Manuela Toselli

Becca Stevens

Manuela Toselli

Becca Stevens

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Interview with Manuela Toselliby Filippo Cecconi, July 2019

I/Why do you choose to work with silk? Is there a symbolic value for you as well as a practical use?
I came to silk through painting. At the art academy I did informal painting, and my attention was only on the pictorial medium. That means combine different painting materials and techniques to see the effects that could be obtained.
Mine were empty paintings, in which I was trying to provoke a break between my dimension and the one of the canvas. But the canvas kept invariably rejecting me and never allowed me to reach my point! Until I started using flat acrylic painting in a peculiar way: I was cutting the painted canvas so to create art by stitching the cut pieces back together, making the suture as the relevant element of the composition, in its graphic sense. A work in particular was fundamental for my transition to silk: in this work I used my new invented technique of painted and sawed canvas gussets, but this time each color was corresponding to a precise group of letters, those on the keyboard of my old mobile phone and used back then by the T9 writing support. The painting was the result of the color transcription of a newspaper article in which a murderer confessed how and why he killed a girl. The work was titled ” La Confessione Di Victor” (Victor’s confession) out of my series “Racconti”, and in 2009 won the “ARTE MONDADORI” award in Milan, Section Sculpture Academy.
Those were the years in which the Italian TV began to spectacularize murders, rapes, and these type of morbid events. Chronicles in which the victim wasn’t treated as properly relevant, while the executioner was the real protagonist, and got elevated as evil hero. The pain of the families and friends who had lost someone violently was less important than the person who stole that affection from them. It was at that time that this sort of inhuman sensationalistic journalism became the standard to cover these type of dramatic events. A void, in my opinion, filled only with more bestiality up to “a point of non return”. So I start reflecting on the victim and his or her unfortunate role, and these reflections suddenly brought the silk into my picture. Silk starts with a sacrifice. The silkworm before its metamorphosis is complete is killed to preserve the cocoon, then it is boiled so to dissolve the sericin with hot water, allowing the noose of the burr of the silk thread to unroll, undamaged and on its full length. This material became very precious to me, because of its innate metaphorical acceptations. In silk there are victims, sacrifices, failed metamorphosis, and successful ones – the one from cocoon to silk cloth. There is a being in its moment of extreme fragility and vulnerability. There is a protection -the cocoon- to isolate and protect from the outside world. There is the paradox of being precisely this protection the reason of the sacrifice. I felt a deep connection between it and my most delicate side, because it is for your fragilities that you risk to succumb to the world outside yourself. But on the other end it is thanks to your fragility that beauty and magic can be created. Think about it: despite all this sadly harmful aspect, silks remains a living and very fascinating and elegant material, preserving as if by magic a vitality and a temperature that do not belong to something dead, exactly as we are interesting and faceted beings thanks to our sensible and most fragile aspects.  It’s absurd, but it’s true. Silk is warm while painting is cold.  I did realised also the importance of the temperature of this material during a workshop with visually impaired and blind children, as they have to touch and feel the material to perceive it. So silk became my medium to tell stories, to seeing and blind persons. Old stories, new stories, personal stories, public stories, all told through the this organic material that separates the interior to the exterior, that captures and reflects light in a very liveful way, that is warm to touch as a living creature, that is precious, delicate  and almost impalpable but at the same time, strong, tough and sturdy. My elected material to talk about the human mind, starting from mine.

II/In your series “In attesa che qualcosa cambi” (“waiting for something to change”) you used silk on canvas to create abstract and geometrical structures. What themes surrounding these works and what do you want to tell us with this series?
In the series “In Attesa Che Qualcosa Cambi” I investigate the theme of regret,  by using scraps of silk warp. I tell stories that never happened, frozen forever on the surface of the painting. It all started some years ago when I began my collaboration with a weaving workshop of the province of Treviso in Italy. This triggered me to a certain evolution and openness towards my artistic work, and there I could approach the weaving of silk yarn, and the raw silk. I discovered silks that I would never find on the market, because considered to be defective in virtue of some of their inner characteristics, but that became extremely precious to me. So I decided to start work with it.
The moment of transition from one warp to another in which two different colours or different kind of silk are bind together through very small knots, became really fascinating to me.  In weaving the warp is the threads on a loom over and under which other threads (the weft) are passed to make cloth, in this case silk – metaphorically the “story”. A warp fixed on a canvas is therefore a story that has never happened and never will and that will never be told nor read…you can wait as long as you want, but nothing will happen. It’s a life not lived, and when you become aware of it, it’s already too late. A regret, precisely.
Sometimes the forms I create are pure tensions, lines of apparent perspective leading to no getaway point. Other times I create simple vertical or horizontal lines, in which it is possible to read the transition from one warp to another, bounding together for eternity stories in which nothing will ever happen. Or other times I turn the warp back on itself, creating geometric shapes, but everything stops at that action, which only confirms the fixity, the immobility of the result. 

III/Where do you find your inspiration as an artist? Is there something specific that inspires your work?
I take my inspiration from life, because I think everything is related. It is hard to believe, but we are all connected. What I live and experience is not really different from what another person can live and experience. Mine is a continuous self investigation, a form of analysis that allows me to observe myself and in order to understand and overcome myself as well as the world around me. Even if I realize that certain things cannot be overcome, because deeply rooted in me,  even if I know and understand them, they are just part of who I am. Same with the world, but having the world much more time at disposition then me, the changes there are possible, although they could take some thousand years to become true.

IV/Could you tell us more about your creative process? How does the genesis of the artwork happen?
No, I don’t think I can tell… because there are no rules! It’s a combination of different things that determine the creation of an artwork. Causality, state of mind, answers that I want to get from the work, even the material I am using could open new paths for me! And obviously the history of art and the work of some masters of the past that I like and that I feel close to. Malevich’s “white square on white background” partially inspired my series “Elogio al quadrato” or the works of Vasarely brought me to the optical effect of my “Tessuto precario”, or Carl Andre influenced my “Spazi di seta” or “Legami” … just to write some examples, but really there are no rules. The only thing I can say being more fix is that I always break down, divide, cut into smaller pieces, analyse and recompose, even in the gesture itself, in order to understand. Big things and events hit us, overwhelm us and obscure our vision, but if we tear them apart, scale them down, we can grab them and observe them, starting with the little ones

VI/In your sculpture series “Legami” (“Bonds”) you created a strong contrast between the metallic mirror base and the silk corpus of the sculpture. Do you want to tell something in particular though this contrast?

Steel is another material that fascinates me very much, especially in its comparison to silk: steal is cold, hard, and not  organic.
In my early works of the series “Legami” blocks of wood were entirely covered with silk strips roughly cut, interlaced without logic and you couldn’t see the head or tail of the weave. In these works I analyze the bonds each individual has in life. We are born sentimentally weight free, but by getting older we collect blocks and their weight slows us down. Those blocks are the result of traumas and bonds. Bonds of any kind, negative as well as positive, that for some reason determinate and limit the freedom of our choices.In “Legami specchio” I analyze the entity of the block that is revealed to us by others. The viewer reflected in the mirrored steel of the sculpture becomes part of the work, revealing that “Legami specchio” are all those bonds in which you can reflect yourself in others, and recognise yourself in their blocks and bonds, allowing the others to reveal a part of you, that maybe was hard to see before.

VII/Please tell us more about you geometric works, or “rigid artworks” as you call them, where the space and the forms seem to be much more rational and meditated than the other artworks.
In rigid works I implement a form of control that I inevitably miss, because I try to control the fabric that is naturally soft and free. This generates in me a sort of permanent frustration that I repeat endlessly, as a compulsion to repeat. An example of this particular aspect are the works belonging to the series “Soft geometries accompany the rigid lines of my thought”, in whichI try to construct regular, geometric shapes by cutting, sewing and overlapping light small squares of silk organza. I know I can’t have control over everything, but I still try to do it.When I inevitably fail I feel a sort of discomfort that I force myself to observe, because I can’t change what I did, what I created, I can only accept it.  I have to accept the limits of my rigid vision and to understand that it is not in the loss of control that I lose myself but in the immense effort I do to keep it, which it is not possible. A form of subtle and refined masochism that could get close to pathology, since perfection isn’t human. Obviously the geometric shape that I prefer is the square. In a square all the sides are equal, none predominate on the other, it is a stable shape, perfect in its regularity and at the same time gentle. I can grab it. The escaping circle as much as other forms containing irregularities, such as rectangles or the pointy triangles, are distant to me.
In my “soft works” I instead abandon myself completely, forgetting control, logic and reason, and often I surprise myself here with what I can accomplish by letting go, and how much irregularity can be pleasant and beautiful.

Exhibitions List

“Il peso della polvere” – RC Contemporary, Torino, Italia. Curated By Riccardo Constantini.
“l’invisibile evidente” – Museo Civico “A. Pesaola” – Cormons, Gorizia, Italia. Curated By Chiara Tavella.
“…e diventare cuoio” – Biblioteca Civica of Pordenone. Italia. Curated by Chiara Tavella.
“No sense, no direction” – Museo Civico, Sale d’Arte, Alessandria. Italia. Curated by Matteo Galbiati.
“Stratificazioni materiche” – Castel Negrino Arte, Aicurzio, Monza Brianza, Italia. Curated by Matteo Galbiati.
“Il decifrabile languore della trasparenza” – Villa Contemporanea, Monza, Italia. Curated by Matteo Galbiati.
“Attraverso la mia pelle” – Centro Culturale Aldo Moro, Cordenons, Pordenone, Italia. Organized by Associazione Culturale Medianaonis, Pordenone. Curated by
Chiara Tavella.
“Deep White” – Sala della Torretta, Centro Comunale d’Arte e Cultura “Exmà”, Cagliari, Italia. Curated by Roberta Vanali.
Selected Group shows
“Sub-Track” – Villa Reale di Monza, Monza, Italia. Curated By M.AR.CO, Monza. Italia.
“Equilibri Artistici”- Rope Gallery, Modena, Italia.
“Arteam Cup 2017”- Show with finalists – Bonelli Lab, Canneto sull’Oglio, Mantova, Italia.
“Premio Nocivelli”- Show with finalists – Chiesa della Disciplina – Verolanuova, Brescia, Italia.
“Arteam Cup 2016”- Show with finalists – Palazzo Monferrato, Alessandria, Italia.
“La bellezza resta” – Heart Spazio Vivo – Vimercate, Monza Brianza, Italia. Curated by Simona Bartolena and Armando Fettolini.
“/a.stràt.to/” – Riccardo Costantini Contemporary, Torino, Italia.
“Innaturalismi”- MUST, Museo del Territorio of Vimercate. In collaboration with “Heart pulsazioni culturali” Vimercate, Monza Brianza, Italia. Curated by Simona
Bartolena and Armando Fettolini.
“Arteam Cup 2015”- Show with finalists, Officina delle Zattere, Venezia, Italia.
“Aria – Progetto elementi”- In collaboration with Consorzio di Villa Greppi, Monticello and “Heart pulsazioni culturali” – Vimercate, Monza Brianza, Italia.
Curated by Simona Bartolena and Armando Fettolini.
“Darkkammer” – Sala delle Volte, Centro Municipale di Arte e Cultura “Exmà”, Cagliari, Italia. Curated by Roberta Vanali and Efisio Carbone.
“Contemporanea Mente” – Galleria E3 Artecontemporanea, Brescia, Italia.
“Materie” – Anomalous and next generation material in contemporary art, Castello di Trezzo d’Adda, Milano, Italia. In collaboration with “Heart pulsazioni
culturali” – Vimercate, Monza Brianza, Italia. Curated by Simona Bartolena.
“Incroci 13.14”- PArCO2, Pordenone, Italia. Curated by Francesca Agostinelli.
“Fibrous” – Gallery W @ The Whit , Whitney Center for the Arts, Pittsfield, MA,USA. Curated by Nayana LaFond Glazier.
“Idrografie”- Ex convento di San Francesco, Pordenone, Italia. Curated by Chiara Tavella
“Progetto Colori”- Centro Civico Sandro Pertini, Osnago, Lecco, Italia. In collaboration with “Heart pulsazioni culturali” – Vimercate, Monza Brianza, Italia. Curated
by Simona Bartolena.
“Temperaturambiente”- Magazzini del Sale 3, Venezia, Italia. Curated by Prof. Aldo Grazzi.
“Essai(y) “- Magazzini del Sale 3, Venezia, Italia. Curated by Prof. C. Di Raco.
“Bé-sotto la pelle”- Magazzini del Sale 3, Venezia, Italia. In collaboration with Galleria A+A, Venezia, Italia.
“Arte e scienza”- Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venezia, Italia. Curated by Prof. A. Grazzi.
“Premio Arte” – Show with finalists – Palazzo della Permanente, Milano, Italia.
“Nuovi Orizzonti in Laguna”- with the support of Veneto Region, Accademia di Belle Arti of Venice and Biennale di Teatro, Cultural center Borges, Buenos Aires,
Argentina. Curated by Ivana D’Agostino.
“In Notte Placida”, Centro d’Arte Contemporanea of Villa Manin, Passariano, Udine, Italia. Curated by Prof. A. Grazzi.
“51° Esposizione Internazionale d’Arte, Biennale Arte di Venezia” – Giardino Scarpa, Venezia, Italia. Curated by Prof. A. Grazzi.
“Autoritratto”, Chiesa di San Francesco, Civici Musei, Udine, Italia. Curated by Prof. E. Comencini and Prof. A. Grazzi.
“World Gold Council” – International Jewellery Fair, Vicenza, Italia.

“Arteam Cup 2017”- Finalist – Bonelli Lab, Canneto sull’Oglio, Mantova. Italia.
“Premio Nocivelli”- Finalist – Chiesa della Disciplina – Verolanuova, Brescia, Italia.
“Arteam Cup 2016”- Special Prize Winner – City of Alessandria – Palazzo Monferrato, Alessandria, Italia.
“Arteam Cup 2016”- Finalist – Palazzo Monferrato, Alessandria. Italia.
“NoPLace 3” – 49° Prize Suzzara – Mantova, Italia.
“Arteam Cup 2015” – Finalist – Officina delle Zattere, Venezia, Italia.
“Talent Prize 2010”, Prize for Contemporary Visual Arts Roma, Italia. Honorable mention for Manuela Toselli.
“Premio Arte Mondadori”, Cairo Editore, Milano, Italia. First Prize – Sculpture Category – Accademia.
Art Fairs
2019, Volta Basel, Basel, Svizzera
2019, Expoarte Montichiari, Brescia, Italia.
2019, “Bergamo Art Fair”, Bergamo, Italia
2018, “Art Verona. Verona”, italia.
2017, “PaviArt”, Pavia, Italia.
2017, “Arte Cremona”, Cremona, Italia.
2014, “The Other art fair”, Torino, Italia.
2014, “Fiera ArtVerona”- Verona, Italia.
Artist Residencies
2016, “I feel Blue” – Valico Terminus, Curated by Nila Shabnam Bonetti and Giovanni Cervi, Ramiseto (RE), Italia. Sala Polivalente- Ramiseto. Italia.
2016, “Valico Terminus”, Curated by di Nila Shabnam Bonetti e Giovanni Cervi, Ramiseto (RE), Italia.
2013, “Lijalent Artist Residency” in Maribor, Slovenia.

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