Irene Biolchini: “I’m talking about where the destinies of art and ceramics meet”

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I spoke to Irene Biolchini between Milan and Palermo, who is hard at work preparing an exhibition of works by artist Loredana Longo, Crash – My body is not nobody, which opened at FPAC – Francesco Pantaleone Arte Contemporanea in the two cities where the gallery has premises (open to visitors until May 10th in Palermo and until May 14th in Milan). “In this exhibition”, explains Irene, the curator, “Loredana Longo proposes reflection on the body as a limit; she also uses ceramics as a material in her work, particularly in the work entitled armour, in which the female body becomes a torn shell. It’s inspired by the life of Joan of Arc and represents a kind of liberation from a shell, or rather, a sacrifice imposed by circumstance and history.” A sadly relevant subject, according to the news these days. Biolchini, who teaches Contemporary Art in the Department of Digital Art at the University of Malta and is a Guest Curator at the International Museum of Ceramics in Faenza, has been investigating the relationship between contemporary artists and ceramics for some time and co-discussed them in a book published by Gli Ori in September the title VIVA. Ceramica arte libera. ‘Libera’ or ‘free’ is the Biolchini’s favorite adjective to describe a material as old as mankind itself. with nature and the earth. Today’s artists are more aware of this connection than ever, and ceramics is about respect for nature, to challenge the capitalist model and to revolutionize the way we see the world today.”

Her book is the result of almost two years of study of artists who use ceramics as a material to express themselves. In a discussion with the great artist, designer, architect and critic Ugo La Pietra, Irene suggested three categories into which to divide creative artists working with ceramics: “There are artists who work in a variety of different languages, including pottery; true artisans, heirs to the craftsmanship of ceramic boutiques; and then there are the artisans, all those artists whose sense of research is limited to the material itself, for whom ceramics is both a starting point and an end goal. The book follows this triple line and attempts to build a route from the seventies to the present”, a review of half a century of ceramic art: a medium that has grown in popularity over the past decade. “It’s now in biennial exhibitions, fairs and art galleries,” confirms Biolchini, “and the explanation is that after years of dematerializing digital art, video art and photography, people want something tangible. In fact, ceramics have always played an important role in Italian art, such as Arte Povera and the Transavanguardia, although used by a minority. Ceramics requires people to come together (it is a medium difficult to work alone), to share and to interact with tradition: these axes that are obsessive subjects for today’s artists”.

The return to matter, then, requires a return to collaboration and exchange, and the relationship between artists and workshops is the cornerstone. “At an exhibition I organized in Albisola”, says Irene, “Loredana Longo had the opportunity to meet Stylnove, the Nove workshop with which she now makes her pieces. The relationship between artisans and artists is almost visceral: a partnership is born that lasts for years and is central to the production of the works.” From her privileged point of view, Irene Biolchini also notes that design, art and craft are becoming less and less important separate categories, but increasingly reflecting the fluid, mobile approach of creativity today: “The production of ceramic items is always moving towards limited editions; and this is how art meets unique pieces. To name just a few of the many possible examples: 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 sits squarely between art and design, draws inspiration from Capodimonte’s historical models to unconventionally rethink the forms that have made the history of artistic porcelain in Italy so great. “

Antonella Galli



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 Irene Biolchini
03 Lorenza Boisi, urban ritual, 2016, double-fired ceramic, underglaze decoration and bands, 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 Galerie Schiavo Zoppelli, photo by Federica Delprino – Omar Tonella
05 Concetta Modica, Trilogia di Orlando #3 in the theaterSpazio COSMO Milano, curator Michela Eremita, photo by Luca Pancrazzi, courtesy of FPAC Milano Palermo
06 Luca Pancrazzi, CF, 2001, glazes and third firing on terracotta, 5.5×8.5 cm. Work created and exhibited at the Biennale di Ceramica nell’Arte Contemporanea, 2001.
07 Federico Tosi, miaooooo, 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, Armor, 2022, ceramic, tempera 147 x 147 x 23 cm (approx.), made in one copy
10 Tommaso Corvi Mora, Hortus Conclusion, 2017, painted terracotta, partly glazed, 14.5 cm (h). Courtesy of the artist
11 Alessandro Roma, The skin of nature, 2019, semi-refractory, engobes and glazes, 100 x 50 cm diameter. (each), manufactured by 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, Small portraits of Savarine, 2014, color print, detail, 2014, Lucie Fontaine, Milan. Photo by Alessandro Miti.
14Francesco Simeti, beetle weed, 2013, wallpaper on wooden panels, ceramic sculpture, variable size, private collection, photo by Sebastiano Pellion.

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