When artistic creation shapes mental maps through which attempt to steal art from oblivion: interview with Serena Gamba

Translation by Marina Dlacic

Serena Gamba’s artistic research has memory as its protagonist: its conservation and transmission. Using different artistic techniques and materials, the artist reflects on the history of art and its images, carrying out a conceptual reworking aimed at grasping their essential meanings and contents. Her works represent a personal attempt to remove past art from oblivion and to archive it. Born in Turin, she lives and works in Racconigi, in 2021 she won the A Collection Award as part of Art Verona.

«Augenblick» blue thread on canvas, 28×33,5 cm - 2021

In your artistic research, you investigate the theme of memory in relation to its protection and disclosure. In your opinion, is there a relationship between textile practices (such as embroidery) and handing down?

Absolutely yes. The textile practice is already in fact the transmission of knowledge, culture and personal, family tradition and the place where one was born. Just think of how many of us have received an embroidery from our mothers / grandmothers / great-grandmothers. The embroidery embodies the very slowness of the gesture, the dedication and the time dedicated to us that was given to us. I find it very poetic. As well as embroidery that carries within itself the essence of a tradition of a place. It is a story, a symbolic tale handed down over the centuries. Furthermore, embroidery is a meditative space, for relationships and sharing.

«The delicate U» colored threads on canvas, 22x33 cm - 2021

Your works are configured as large schematic maps in which, through the use of the word, you simplify the visual elements present in the reference works. In some cases, black thread is used as a kind of textile hatch to erase some written parts. Can you explain the meaning of this action and what it represents for you?

Oblivion as truth and reality took over in my research at a certain point. For years I worked only on the theme of memory, looking for different ways to represent memory and the very act of memorizing.

I realized that there can be no memory without its forgetfulness; in this awareness my research has changed shape and I felt the need to let myself go to the sensuality of oblivion. The cancellation of words has taken over to represent the slow act of forgetting, an act that replaces, cancels but at the same time generates a new language, a new form, a new sign.

“The sensitivity of Sassetta” Colored threads on canvas 22x30 cm 2021

In some works, such as those in which you reflect on Goya’s works, through embroidery you give life to a visual structure that recalls that of the constellations. Did you research this shape or is it the result of chance?

The sensation of a constellation was born in a causal way, but I believe that randomness does not actually exist and that what was my intent, that is to represent the relationship between the forms, the mental mechanisms that lead to the creation of one’s own mental image, are in fact the representation of our universe. Everything has a link with the things of creation, so I find this parallelism between our inner constellations and the emanation of those of the sky natural and magnificent.

«Lettura e obnubilamento de El Conjuro - Goya» graphite on Canvas - black thread - 46x35 cm - 2019

Explain Until the dream do us part, how was this work born and what is its meaning?

“Until the dream do us part” is basically a letter addressed to the artist Meret Oppheneim. Her life, her choices, her courage, her practice and her thinking touched me a lot. I consider the personal history of individuals a source of great interest and inspiration.

In the case of Oppheneim, I felt a strong connection with her need to be herself freely, as well as to belong philosophically to surrealism. Her research included the practice of dreams and introspection as a fundamental modality of her poetics. This aspect is also very similar to my way of conceiving works. Thus was born this letter in which the words are those of the dream, words that are said to each other at night but without speaking, in other dimensions, vibrant but indecipherable. It is a very intimate letter, full of gratitude and beauty.

«In memore» engraving on paraffin - 27x19,7x 4 cm - 2016

In more recent works, you use colored thread on canvas and in some cases, abandon the word. What direction is your work taking?

I felt the need to regain possession of the sign in a more free way. I have always had a strong closeness to the practice of drawing and in these latest works I try to go beyond recognizability, I search more for the gesture.I explore painting through sign, gesture and color, leaving the interpretative possibilities open, emphasizing the importance of drawing on one’s personal baggage to build a mental image. In some cases I take back compositions or details of classical works, distorting them but trying to keep the aura and poetry alive. I believe that each of us has more or less developed sensitivities, I am interested in soliciting them.

«Finchè il sogno non ci separi» pillow, black thread - 27x37x4 cm - 2018 - courtesy: Nicoletta Rusconi Art project

What are your artistic references? Is there any figure in particular that influenced your research? 

There are several artists, even very different ones, who have influenced my path. As I said in the previous answer, in many cases it is the artist’s own life that has marked me. In other cases I have been touched by the theoretical writings or of course by the works.

To name a few: Claudio Parmiggiani, Luciano Fabro, Giulio Paolini, Bas Jan Ader, Louise Bourgeois, Agnes Martin, Hanne Darboven, Kiki Smith, Catharina van Eetvelde, Robert Gober, Carl Andre, Ettore Spalletti, Wolfgang Laib, Emilio Isgrò, Nathalie Du Pasquier, Piero Manzoni, Meret Oppheneim, Gino De Dominicis, Giovanni Anselmo … and of course the greats of the past such as Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Il Sassetta, Il Beato Angelico, Piero della Francesca, Sano di Pietro, The Master of Observance, Goya. .. The list is really long.

«Levarsi dell’immagine mentale de El Conjuro, Goya» graphite on canvas, black thread - 35x46 cm - 2019

Quali sono i tuoi riferimenti artistici? C’è qualche figura in particolare che ha influenzato la tua ricerca?

Ci sono diversi artisti, anche molto diversi tra loro che hanno influenzato il mio percorso. Come dicevo nella precedente risposta, in molti casi è la vita stessa dell’artista ad avermi segnata. In altri casi sono stata toccata dagli scritti teorici o naturalmente dalle opere.

Per citarne alcuni: Claudio Parmiggiani, Luciano Fabro, Giulio Paolini, Bas Jan Ader, Louise Bourgeois, Agnes Martin, Hanne Darboven, Kiki Smith, Catharina van Eetvelde, Robert Gober, Carl Andre, Ettore Spalletti, Wolfgang Laib, Emilio Isgrò, Nathalie Du Pasquier, Piero Manzoni, Meret Oppheneim, Gino De Dominicis, Giovanni Anselmo… e naturalmente i grandi del passato come Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Il Sassetta, Il Beato Angelico, Piero della Francesca, Sano di Pietro, Il Maestro dell’Osservanza, Goya… La lista è davvero lunga.

«Lettura e obnubilamento de Il volo delle streghe - Goya» graphite on canvas and black thread - 150×100 cm - 2018

What are your plans for the future?

First of all, concentrate on work. I put aside expectations about the future because I realized that having them in this area can turn into a tsunami. Having said that since I started to be more focused on what my intent and my poetics are, I have been offered interesting projects, residences (including one in Vicenza in collaboration with “A Collection” which will see me involved in the design of a tapestry based on one of my works alongside maestro Giovanni Bonotto and a residence proposed by Asilo Bianco), an exhibition in September that will see my path intersect with avant-garde music in which the memory of vision and sound will meet; I feel the need to space and make my work dialogue with different fields, including experimental ones.

Furthermore, through the SpazioPPP project, (house-atelier shared with Alessandro Gioiello) we are pursuing the idea of ​​an “archive of presence” in which to meet and leave tangible traces of conversations / residences with poets, philosophers, musicians, artists, curators, independent spaces. I really needed to regain possession of human contact and confrontation with free thinkers. Compared to the rest, I naturally hope to be able to share my work through exhibitions and paths that involve like-minded people who are sensitive to my research.

«In polvere #2» charcoal on canvas - 41x43,4 cm - 2021

Margaret Sgarra

Read it in English Curatrice di arte contemporanea e Storica dell’arte, ha conseguito il Diploma di I livello in Didattica dell’Arte (Accademia Albertina di Belle Arti di Torino), successivamente ha perfezionato i suoi studi con una Laurea Magistrale in Storia dell’arte (Università degli Studi di Torino) e, infine, ha ottenuto una seconda Laurea Magistrale in Arti visive (Università di Bologna). Tra le sue principali tematiche di ricerca in ambito curatoriale troviamo: tutela dell’ambiente, identità e sfera emotiva. Ha collaborato con Paratissima ed è attualmente coinvolta, in qualità di curatrice, nella realizzazione di diversi progetti artistici.