Irene Biolchini: “I’m talking about where the destinies of art and ceramics meet”
I spoke with Irene Biolchini between Milan and Palermo, in the middle of work on the preparation of an exhibition of the work of the artist Loredana Longo, Crash – My body ain’t nobody, which opened its doors at FPAC – Francesco Pantaleone Arte Contemporanea in the two cities where the Gallery has premises (open to visitors until May 10 in Palermo and until May 14 in Milan). “In this exhibition, explains Irene, who is the curator, Loredana Longo offers a reflection on the body as limitation; in her work she also uses ceramics as a material, notably in the work Armour, where the female body becomes a shredded envelope. It is inspired by the life of Joan of Arc and represents a sort of liberation from a shell, or rather a sacrifice imposed by circumstances and by history. An unfortunately topical theme, according to the news these days. Biolchini, who teaches contemporary art at the Department of Computational Arts at the University of Malta and is a guest curator at the International Museum of Ceramics in Faenza, has been studying the relationship between contemporary artists and ceramics for some time and discussing it in a book published in September by Gli Ori titled LIVE. Ceramica arte libera. “Libera” or “free” is Biolchini’s favorite adjective to describe a material as old as mankind itself. “Ceramics is a material in perpetual motion, linked to the geological history of the place where the clay comes from, to nature and to the earth. Today’s artists are more than ever aware of this link, and ceramics is synonymous with respect for nature, challenges the capitalist model and revolutionizes the way we see the world today”.
Her book is the result of almost two years of study by artists who use ceramics as a medium of expression. In a discussion with the great artist, designer, architect and critic Ugo La Pietra, Irene proposed three categories to divide creative artists who work with ceramics: “There are artists who work in a variety of different languages, including ceramics; true craftsmen, heirs to the craftsmanship of ceramic shops; and then there are the artist-craftsmen, all those artists whose sense of research is exhausted in the material itself, for whom ceramics is both a starting point and an end. The book is part of this triple line and attempts to build a journey from the 70s to the present day”, returning to half a century of ceramic art: a medium that has become popular over the last decade. “We now find it in the Biennale exhibitions, the salons and the art galleries”, confirms Biolchini, “and the explanation lies in the fact that after years of dematerialization, digital art, art video and photography, people want something tangible. In fact, ceramics have always played an important role in Italian art, such as in the Arte Povera and Transavanguardia movements, although they were used by a minority. Ceramics requires encounter (it is a difficult medium to work alone), sharing and interaction with tradition: these axes which are obsessive themes for today’s artists”.
Thus the return to the material goes through a return to working together and sharing, and the relationship between artists and workshops is the cornerstone. “It was during an exhibition that I organized in Albisola, says Irène, that Loredana Longo had the opportunity to meet Stylnove, the Nove workshop with which she now produces her pieces. The relationship between craftsmen and artists is almost visceral: a partnership is established which lasts for years and years, and which is of paramount importance for the production of the works. From her vantage point, Irene Biolchini also notes that design, art and craft are less and less distinct categories, but increasingly reflect today’s fluid and mobile approach to creativity. hui: “The production of ceramic objects always goes in the direction of limited editions. ; and thus art meets unique objects. To cite just a few examples among many others: Andrea Anastasio, who worked as a designer for Artemide, Foscarini and Danese, is now artistic director of Bottega d’Arte Ceramica Gatti 1928 in Faenza. And Diego Cibelli, whose work is exactly halfway between art and design, draws inspiration from the historic models of Capodimonte to rethink the forms that have made the history of artistic porcelain in Italy so great in a way that is not conventional”.
Captions and Credits
01 Ornaghi and Prestinari, Due, 2017, glazed ceramic, approx. 10×25 cm. Courtesy of the artists, photo by Ornaghi & Prestinari studio.
02 Courtesy of Irène Biolchini
03 Lorenza Boisi, Urban Ritual, 2016, double-fired ceramic, underglaze decoration and ribbons, variable size. Courtesy of Ribot, Milan.
04 Salvatore Arancio, Like A Sort of Pompeii In Reverse, 2019, Installation view at Museo Casa Jorn. Courtesy of the artist and Schiavo Zoppelli Gallery, photo by Federica Delprino – Omar Tonella
05 Concetta Modica, Orlando trilogy #3 the ritornoSpazio COSMO Milano, curator Michela Eremita, photo by Luca Pancrazzi, courtesy of FPAC Milano Palermo
06Luca Pancrazzi, heart rate, 2001, enamels and third fire on terracotta, 5.5×8.5 cm. Work produced and exhibited at the Biennale di Ceramica nell’Arte Contemporanea, 2001.
07 Federico Tosi, meoooooo, terracotta, acrylic paint, 32x21x180 cm. Courtesy of the artist and Galleria Monica de Cardenas, photo by Federico Tosi.
08 Alberto Gianfreda, Italy, 2021 ceramic vases and aluminum chain, cm 270x270x30. Courtesy of the artist and Galleria Antonio Verolino, special thanks to Casa Testori and AiCCC.
09 Loredana Longo, Armour, 2022, ceramic, tempera 147 x 147 x 23 cm (c.), produced in a single copy
10 Tommaso Corvi Mora, Hortus conclusus, 2017, painted terracotta, partially glazed, 14.5 cm (height). Courtesy of the artist
11 Alexander Roma, nature’s skin, 2019, semi-refractory, engobes and enamels, 100 x 50 cm diam. (each), produced at Bottega Gatti Faenza. Photo by Luca Nostri, courtesy of the artist.
12 Paolo Gonzato, COPY, 2019, courtesy of Officine Saffi and the artist.
13 Marcella Vanzo, Savarine Small Portraits, 2014, color print, detail, 2014, Lucie Fontaine, Milan. Photo by Alessandro Miti.
14 Francesco Simetti, Beetle, 2013, wallpaper on wood panels, ceramic sculpture, variable size, private collection, photo by Sebastiano Pellion.