Back to Nature
(page 12) Society always moves within two distinct and opposite trends: on the one hand we witness the organization of continental mass media chains, on the other we observe the need for small enterprise, a strong love for local things and handmade objects. This effect is also due to the imminent “ecological disaster” that encourages us to look at nature carefully and affectionately. We can see all this through the growth of an ever greater need for objects that are able to “communicate”; objects in which the materiality is exalted through the use of natural materials that remind us that our reality consists of territories to which well-rooted cultures and different traditions correspond. These are the signs of a society seeking to rediscover the “right” balance with the world and that does it by turning its attention towards that which it can touch directly, in the hope of rediscovering that sensitivity that past cultures had towards the environment.
THE JSA AND THE FIFTIES
(page 14) It was the IX Triennial in Milan, 1951, which relaunched the theme of “unity of the arts”, our declination of the “synthesis of the arts” that, upon Le Corbusier’s indication, was a key theme in the CIAM congress in Bergamo in 1949. Bringing “the artists to the test of concrete problems, promoting new relationships of collaboration between the various arts: architecture, painting and sculpture, for the elevation of a level of spiritual and practical life”. The event triggered off a lively debate, primarily fuelled and continually relaunched, with sovereign spirit of intellectual curiosity, by Gio Ponti and his “Domus”. Other threads of interest were stirred up and matured within this climate. Historically, the guiding practices of that formidable decade of integrations are painting, with its strong historical identity polished up by the muralism of the 20th century, with the corollary of mosaics and tapestry; and ceramics, crossroads par excellence both for the quality of its interpreters, Fontana and Fausto Melotti at the head, and the unlimited flexibility of a technique with such deep historical roots. That IX Triennial was very indicative, not only for the International Exhibition of applied art objects created by painters and sculptors, but also for the Italian Art Fabrics, which pursued further integration between decorative Nordic culture and our tradition. At almost the same time, looking at the spread of attention and productive enthusiasm, Paolo Mari-notti’s Centro Internazionale delle Arti e del Costume in Venice launched a parallel competition for “printed fabrics for female clothing”. The invitation called for ideas, innovative
ideas, even when they moved away from the technical requirements of practicality. The creations, produced by Socota, Como, recei-ved honorary diplomas at the Triennial. It was at this time, therefore, that the real sharp rise in productive attention ranging from art fabric to artist fabric was witnessed. Luigi Grampa’s Jsa was the heart and epicentre of this complicated and li-vely scene. Born in 1949, in a Busto Arsi-zio at the forefront of the technological and productive progress in this sector, as is testified to by the Textile Exhibitions, Jsa was the company that instantly combined its vocation with artistic research in production with a coherent and constant comparison with the huge international currents of textile design, from the Nordic models of Alvar Aalto’s Artek and Arne Jacobsen’s Grantex to the American examples of Charles and Ray Eames.
(page 20) This young and original designer figure in the international scene, describes her work as “a design for touch and sensation”, conferring huge importance to tactile perception, a favoured channel for coming into contact with man, his habits, his needs and his sensations. Touching implies drawing near, discovery and then acceptance (or not) of an object by deciding to introduce it into one’s life. Triggering off this drawing near mechanism is a complex operation and if we observe the hundreds of objects that populate our houses, we feel this sort of attraction towards very few of them. However, this desire emerges almost instinctively and immediately before Masayo Ave’s creations. Through attention, observation and artistic manipulation, Masayo Ave reveals the hidden qualities in the industrial materials, often only used because of the utilitarian qualities, which rediscover their dignity and expressive strength, but above all an absolutely new dialogue with man. Masayo never tries to “force” the material towards a pre-established form, but she tries to listen to its “inner voice” that, according to her, every material possesses and should guide her towards discovering the most congenial form. This philosophy is the same for Masayo when using natural materials. Her latest creations are characterized by cracks, that is to say normal natural processes of the material. This is because, even when cutting or bending it, wood is alive, it moves, breathes and shows the strength of its nature through these cracks. During an interview when she was asked, “How are your objects born?” Masayo replied: “I never start from a design but work directly on the material. In this way my mind and hands work in harmony in order to bring to material to speak on its own and express
itself without any formal compulsion that could derive from pure reason. When I achieve a result, I evaluate whether that which has come out of my hands can also be proposed and developed for a series production or whether it is important to protect it and conserve it in the “completely handmade” sphere.
Learn the Art and Put it Aside
(page 24) “What do we mean by applied arts today?” Let’s leave aside the established tones and references to laurel wreathed poets. I don’t precisely know what applied art is, but I know what it should not be and what I don’t want it to be: a certain “pure”, or “conceptual” contemporary art, but with pretexts of nouveau engagement that troubles us in too many manifestations. Let us understand eachother, its absolutely reciprocal, going back to today, this need for distinction and capturing distances. On the one hand, we should actualize the objective of “drawing life back to art”.. giving visibility to the many who are not recognized today, and do not recognize eachother, in the arts system. I would like to move from preaching to practice, and finally give the new figure of the metropolitan artisan an opportunity to emerge, those who earn their keep, through choice or necessity, with a new “autonomous” work (selfdesigned, self-built, self-marketed) and I’m not particularly interested, in an initial phase, in objecting to insufficiency or expressive excess, or even less to the adoption of “low” materials or techniques (I will recognize equal dignity in this prospect in the tatto artist and the potter). Formally, it is the rejection of new and old hierarchies, of the reduction of the “artist” to a purely executive role. In no way should it be maintained that the artisan has exhausted his creative charge and is incapable of renewing tradition. Let’s be clear: I am well aware of the complexity of the theme and the soundness of some adverse arguments. I know that one cannot open the “left-hand way” alone, with some demagogic and populist risk; but that one must also follow a “right hand way”, which is more traditional, elitist and formative, which tends to recompose cognitive, projectual, constructive and manual faculties in the very professional figure. It is what Dino Mantovani hoped for in 1902: “The artist amongst us knows very little about working the material, which was the care and study of our supreme ancient authors. The Florentine sculptors were goldsmiths in origin, now is the time that sculptors become goldsmiths”.. Even in the Fine Arts Acadamies, where art is “purified” until it evaporates, artistic design for businesses and applied arts have been reintroduced as teaching subjects; even
italian magazine about crafts