XVI° Ceramic Biennale of AVEIRO 2023
The international collaboration between Biennales generated by the Biennial NEXT event (2021), of which BACC – Frascati Biennial of Contemporary Ceramic Art – is the opener, creates the conditions for reaching international audiences and institutions and generates new awareness in artists’ work.
Following the participation of portuguese artist Alberto Vieira in the 5th edition of BACC (2022), BACC is proposing the Light Artist Nicola Boccini for the 16th edition of the Aveiro Biennial of Ceramic Art, with a plastic-sound installation of a social background entitled Vessel Light. His participation adds to the event a sensitive and timely reﬂection on human rights, as well as the expression of an evolving medium: ceramic sculpture.
From the 20th century to the present, “light in its artistic manifestations,” paraphrasing the title of Hans Sedlmayr’s famous 1960 essay, has transformed the concept of “visual perception.” Artists’ languages and techniques are changing in favor of an increasingly multi-material experimental approach. With Impressionism, scientiﬁc curiosity drove painters to experiment with “the vibrant coloring” given by the interactions of space with light. “Capturing the vibrations of colors in sunlight to return through matter” is the challenge the Impressionists throw down, synthesizing color-light and color-matter. Boccini replaces the glaze color of ceramics with light technology, transforming the ﬁctile material from within. The traditional painting medium is no longer suﬃcient, and the use of LED overcomes the two-dimensional limitation of the surface. But ﬁrst he had to work on the transparency, the translucency of the material, to even go so far as to patent a new type of ceramic material (2012), which was named “Boccini Technique”. To produce this new ceramic he travels all over the world, observing and studying the diﬀerent uses and processing of porcelain. He thus arrives at the intuition, the “feeling” of choosing artiﬁcial light as a privileged medium for his artistic journey. He introduces copper, brass, iron and platinum metals into porcelain, ﬁres and fuses them with ceramic earth; the metal wires become the pulsating veins of the new porcelain vein, the “interactive” luminous ceramic (Evolution 14.0, 2014).
Nicola Boccini thus becomes a Light Artist and craftsmanship ceases to be the exclusive route to creation. Using the technology of light, it becomes matter, content and a conceptual and aesthetic instance. It is enough for the viewer to cross the room that the work, which is an art installation, produces sounds and changes color, alternately lighting up in a play of light that gives it form and movement, a kind of magic lantern that opens the dimension of the sculpture to its surroundings. And thus, the space enters into relationship with the artwork.
British neurobiologist Semir Zeki, in his volume The Vision from Within. Art and the Brain (2003), recounts art as one of the privileged tools for understanding the brain mechanisms. Indeed, he argues that artists, before neurologists, addressed the problem of how the brain perceives the world of moving light and color. The creations of Light Art pioneers such as László Moholy-Nagy and his 1922 Space-Light Modulator testify to the great emotional attraction that this medium of expression held for artists. Like Moholy-Nagy, Boccini seeks emotional impact in the relationship with the viewer. “Most of the visual art works of the future will be the task of the painter of light[…] who will have the scientiﬁc knowledge of the physicist and the technological expertise of the engineer coupled with his imagination, his creative intuition and the intensity of his emotions. It is diﬃcult to go into detail for now, but in future experiments, research in the area of the physiology of the eye and the physical properties of light will play an important part.” Moholy-Nagy’s “painter of light” was right, and Boccini conﬁrms it with his quest toward an art that reconciles science and technology, in his works that ‘contain’ light. “Living my time full of interaction and multimedia, I have revolutionized the material by making it current and dynamic. For me, creating means ‘researching’ new solutions, new technologies. I have never created the form ﬁrst and then applied the technique, I have always created the technique ﬁrst and then adapted it to the form” (Nicola Boccini). In his works, the color so iridescent of the close, square tiles widens from the edges, frayed and indeﬁnite. A new way of understanding the relationship with the public within dynamics open to creative and unusual, almost “playful” dialogue. New works such as Caos (2017) or You and I (2019) form concentric or linear geometric textures. Real “interactive, iridescent murals” made of simple, repetitive shapes that allow light and shadows to play across the entire surface.
In 2020, in collaboration with Open Arms, Boccini created Vessel Light, an installation composed of light panels arranged to form a cargo ship carrying “modules” with no distinction between goods and people. Selected for the Faenza 2020 prize, the work is not completed without the interaction of the public, who passing by it activates the sounds and light patterns of which it is composed. What can be heard are voices, cries, recorded during a rescue at sea. And so the viewer witnesses the tragedy that takes place in the dark, where a light comes on to remind the world of these crimes against humanity, so that no one can say they have not seen. With Vessel Light, the artist espouses the concept of a “vessel,” and lets the work travel and land in Galleries and Museums around the world. Boccini develops a complex set of relationships between designers, sound engineers and artisans within a fertile and identifying territory: the Deruta ceramic district. It is these relationships that allow him to develop design experiences aimed at craft and industrial production in continuous mutual contamination, a combination of languages that move in the two diﬀerent experimental systems. And so ceramics enters the world of Light Art by linking itself to the concept of “research and experimentation,” whereby craft practice is conﬁgured as a vehicle for a cultural message that exceeds the limits associated with the material, transforming it, as Boccini likes to deﬁne it, into “living matter.” For this reason Boccini can be included in that production deﬁned by scholars Alison and Fusco as “of the third kind,” art design.
The tradition of the art world, with the evolution of processes and in the use of new technologies, suits objects whose utilitarian dimensions and mass production are linked to evolution and research of the formal and ﬁgurative plan. The values of tradition and memory are intertwined with contemporaneity looking to the future, where creative dynamics feed and are nourished by the constant confrontation with the culture of the territory.
Nicola Boccini in just a few years has succeeded, while starting from a regional dimension strongly linked to his own territory, in bringing to the fore internationally the importance of light as an applied art that comes to life in art objects, a medium of inﬁnite potential that better than any other enhances space, transporting the viewer inside the material. Works of art that come to life thanks to the coexistence of craftsmanship and innovation, of uniqueness and seriality, which manifest as much in the ideation phase as in the execution. The artisan dimension is found in the creativity and ingenuity of the maker, the dimension of the artist is in the impulse to transform and change.
The International Biennale of Artistic Ceramics of Aveiro is one of the most relevant cultural events in Portugal and internationally, in the field of artistic ceramic production.
It aims to contribute to the production of contemporary artistic ceramics, through stimulating experimentation and creativity, constituting itself as a dynamic hub of new trends in ceramics and contributing to a didactic training and cultural development.
A center for dialogue and sharing, it acts as a disseminator of currents and concepts, opening new paths in the field of contemporary artistic ceramics, acting within the scope of aesthetic renewal and, equally, making new materials and techniques known.