MLF Marie-Laure Fleisch presents Unbroken Landscape, Alice Cattaneo’s new solo exhibition in the gallery.
A dominant presence of glass might have characterized her earlier work, but the new landscape we get to see gives pride of place to stone. The Venetian glass so dear to Cattaneo does not disappear for all that. On the contrary, this exhibition proves to be fertile ground for a new hybridization between materials, with a fascinating contrast between mineral opacity and transparency. As always, the choice of material implies the prior exploration of a specific field. Apart from the artist’s long-time collaborations with master glassmakers, she now has new relationships with stonecutters. The fundamental principle of Cattaneo’s practice remains unchanged: the apparent simplicity of her work partly resides in her consummate mastery of ancestral knowledge.
Following an invitation last year to create an in situ work in the Italian region of Liguria, Alice Cattaneo took a keen interest in the minerals in the area. She was fascinated by the landscape of this valley, an ancient place of pilgrimage impregnated with the heritage of the different adjacent regions, and discovered a cave that for several generations had been exploited by the same family. This new body of sculptures is therefore above all the result of the meeting between an artist wishing to celebrate the know-how of Italian craftsmen and a family carrying on the tradition of manual stonemasonry from father to son. During her research, she also was influenced by the typical stela statues (a type of prehistoric monument) in the region. Cattaneo could follow the entire extraction process of the stones, which are probably similar to the rock used for such anthropomorphic sculptures 3000 years ago. In addition to this “geological memory,” which she condenses in her work, the artist was invited to the workshop to witness the shaping of this material that is particularly sensitive to its environment, making the color of each stone unique.
Rather than as a structured staging, Cattaneo wants her unique works to function as a scenography. Continually striving for harmony in her creations, the artist deftly confronts balance, tension, and gravity. The forms she uses are not figurative but suggest the hand that produced them. The exhibition, conceived as a landscape, consists of atypical elements extracted from the earth that unite in a new choreography designed by the artist. In this process, she could rely on information from a 16th-century herbarium found in the region of Liguria, an allegorical synthesis of the mountain landscape she explored. Wishing to infuse the region’s soul into her creations–which become the fragments of a matrix shaped by nature–the artist has reconstituted the colors from the book with natural pigments. These pigments, which she slowly spread on selected fractions of the stones, are therefore sculptural elements in their own right, additional indications as to the origin of these landscape totems.
Cattaneo achieves her artistic translation of the gaze mainly through the fragmentation of materials which, like the natural environment from which they stem, are bodies capable of expressing themselves independently of any concrete meaning. The sculptures being shown here–on pedestals, on the ground, or fixed to the walls–bear witness to the artist’s desire to simplify forms to the limit in the hope of externalizing the soul of the panorama which she wishes to reconstruct, an approach which is akin to animism. Just as the territories that have fed her imagination keep changing, the artist has never stopped acquiring more skills. In this exhibition, Alice Cattaneo shows us a poetic summary of the Italian mountain landscape in the heart of Brussels.
all images © the gallery and the artist(s)