and influences our mood.
What and how many materials and techniques do you use for your works and what are the criteria by which you select them?
The technique is determined as the work takes shape, it is defined during the work process, it is never decided a priori. Materials tell stories and open worlds. The starting point for me is matter. When I find materials that attract me, the first thing I do is use them to see the result of their “calling”. I make objects with recycled materials or that are normally encountered in everyday life and in nature. I am always on the lookout for poor, rough, commonly used materials such as rope, jute, wax and, more generally, fabrics. The starting point is often the experience linked to a stay or a residence, the themes underlying the work are the environment and ecology.
What is the meaning of ‘making art’ for you? And who is Paola, the artist?
Making art is a continuous discovery, but also a suffering at the beginning of a new research process. Often the process is slow and takes years, while other times it is more immediate, it is almost unpredictable. For me, making art means having patience, listening skills and curiosity.
For a long time, textile practices have been associated with women, activities at different levels – amateur, professional or domestic – reserved or attributed to women. How has this preconception affected your work and research? And, in your experience, has the purely ‘artisanal’ or even hobby classification of contemporary textile art and Fiber Art been exceeded in the perception of the public and the world of art?
I don’t like the definition of Fiber art, I find it limiting and I think this definition is too descriptive for the artists who also work with textiles. Instead, I like to mention the German architect Gottfried Semper who in The Style (1860-62) elaborated a refined interpretation of the “textile” origins of architecture that led him to argue that “the beginnings of the use of building coincide with that of weaving “. The construction, therefore, has a vegetable origin and uses weaving as a production technique. My works are partly linked to Semper’s thought, but also open reflections on the body and the landscape, a ‘more intimate’ aspect that includes tactile experiences, leaving the relationship with the viewer open.
For an artist, works are a bit like children and, you know, children are loved in the same way. But, in your case, is there one work that is more child than the others, a work with which you feel an inseparable, symbiotic bond?
They are always the most recent works, the ones I feel closest to.
How has your work changed and how has it evolved over time? How much distance and what difference between the first works and the last ones?
Work evolves like thought. If it remains static it means that you are not curious and are afraid to put yourself out there.
Can you give us a preview of the next project you are working on?
The next project will be a collaboration between a fashion company and an art foundation in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. It will be a process of investigation between traces of archaeological history and ancient nomadic cultures which will end with a personal exhibition.