The Laura Bulian Gallery is pleased to announce I change but I cannot die, a solo exhibition by Italian artist Elisabetta Di Maggio, which will be inaugurated on Wednesday 6 February.
The title of this exhibition, I change but I cannot die, is taken from "The Cloud", a poem by Percy Bysshe Shelley, and blends intuitively with the idea of art and this artist's work in particular.
The change occurring in her works is brought about by a twin-fold process, the materials used change their properties while the image changes according to light, place and orientation.
In Elisabetta Di Maggio's artworks tissue paper unexpectedly becomes a fundamental strength, the strips adapt to being dried out without crumbling, soaps take on a similarity to wax used in casting, porcelain maintains the same texture as the tissue which vanishes when the kaolin is fired.
In this exhibition there are two great trajectories: on the one hard we have the transposition of the figure in the surgical composition of its sections; on the other the interpretation of figures drawn from the scientific study of the natural environment, such as the flight of butterflies.
In "Wallpaper, 2012", metres and metres of cut paper tissue, following a pattern that recalls the embroidery and fluorescence of a wild garden, are completely wrapped around the pillar/wall that unites the first and second rooms of the gallery. They recall Shelly's "woof", the fragile texture of the clouds in the sky mentioned in the poem, but in Elisabetta Di Maggio's hands they become a vortex that thickens within the walls of buildings, very often embodying both change and immutability. This sort of padding makes walls vanish and in their place layers upon layers of embroidery become a fantastic fundamental framework, holding back the texture (trellis) of the dayto-day magma, its repetitions and unforeseeable surprises.
The relationship between nature and internal fibre or network emerges in "Victoria, 2012", three large waterlily leaves of the Victoria Regia variety. Using a scalpel Di Maggio intervenes amid their dorsal veins (their material is almost a vegetable form of flesh), creating slender yet decisive lacerations for air. It is a sort of alliance of mutual resistance, giving shape to fragility as a source of transformation rather than weakness. A trellis once again.
Recent research into butterfly flight has shed light on the unique movement of these pollinating insects. The apparently aimless motion attributed to them, and metaphorically to humans, described as a whimsical and undefinable path from one point to another, is actually determined by the structure of their wings which are spread through movements that are incompatible with a linear route between any two points. The symbology of uncertainty attributed to this multiform and multicoloured insect could indeed be redirected towards the processes of sentimental and intellectual experience, where changes of direction can rarely be underestimated.
In "Butterfly flight trajectory #05, 2012", the artist translates this multidirectional flight into a sort of forest of pins protruding from a white, purely abstract panel. Pins and panels are the same instruments used by entomologists in their research. The sinuous flow reminds us of a wood while the sparkle of the pins highlights the golden sheen of their heads. It is something akin to a fairytale, yet it remains enigmatic. We are won over by the beauty of this itinerary.
Butterflies are a bridge between lives; through pollination they are instrumental in births. There is something very strong therefore in this affinity with humans, and yet they are insects, their bodies are different; nevertheless they have often been used as a synonym for the eternal feminine.
At this point the exhibition makes a diversion, the framework of reality shifts to another direction and another vision: one of the artist's historical works, "Rape, 2001", is exhibited in the basement. It is the interpretation of a drama that remains topical even today. The repetition of gestures, which make up the figures in each work by Elisabetta Di Maggio, make an alliance with a form of violence that shows no signs of tiring in its own repetition. Several dozen bars of laundry soap carrying the brand name Sole (Eng. Sun) are set side by side like a sort of puzzle. On some of these Di Maggio has carved out the names of liquids that are spilled during during an act of rape: Saliva, Blood, Sweat, Sperm, Urine, Tears. Each one alternates with a bar carrying the word Sole: the brand name.
What soap can wash away such an act? What removal would be possible? None. A material that can clean the soul while it cleans the skin does not exist. On the other hand, excision, by means of a scalpel, is almost didactic.
Di Maggio created this work in 2001, she exhibits it again today about two months after a case of rape fired public protests in India. But how many rapes go unreported? How many butterfly flights do women have to undertake until they can move freely without falling victim to the linearity of sexual violence? Di Maggio has inserted this message within the borrowed line I change but I cannot die. If, instead of applying this to a cloud, we apply it to the emotional, historical and cultural experience of humanity, we would need a scalpel to surgically remove the negative connotations from contrasts such as war/peace, love/violence, wealth/poverty. Like butterflies, we too move in a complex and contradictory manner. It is not possible therefore, to make clean, sweeping incisions. We need to dig deep inside, understand where and when to cut, how to make room for the air we need so as to breath in different way.
Elisabetta Di Maggio was born in Milan, Italy, in 1964.
She lives and works in Venice, Italy.
Selected shows since 2005
2012: Dis-Nascere, curated by Angela Vettese, Fondazione Bevilacqua La Masa, Palazzetto Tito, Venice, Italy; 2011: Officina Italia 2 nuova creatività italiana, curated by Renato Barilli, Sala del Baraccano Bologna, ALT Arte Contemporanea Bergamo, Italy; 2010: Terre Vulnerabili, curated by Chiara Bertola and Andrea Lissoni, Hangar Bicocca, Milan, Italy; Cosa fa la mia anima mentre sto lavorando, curated by Francesca Pasini and Angela Vettese, Museo MAGA Gallarate, Milan, Italy; 2009: Hopes and Doubts, curated by Costantino D'Orazio, the Dome, Martyrs Square, Beirut, Lebanon and Fondazione Merz Turin, Italy; 2008: XV Quadriennale d' Arte Palazzo delle Esposizioni Roma, Rome, Italy; 2007: Space for your future, curated by Yuko Hasegawa , MOT museum of contemporary art, Tokyo, Japan; Apocalittici e integrati. Ventiquattro artisti italiani, curated by Paolo Colombo, MAXXI, Rome, Italy; 2006: Opere in giardino, curated by Francesca Pasini, Fondazione Remotti, Santa Margherita Ligure, Italy; Il potere delle donne, curated by Luca Beatrice, Caroline Bourgeois, Francesca Pasini, Galleria Civica di Arte Contemporanea, Trento, Italy; 2005: Elisabetta Di Maggio, curated by F. Pasini, Viafarini, Milan, Italy; Aperto per lavori in corso, curated by Francesca Pasini, PAC Milan, Italy; Donna Donne, curated by Adelina von Furstemberg, Palazzo Strozzi, Florence, Italy; Trasparenz, curated by Agnes Kohlmayer, Frauen Museum, Bonn, Germany; Femme(s), curated by Adelina von Furstenberg, Musee de Carouge, Geneva, Switzerland.