YEAR 2016 - ONDE D’ACCIAIO by Alessandra Migliorati
Weaving is something ancient that bears a relation to having a body. Originally we were in need of covering ourselves, but covering could not hide the contents, so it became claim and tale. And the tale went beyond the physical limits of the body, to become carpets and tapestries and finally existential metaphor. Weaving plots, weaving a relationship, weaving a story - either for a short time or for the whole life - according to a patient and
meticulous action while choosing pattern, threads, warp and knots for every "new line", or close. And all that has something witchlike and sacred, in its rituality, since it can turn something shapeless, fragile and confuse - like disiecta membra - into a completed whole that only the force of powerful scissors , or fire, or the passing of time will be able to destroy. With the last knot cast off, fabric will be a dream surface where to lie down, remember or walk. Wearing a fan-tail or a protective chain mail, it will be anyway the magic spell of a tale recurring, with no words, in gesture, shape and colour.
Valeria Scuteri has always found both the origin and the end of her artistic search on such plurality of metaphoric and physic values of weaving, thus being counted with full rights among the protagonists of that Fiber Art which a non-too-recent historiography considers as a peculiarly female, distinct activity, since needle, loom and thread belong to Eve's long progeny, according to a millenary custom. Penelope weaves to while away the time, doing and undoing is in her plan. Valeria materializes and shapes the sentimental threads that every woman has bound herself to, owing to obstinacy or destiny, either perniciously or tenderly.
Steel Waves, a new work
generously conceived for Perugia and such circumstance, has subtle stratifications
of meaning, which start in autobiographical experiences and go deep down in
womanliness, in a multi-faceted social and sentimental scale, in the
verticalness of history, which is memory and shared topicality of ancestral
activities, of the womanliness that is also the cliché of a womanly regarded
and disregarded stereotype. Hence the tale embroidered with words and signs -
steel fabric and strong hand, segmented into shorter stories to be reflected
upon - finds its closest metaphorical significance, as it is just the multiple
"reflection" of facts and emotions of the subtle women's world in
full. There is not an actual beginning, or an end either, but maybe in the
"self-portrait" (The Earth), which history revolves round in its
elements, and violates the heliocentricism
ruling the celestial bodies. The Earth means solidity, realism, patience
in waiting, in the cycle of seasons, in feeding one's fruits, like a
cornerstone where to build, but it also means thirst, - when water is needed to
beget - sometimes difficulty in walking on one's own bare earth. Where the
Earth calms its eagerness to be a concrete and finished fact, the Sea is there. Changeable, unpredictable, it keeps a secret
in the life which is hidden in its depths as in a parallel world, fluid reverse
of earth and sky, as well as inducing aimless voyages whenever its bound
disappears below the horizon. The word Hope was synonymous with Ocean to the
Italian emigrants towards America and the cloth of Impronte (Footprints) is the one, marked "USA", sent by
an emigrated uncle - in gift parcels - to his relatives in Italy. Bare feet,
dancing shoes, spike heels and hobnail shoes leave their mark on the cloth.
They are the steps of a woman round her beloved, while a waveringly embroidered
mantra echoes: "I walked barefoot/not
to hurt you/I wore dancing shoes/to follow your pace/I wore spike heels/ to
entice you/I wore hobnail shoes/to get myself heard". I AM TIRED is the
truth each woman tells herself when it appears her loved one, as a life plan,
does not want to answer her docile and eager enticing. Yet the right shoes for walking as a fairy, a
little girl, or a queen are at the corner, waiting for a new departure and who
knows, perhaps even the thrill of a waltz.
YEAR 2015 - THE FIBER ART BY VALERIA SCUTERI of Claudia Bottini
Thread by thread; the weft depending on the warp; the warp being reason for the thread and as the former cannot form fabric without the latter, so the latter gives strength and support to the former.
(Maria Corsini, L'ordito e la trama: radiografia di un matrimonio, 1953)
When she weaves iron, steel and copper wires on an experimental loom, or manipulates wool and other materials with a crochet, knitting needles, or free interweaving, Valeria Scuteri revives ancient traditions and reworks them in the light of contemporaneity. As one of the best-known Italian Fiber Artists, she develops - on her canvas, drawings, textile and performative sculptures - a poetics dealing with the deepest themes of human life.
For this exhibition and to pay honour to St. Valentine's theme, Valeria shows - together with her best-known works, like Innamorati (Lovers), Il bacio (The Kiss) or Le Rondini (Swallows) - some new installation works which change space and tell us her love poetics, by associating brightness and darkness, space and substance: Primo appuntamento (First Date), Sua Maestà il Melograno (His Majesty The Pome-Granate), Ritorno a casa-Cammino condiviso (Coming back home-Shared way), Inutile orizzonte (Useless horizon).
Her daughter's marriage inspires and names the evanescent white dress Susanna.
The artist from Turin creates installations for you to enter into, walking through weavings and inventions, lyricism and polished experimental techniques. In her hands the basic weft-and-warp structure shows, "like in love matters" the tension of opposites, and takes a new meaning, exceeding the sole fabric. Wefts, love stories, are born by meeting casualness and our rationality only makes us weave a long journey side by side.
Scuteri acts on people sensitivity and is able to promote renewal, by acting on the ethics and aesthetics levels at the same time. Works where weave is lively and charged with meaning, where anything is possible to create a new visual and tactile impact.
Scuteri's Fiber Art is an explosion of enthusiasm and creativity. Today's Arachne, she proves that this ancient technique is still able to give a major contribution to human expression.
As I wrote in the catalogue Armonie d'Arte in 2013 (1), on the occasion of the exhibition Vestiti d'Arte I curated at Montefalco and Valeria took part in, Fiber Art is a new way of interpreting reality and aesthetics. It began in the early twentieth century, when artists got loose from palette and chisel to experiment with "fiber", worked with or without loom.
The starting point of these artistic researches is an extremely ancient craft, traditionally performed by women: weaving. Fiber Art develops - beyond the concept of "usefulness", usually associated to this kind of production - those rebellious stirrings which wanted to break with the traditional textile teachings. We are referring, especially, to the major role played by the weaver women who worked at the Bauhaus Textile Laboratory and to the legacy they have handed down. Poetical feeling, knowledge of materials, combining of both the artist's and artisan's abilities bring Valeria Scuteri's work back to that intuition which characterized Bauhaus women artists. Gunta Stölzl, German, has written: "Because weaving is an aesthetic whole, where shape, colour and material are composed in an only unity. While Bauhaus artists at first started from figurative principles - so to speak a wool image [...] - today we know that fabric is an object for use and it is a surface holding static, dynamic, plastic, functional, constructive and spatial elements."(2) Later the United States welcomed the majority of these revolutionary weaver women, who fled Europe after the Nazi regime was established. They have left a deep mark on the qualitative and aesthetic progress of American fabrics.(3)
In 1962 Jean Luçart, the founder of the Centre International de la Tapisserie Ancienne et Moderne in 1961 opened the first Fiber Art exhibition in Lausanne, an International Biennial which still hosts Fiber works.
Some Fiber Art cultural events are born in Italy in the early 1990s, like the annual show Miniartextil in Como, which can offer the best international artistic Textile Art or Fiber Art production. From 1998 to 2004 a Fiber Art Biennial was organized at Chieri, a district near Turin, in Piedmont, an industrialized region which was the cradle for Arte Povera (literally poor art). Valeria Scuteri took part in several editions of this Biennial, called Trame d'Autore (Art Weaves).
The first Off Loom exhibition took place in 2000 in Rome, in the halls of San Michele a Ripa. It was curated by Bianca Cimiotta Lami and Lydia Predominato, who aimed at spreading textile culture in an institutional setting as well. After fifteen years Off Loom comes to Rome again, at MAT - Museo Nazionale delle Arti e Tradizioni Popolari (National Museum of People's Art and Tradition) - to clarify Fiber Art condition in Italy. It is hosted in a Museum, at long last, many years late!. (4)
Umbria, which has a major textile tradition, hosted its first Biennale d'Arte Tessile Contemporanea (Contemporary Textile Art Biennial) at Amelia, a district near Terni, from 2002 to 2006. Contemporary art works were created on the ancient loom. Let's not forget the 1976 Gubbio Biennial curated by Enrico Crispolti, where the then young fiber artist Lydia Predominato, from Trieste, made her debut.
Wearable Art, that is linked to historical avant-gardes, applies to some creations, especially dresses, accessories and jewels, which are made to be "potentially" worn. It started amid Surrealism, Futurism and Dadaism when artists reacted against the tradition of classic materials, began exploring other languages and found out the textile medium. When such art works to be worn are realized through more or less experimental and daring processes - fiber and sundry materials interweaving - Art Wear can fall within the Fiber Art field. Hence we can think of Art Wear when looking at some art works like the stylish black dress with crocheted embroideries called Primo appuntamento (First Date) in this exhibition, or the high-heeled shoes with pome-granate, a symbol of abundance and fertility, which Renessaince painters put in the Holy Child's hand, since its colour red announced his Passion. Yet this was a fecund martyrdom, the fruit of the infinite love of God toward mankind.
Up there the Rondini (Swallows), the symbol of rebirth, "help lovers' dreams take wing", writes Valeria. The love heralding swallows the Artist observed for long during her summer stays in Calabria, her native land, are resting for a while on the long wire, before coming back to their comfortable nest. The nest - reminding us Pascoli's famous poem - safeguards from solitude and from the world misunderstanding. Thanks to Fiber Artit becomes a pretty handbag. Besides the nest-handbag, the book-handbag is on show as well, a useless horizon containing the names of many pairs who are famous for their sad and painful love: Samson and Delilah, Othello and Desdemona, Paris and Helen, Tristram and Iseult, Anthony and Cleopatra, Romeo and Juliet, Paolo and Francesca, Renzo and Lucia, Lancelot and Guinever, Ulysses and Penelope, Hamlet and Ophelia, Eros and Psyche, Dido and Aeneas, Apollo and Daphne, Roland and Angelica, Hector and Andromache. A book made of wires and poetry, born of the weaving of knowledges, memories, common identities.
Fiber Art by Valeria Scuteri weaves wefts shaping the wonderful cloth of life and love.
Innamorati-Il bacio (Lovers-The Kiss) was made in 2008: evanescent forms kissing each other. They are naked, undressed by the eyes looking at them, yet bodies are absent. While observing them, one realizes that the former is stand and support to the latter, "as it happens in love": thread by thread, interwoven each other seamlessly, for all eternity.
1 _ "Armonie d’Arte", catalogue of the exhibitions (lI Sacro e il Profano, Museo civico di San Francesco; Vestiti d’arte, Chiostro di Sant'Agostino, Montefalco, Perugia, 2nd June-14th July 2013, texts by Claudia Bottini and Alessia Vergari), pp. 28-49. On this occasion Valeria Scuteri first exhibited in Umbria, together with four contemporary women artists. They interpreted the "dress", a starting point in their artistic expression.
2 _ Gunta Stölzl from «Offser Buch und Verbekunst», Notebook n°7, 1926.
3 _ The exhibition Fiber: sculpture. 1960-Present, took place in 2014 at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. It went over the history of sculpture Fiber Art.
4 _ Marta Picciau, Bianca Lami, Maristella Margozzi, Lydia Predominato, curated by, Off Loom, Fiber Art Arte fuori dal telaio, catalogue of the exhibition (Rome, Museo Nazionale delle Arti e Tradizioni Popolari, January to April 2015), Mantua 2015.
The major historical information in this article was drawn from this rich anthological catalogue.
YEAR 2011-2012 - SAPRA’ PER AMORE RICOMPORSI by Paola Goretti
Bodies must not be clothed by these dresses, which are not dresses at all. They are filaments of the archaic Medusa, tentacular tentacles, waving spires of a surfaced mermaid, God knows whence, ruins and billows interwoven, wreckage aground in the remote past re-emerged through chaining. They must not be sheathed, restrained, embanked. They must not be hung on hangers of wardrobes, or of the temple of flesh, since they do not want flesh, but souls, waves. Curled up waves to be curled up on a rock,, to be dried in saltiness. They are bamboo dresses, bark dresses, ancient book dresses, olive dresses, flood dresses, shell, sybil, spring. Dawn ghosts and scales. They are invertebrate matter sewn with oysters. And the sea silk as a lover. Inner dresses of the motionless wordliness, bluish filaments of silvery reverberation, spins. Ruins coming out of sunken galleons, principles of flux and flowing, non-perpetual returns of the undertow. Lemons and oranges. They are rites of Phrygia, capital-shaped, water bunches, bubbles. Gauzes of an ultramarine ocean. Imagining of perpetual Graecizing, dream pieces from a very remote present. Chipped, shattered wrecks.
Joy springs from the eyes of fish like a rose and clings to the shore like a living thing. Mermaiding and water modelled, trilling with no imbalance. They are light-dresses. They live under foundations, even further down, where the sanctuary moss grows. Where clear rainwater falls, where stone grass sleeps on the floor. Also the male compounds look like diver shields, rituals of spires encrusted to form a diving suit, armours of ancient heroes, millenary carcasses. Fray of men-at-arms dancing on points, undersea ballet: the perpetual surfaces under the waves, people and people full of waves, rites of trained peoples under the waves, men returning home.
Under the skin waves, scales. Loom song and memorial of the narrating epic.
"Sing, oh Goddess...", the sweet sunray is trapped and shines. The sun has already been here,has already dried them in July afternoons, through the suffocating summer heat and the huge meridian of every appearance. The sun has already finished its inconsumable work in the river of vivid water. Beautiful summation of what is already existing and already is weft, living, now pouring a never-ending beauty. The sunset gold declines, diamonds decline, seafarers decline. But the memorial of the lost ones remains, the gleam of what existed and does not exist anymore remains, the colour of the spark remains, the clay juice inside the banks of signs. Sacred thing keeping joy. The Ode to Joy. Still. Without tears, without weight.
They, loving, will be able to recollect themselves. To bring themselves back. The time to come is the future in open sea, where every burning thing has an unpicked, tattered, love-sick, forgotten, offended, stranded, enchanted soul. Here are the caring hands in open sea, the caring gloves made of silk velvet. The aiding rush of every seam, the recovery. Here they are. Here they are again, in their coming true. Here they are. They are the remaining things. The things of the coming back home. He, too, is here. He, loving, will be able to recollect himself. The midday cuttlefish is already passing under cinders, like its long-lasting effect.
YEAR 2009 - PLAITING OF WIRES AND DREAMS by Anna
The Site as a historical world able to arouse emotions and artistic inspirations becomes the chosen theme for the works by Valeria Scuteri shown in this exhibition. Wesserling and its park have generated an emotional and cultural exchange between the town and the Artist. The heart Mediterranean quality and passionateness have met the magic spirit of the North, characterized by a strong bond between nature and culture.
Entering the peaceful oasis of the fabulous, yet daily garden has brought about a reassuring spirit which has produced the composition Anni verdi (Green Years) - a cheerful girl reading on a meadow, striking a mincing and naive pose - the Homage to Wesserling, Bambini sull'altalena libro (Children on a swing-book) and the Due innamorati (Two lovers) who are kissing each other, thus becoming the emblem of pristine primordial love. The broad and neat green stretch reminds that value of place and feeling purity which nourished the art and landscape tratises in the 18th century, and becomes a mirror for human feelings and drives.Tranquillity soothes and brightens the turbulent sensitiveness of the Artist.
The underlying theme of the dialogue between the origins and the two stories goes on through the Mediterranean sculptures and installations: Panni stesi (Hanging linen), Abitoulivo (Olivedress), Abitoginestra (Spanish broomdress). And the different accessories, too, are steeped in sensuality and a metaphor of seductive womanliness.
And more: sculptures evoking pathos and mythology, which are linked to Magna Graecia and conversing with the installation Mademoiselle, a voluptuous load of feminine grace. We can see the desire for freedom, peace and spiritual beauty in Filo di rondini (Swallow wire), where the graceful little birds become pre-eminently symbolic of love, since they have both strength and lightness. Not accidentally we find them at the woman's feet in the Innamorati sculpture, as if they could make her fly, too. The effect of general airiness coming out of the works by Valeria Scuteri must not mislead, though. The manipulation of materials never comes by chance; it is the fruit of thorough planning, physical effort and strongly emotional intensity of feeling, which give origin to those bright and light surfaces making these objects magic and rich in existential history, as well as a pattern of the human condition in general and of the women's one in particular.
In the final analysis the Artist needs to tell the world both well thought-out concepts, and emotions caught in a flash, but equally important; and the aim is achieved through the power and the greatness of her Art.
YEAR 2004 - THE THING IS "OTHER" by Pino Mantovani
The thing is “other”, or the otherness names itself “thing”. Even when we go through them, or they come through us, things do have different existence rhythms and consistence levels. Therefore they often flow away through uncatchable tangencies, or, on the contrary, sometimes they annoy and daunt our proud impermeability.
Things in themselves do not belong to us; if anything, the reverse might be true, that is, things do possess us. So we can imagine that a route is able to keep every single track of all those who passed on it (even beyond the resistence of the latest footprints); that a rock, like a protecting or evil genie, is able to take part in everything happens at its feet, in time, forever; that a jewel is able to burden itself with every story it meets with, while it goes through many hands; that a room is able to store all stagnating buzzing in a final schedule.
We ourselves try to get a reification: since the beginning, for example, we have been inclined to turn into earth, stone, diamond, metal, air, in order to leave some less transient traces than those to which we give our daily lives, some objective signs not being enticed, nor threatened by accidents and emotions. Hence we have set up some artifices that follow natural processes: the cast, which is moulded from outside, and the molecular substitution, which reconstructs from inside. In both, what changes is, above all, the material consistence, while the apparent identity is not altered. The former process affects quantity, the latter, quality (hoping these two terms are able to explain, in outline at least, the nature of the artifice). Weaving, in all its forms and with any kind of material, is one of the most effective ways of reconstructing from inside. Our myths of creation (both the original one and the one we try to revive by playing the role of creators) have been worked out around these two patterns, and that is not accidental; the former is “manly”, athletic and tiring, the latter is “womanly”, analytic and patient, and that is not accidental either. The former is based on a traumatic modification, the latter on continuity, where the prevailing repetition may insert a variant, or trigger an error.
Among things, yet, we find a species which does have a peculiar ambiguity and is able to suggest and provoke, since it has closely shared our daily routines: this species is the habit*, whose etymon leads to protracted, both active and passive, possession. A “habit” is a new skin (each of us knows what is the meaning of “putting on” a pair of shoes, a hat, underwear, trousers, a jacket; and the identification extent is given by the shock we feel when we take our clothes off), yet it is also the figure we consciously put on as the representation of ourselves (each of us, despite our secular times, knows the symbolic, even liturgical effectiveness of clothes). Yet we must not lose the nature and feeling of a perfect correspondence, what is proved by the fact that using a skin which has closely shared a different existence as well as a different image project, is repugnant to us.
Valeria Scuteri, the artist who is inspiring these few, hopely not unuseful thoughts, acts just where intimacy is interwoven with liturgy, where sign is so corresponding, that it is identical to the thing it looks like. She shifts her task from a metaphoric to a metonymic field, without abandoning the essential, both synthetic and symbolic value, in a way we have only seen, in a high-level language, in our latitudes, since the so-called “avant-gards”. At this stage of her work, form control is as rigorous as it was when signs were clearly wanted and pursued, both through traditional representation means (painting and drawing), and through the mental instruments of conceiving. I would dare to say the artifice has become still further refined, not only in its being forced to manage a strong material carefully and skillfully, but especially because any representative alibi fell, to be regained at the close of a presentation process. As if the dress, emptied of the body it should clothe, could deserve form just through a very rigorous processing, which is not superficial, but rather structural, tectonic, bearing (and some thoughts of Mrs Scuteri herself make me think I am right).
Hence, then, a fixed point in the present Valeria’s work, also from a conceptual slant, becomes the dress inspired by a prickly pear’s blade turned into a “skeleton of nervatures and weaves”, drained, with no trace of flesh, lying on the shoreline as an evidence of magnificent wealth. The dress “from inside”, another fixed point, pays homage to the ribbed structures of Chieri Gothic and Baroque: more architecturally planned than ever, these two forms are pure weave in a free space, they show no trace of a function.
Valeria Scuteri does not come to these structures from a rational project; she rather comes from a “love” side. In her opinion, habit and habiting have to do with both the given or received gift.
The gift with dignity and merit: being worth deserving, merit in dignity, dignity in merit.
An artist who was a friend of mine – whose loss I feel ever more and who, as a young man, had practised habit art as well as habiting art – used to tell me that haute couture’s essence lies in fabric and in cut: fabric has an autonomous quality of its own, and a choice is made about length and pleat. Cutting has to do with architecture, modularity and the spatial rhythm suited to the body.
I am finding these two levels in Valeria’s creative story, since she set out this new adventure. The former concerns the discovery of weaving (emptied of the body, the dress is fabric again, it becomes bolt again; furthermore the dress must be supported by a hanger, thus making body absence rhetorical). The latter gains the image of the body suggested by the dress; it belongs to a living being again, or rather it is the strong sign of a regained vitality, within that mythical perspective that, from the beginning, we equated to the “thing”.
YEAR 2004 - A MODERN PENELOPE by Cesare Roccati
Valeria Scuteri is a bashful, almost shy woman. She does not love showing off. I met her at the “Imbiancheria del Vajro”, during the Fourth International Fiber Art Biennial Exhibition in Chieri. She was sitting on a bench, and looking at the visitors who were admiringly looking at her work: an installation of three-four pairs of shoes and a handbag. Duly hand-woven, they were laid on an old bookcase. The work’s title could seem classical (Dall’Horror vacui alla consapevolezza - From Horror vacui to consciousness), but yet it was sublime poetry. A cry of peace in this further season of the great horror of wars.
Then, a few days later, I saw Valeria again, in her studio in Moncalieri, the ancient sacristy of a church (Santa Croce) in the very historical heart of the city, a maze of small rooms running after each other along two floors, just like in Kafka’s castle. Like in Il sentiero dei nidi di ragno, a book by Calvino, that place holds the secrets of this woman artist, who could tell a lot of things to the men of our times. In that place there are drawings built through steady, rigorous strokes; there is a good deal of nudes (mainly men), hanging in time and in a sensuous, rarefied space which almost belongs to the soul, swinging between Caravaggio and Bacon. There are the works forming the charming “Abbracci” (Embraces) cycle. There are great portraits, waving from expressionism to conceptual art, marked by an explosion of skillfully kept colours, as it is appropriate to an artist who has made her work an essential reason of life, against any form of violence of man upon man.
Unintentionally, Valeria Scuteri is a woman of Pavese. Like the cousin character in Mari del Sud by Pavese, she is as quiet as the people living on her native land, Calabria; men and women who have known troubles and poverty throughout the ages (as Carlo Levi reminded us in his book Cristo si è fermato a Eboli). Thus, inevitably, sorrow and labour mark the whole work by this artist, who came to the North of Italy when she was a girl, and learned painting from the great “Accademia Albertina” masters, from Deabate to Martina and Scroppo.
A woman from the South of Italy, a feminist ahead of her time, Valeria Scuteri (to whom a German TV Channel has recently devoted a nearly two hour programme) paints rarefied human forms, always shedding a great dignity as well as longing for redemption. She shows an almost obsessive need of rearranging things, of unceasingly giving a dignified greatness back to joy and sorrow, to life and death. The great portrait of her father, conceived on the day when he died, is emblematic. It is the portrait of a man who is turning his back on the world and facing the great journey to a new life with serenity. Even its colour is serene: a sober blue, instead of the green, the yellow and the orange of the prickly pears and apricots which had coloured her childhood’s palette.
Nevertheless in Valeria Scuteri’s studio, where a millenary dust leaks in through the window panes there is a workshop as well, just like the den of a Prague goldsmith’s wizard: wide wooden frames hanging on the walls, where wire, worked with an old-time skill, takes on the enchantment of gems. It is the enchantment of art, which becomes poetry when it is real art... That place has given birth to the works diplayed in this Chieri Exhibition, works having a taste like the sea, like the Riace sea in particular, the sea Valeria Scuteri saw when she was a girl and used to walk along deserted, metaphysical beaches. Throughout the ages, this sea has been guarding fish, sailers and those gigantic Bronzes, which are amongst the finest works man has ever made.
In these terms, this exhibition is a further turning point, one of the many ones in the work of this silent artist, who commits her deep emotions to a diary, every day.
These new works, which are all conceptually referable to Fiber Art, were conceived few years ago, on that awful 11th September (yet thirty years before, on the same day, Pinochet had destroyed Allende’s great Chilean hope), when two Terror planes threw down the Twin Towers in New York, spread panic and death, shuttered thousands of people’s lives. That very day Valeria Scuteri, a modern Penelope, decided to weave the threads of life and hope again, by using a language she knows pretty well, the language of art and poetry. Once again her results are really amazing.
YEAR 2004 - VALERIA SCUTERI. THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF AN ARTIST AT THE LOOM by Silvana Nota
Dignity, beauty regained from death and sorrow brutishness, time and its illusion, but also the consciousness of memory which offers a chance for new achievements: that is the core in the recent poetics of Valeria Scuteri, in whose work the presence-absence of the sea creeps, as continuous as a background cosmic sound.
It is an epic, intense and mediterranan sea, which flows within the folds of this latest cycle, and links thoughts, frees boundaries, as an imperceptible and essential adhesive gives continuity to the path of this artist, who comes to this creative stage with a consistent consequentiality and having chosen to express herself through Fiber Art.
Fiber Art – where artists, since the avant-gards on, but especially after the Sixties, have learned the artisan techniques, mastered them and created highly experimental pure art works, wholly released from the very craft which they had drawn from – proves to be a perfect creative medium to this quiet and profound artist, who, along with painting and sculpture, has always practised this kind of expression, almost unknown in Italy up to some years ago, as it was especially popular in the North of Europe and in the United States.
A pioneer, then, in innovative searching, where studying new forms of weaving to art’s disposal is a central matter, with or without a loom, Valeria Scuteri finds a new alphabet in Fiber Art: a duttile alphabet being extraordinarily close to her feeling as well as to her contemplative mind, which goes along with her need for a technical, workshop task. Just like it was for our ancient masters, who used to say knowledge of disciplines was an essential medium to express what was suggested by soul and heart. Today, working with her hands has a different and allegorical meaning to Valeria Scuteri; her both practical and conceptual choice of the loom as a creative means, in a historical context controlled by computerization, becomes a targeted, ultimately distinguishing gesture. It is a definitely complementary vehicle to the gestation of the idea taking shape in her work, through a scrupulous consideration of both progress and formal composition, where nothing is left to chance, or to improvised unfounded effects, or to ornamental embellishments. Every single wire, every colour, every web, has its own personality and yet is related to the whole, to the ensemble effect of the entire work, with a nearly mathematic accuracy.
Hence the loom becomes a particular symbol to rebel against chaos, through the fast rhythm of work and peace, a sort of philosophical retreat where the artist can find loneliness lighted by thought, and look – in a different mood – at the many facets of a daily life which is not always in keeping with her inner vibration. This attitude can remind Gandhi, in particular as to one of the many meanings that great Indian leader and guru gave to weaving: a value itself of psychophysical calm, suit for the peaceful regaining a human dimension we cannot give up, if we care for individual – hence common – harmony.
In Valeria Scuteri, love for loom grew when she was a child and, in her native Calabria, used to look closely at the last women still weaving, images of a lost world she has kept in her heart. Hard-working, patient, strong women, who were customarily able to wait for long: they waited for their husbands out in their boats, for their emigrating sons, for a new, hopely better day. The artist has kept these images of a timeless Penelope within her soul and mind, to think them over and to perfect them, to turn them into art. Such memories came out again during this searching stage, together with the traditional, popular, hand-woven fabric made of broom, popping out of the wardrobe, still smelling of the plant it is made of; Valeria Scuteri worked it and turned it into an art-work-dress, which is now a part of the installation called Il tempo da riempire.
The exhibition Canto di donna, Canto di telaio comes from such premises and from a subtle planning work; by summing up the preceding journey around man, meant as an analysis of man’s inner sphere, it starts a new journey – around woman, now – the artist explores through antithesis, what enables her to shift in time and in space, from a dimension to another, from individual lives to common memory, from reality to imagination, from descriptive to abstract style, from the search for ego up to the universal. To make us get into her story, partly autobiographic and sometimes imaginary, this sophisticated Italian artist weaver takes great care over the close relation between form and content. She epitomizes the loom’s century-old classicism and, as an artist, puts it into a new and experimental making. Hence, just by pulling a great canvas down from its frame, she obtains a “free loom” through which, by using iron and copper wire (the latter is a fundamental element in her latest production), she develops a basic warp-and-weft weaving which is able to set up full relief sculptures and installations, dominated by the force of pathos combined with both an extraordinay beauty and a strong, visual and emotional, impact. Effects which are now glittering and joyful, now more peaceful and enchanted, now filled with a sort of Beaudelaire’s spleen, are her wire palette, where she entangles the magic of some stories leading to another interpretative key point for this exhibition: the fairy tale, in its imaginative sense and in its being a metaphor of reality. A reality which has inspired the leading theme of the whole corpus of this artist’s latest work: the horror vacui, fathomed under a time point of view, a time she describes as “time to be filled, which was lent us to be given back without notice. Yet also the conciousness of memory which remains and defeats its rolling by”.
Hence the exhibition starts from an installation called Il tempo da riempire (Time to be filled), a clothes-stand where she hung an entire small sized, almost children’s, clothes collection, made one by one for the imaginary, existing and not-existing woman, a sort of projection of herself, just like the materialization of a dream to be lived with freedom of mind. For this work, where we can see small sweaters, pullovers, underwear, suits, small blouses, and whatever represents a woman’s wardrobe, she works out the lesson of the American artist Miriam Shapiro, a leader of a feminist movement, who, in the early Seventies, tried to give an artistic dignity back to embroidery, knitting, sewing. Thus Valeria does knit, crochet, patiently sew, but she mainly weaves. With hard work and craft, she weaves long kilometres of iron wire, through which she can shape her woman, who is wearing common materials since – as the artist explains – “common is the destiny of mankind”.
The magnificent red installation Il riscatto della bellezza (Beauty regained) is surely sensuous, full of that life seductiveness able to ward death off: a blaze of passion and joie de vivre, a flamboyant object-dress surrounded by colourful shoes, hanging in space: these are not wearable, they were created to make us dream about fleeting beauty and life lightness.
The many-coloured little hats are wearable art. They were created by her hands to live a daily life, off the institutional places of art, yet off fashion as well, which they are related to just for some style influences, able to get, on their being put on, new values belonging to those who wear them with the aim of looking for poetry and fantasy in daily life.
The entirely white (just one black motif breaking the silver effect) installation called Saprà, per amore, ricomporsi (She, loving, will be able to recollect herself) is leaning forward an announced embrace; a half-woman and half-goddess creature, whose features look like coming and taking shape out of that Greek world Valeria Scuteri feels so close, together with the sea and the Mediterranean atmosphere. Samothrace’s Nike is evoked indeed by this sculpture modelled by wind, pressing wires down and draping them, fabric-like, around a soft belly, warm and in the style of Botticelli at the same time, fit for maternity. But the artist is not interested in quoting, as she possibly pays homage to the past and, to enjoy it fully, projects it into the future. Two charming examples: Gotico chierese. Il passato è il mio presente (Chieri Gothic, Past is my present) and Barocco chierese. Il tempo del vissuto (Chieri Baroque. The time of experiences), two gifts to the town housing her exhibition in Palazzo Opesso’s Trecento halls. Reinvented, the braids produced in Chieri become the modern ribs of the dome-dress, dedicated to the cathedral baptistry vault, while a sophiticated column-dress is reminiscent of Baroque’s winding line, vagary and flamboyance. While looking into Chieri, Valeria Scuteri notes down: “I want to enjoy lines and colours, to seize and interiorize them, while abandoning myself to the precious gold and cobalt blue which remind me of Giotto. My blue will be dusty, flattened, still unrestored, as time has handed it down to us, burdened with history. I will remind the sweat of those men who built it, I will ideally work together with stone cutters, chisellers and architects; I will mingle my story to theirs and I will thank Chieri for making me a present of this new dream, this new labour”.
The dress inspired by coral, after which the whole exhibition is named, Canto di donna, Canto di telaio (Woman song, loom song), wavers in space, as if it were in an imaginary seabed: it is a song for kindness and gracefulness, going as far as lingerie, two tiny tangas, dragonflies rather than items of clothing. Again, sea and fertility have a leading role in the highly conceptual wire sculpture called Il mare nella rete. Abitoconchiglia (The sea in the net. Shelldress), through whose meshes waves pass, and cannot be caught, a simile for mind freedom nobody can jail.
Calabria’s scents gather around the Abitoulivo. Il tempo non cancella le tracce (Olivedress. Time does not efface our traces): confidence in life continuity, that cannot be wiped out by a tick-tocking. A branch-umbilical cord stretches out of the dead remains of the old olive tree, like a chance for new lives, a hope for new paths.
The Abitoficodindia. Dignità (Prickly peardress. Dignity), possibly brought by tides and left on the deserted shoreline, encloses the entire exhibition, without closing it. Like the prickly pear, where a stratified structure holds leaves one after the other and yet lets them all be visible, this dress was made by Valeria Scuteri through sheer layers of different colours recalling the other works, hiding but not covering them, thus suggesting a reading that must go below the surface, can and must go deep inside, to find feelings, knowledge, learned references.
Certainly this work is a summa of what the artist is able to convey to us through the universal language of art, to give us a dream, to suggest art is life and can, now and ever, be interchange, human dignity, an escape from patterns.
Stockings, a handbag, a lady's hat, a dress, a girdle, a charming and hinting tanga, as light as ghosts, float in the air. "Horror vacui - accessories". This installation once again reminds us the meaning of life, which cannot be deleted by the tick-tocking of a clock.