EVOLUTION | Multimedia Ceramics by Nicola Boccini
Curated by Claudia Bottini
25 June – 24 July, 2016
On the occasion of the Festival Dei Due Mondi in Spoleto, ADD-art Garllery is proud to present “Evolution”, an exhibit showcasing multimedia ceramics created by Umbrian artist Nicola Boccini and curated by Claudia Bottini.
After years of research overseas, ceramics master from Deruta, Nicola, created his first multimedia ceramics in 2014 in bone China: a porcelain that was chosen to shape thin illuminated interactive panels, thanks to its transparency and translucence. In this space, light is able to activate the secret language locked within the material through mental research capable of sensing one of the most fascinating levels of expression that exist amongst the color and bright vision.
Also on exhibit is “Pectus Terra”, the first in-the-round multimedia ceramic presented in Milan on the occasion of the Luce4Good exhibit in 2015. The light within radiates golden; a spirit capable of surviving the sickness and decay of a biological existence; faint forms that aim for perfection; eternal archetypes of feminine beauty.
In a process of continuous transformation, Boccini makes the ceramic “evolve” and thanks to micro sensors, his works of art acquire such sensitivity that they seem almost to come to life. Thin copper filaments, electrical conductors, are the veins for these new beings. Spectators can interact within the space of the artwork causing variable and unpredictable reactions.
The artisan becomes an artist of light whose testing ground is the ceramic and psychological perception in all its facets: perception of color, movement and light.
Of course light has been used by other artists in Umbria but Nicola is the only one to have the insight, the “sensation”, to use artificial light as a special medium in his artistic journey which was characterized by the use of an artisanal material such as ceramic, instead of an industrial one. Tradition, craftsmanship and manual skill all come together in Boccini’s research and experimentation.
Light artists use light, “manipulate” it, as a raw material in its acceptance as a strictly physical phenomenon. They use it like colors and brushes in traditional painting. Nicola substitutes colors and glazes traditionally used on ceramics with light. How can one see the transparency and intrinsic details of ceramic material in the dark? The answer is: light.
As with all light artists, Boccini strives to spread the knowledge around the vision, to educate and develop optical (or visual) perception and to increase the number of sectors in which new experimental research can find practical applications.
Thanks to his use of light, Boccini leads us to a new dimension of visual perception in art which includes, above all, spectator involvement. A “new art” where separations between architecture, painting, sculpture and craftsmanship cannot exist.
EVOLUTION – Multimedia Ceramics by Nicola Boccini on #CERAMIC2.0
Curated by Claudia Bottini
25 June – 24 July, 2016
Every day of the Festival from 16:30-21:00, from 11-24 July, by appointment.
We refuse to believe that art and science are different spheres
and that pieces created in one realm cannot also belong to the other.
Artists anticipate scientific developments;
scientific developments always provoke artistic works.
(Lucio Fontana, Manifesto spaziale, 1947)
Starting with Lucio Fontana and his neon “luminous and pliable substance”, it has often been said that light artists use light–manipulate light–as a raw material in its acceptance as an entirely physical phenomenon; that they use it in the way that colors and brushes are used in traditional painting. For the first time in the history of art, Nicola Boccini has managed to substitute glaze on ceramics with light. He asked himself how he could bring this material to life; how to bring out the transparency, the fragrance that makes up the ceramic. The answer is: Light.
A life spent researching and experimenting lead to the founding of CLS (Ceramica Libera Sperimentale) in 1997, an international group of artists who pursue the same objective: to revolutionize the world of ceramics, not only formally but also by creating a new material composition. They achieved this by studying porcelain production the world over. This began with trips to Holland in 1999 to study the industrial treatment of porcelain Bone China, then to Russia to study Vitrus China fine porcelain and finally to Mexico where the Cuerda Seca technique is used.
Boccini would go on to add light to his first sculptures which were penetrated by geometric shapes and splotches of color. He worked with the same light that is indispensable for life, much like the earth that creates its own masterpieces. In 2009, he was chosen by the EKWC research center in Holland (European Ceramic Workcenter) to exhibit his light panels during Dutch Design Week: Ceramics & Architecture. Thin copper wires, used as conductors of energy, are the veins of these new creations. “My hope,” writes Boccini, “is to make ceramic the absolute protagonist of my artwork. I discovered this new technique, porcelain vein, when I began thinking about introducing metals such as copper, bronze, iron, platinum, etc., into ceramics.
The bright color of the square tiles placed near each other spreads out towards the frayed, undefined edges. Boccini draws from a cleanness and, above all, an abstract rarity that alludes to a sense of calm and contentment. The result of this research is an international patent in 2012 called the “Boccini technique”. It consists of using liquid porcelain to create very thin sheets, as translucent as glass, where colored light can surpass the two-dimensional limitation of the surface. For Aristotle, and later for Lucrezio, seeing was possible only through transparency: the inner eye is transparent and recognizes light and shapes thanks to a water-like membrane that receives and reflects visible rays. With Boccini, it is the material itself which becomes luminous thus allowing light, knowledge and beauty to melt together into one. Ceramic, which permeates every aspect of our life through “porcelain veins” has managed to extend its possibilities to the strongest of the five senses, sight, leaving the immaterial natural of light uncontaminated.
Light Art in Umbria is linked not to industrial materials but to the most important artisanal technique in our region: ceramics. Tradition, craftsmanship and manual skill are combined with scientific research and technology. Boccini begins with the fact that the market for artistic ceramics has become saturated with an excess of the same shapes and styles that are constantly repeated. A proposal has therefore been put forth to change and renew the materials being used in this art form thus broadening its creativity and perception. In 2014, illuminated ceramics become “interactive” in the first multimedia exhibit in which the public can play an active part. Evolution 14.0 consists of 30 panels shown at the Taiwan Ceramics Biennale (TCB) in Taipei. Later in that same year, it went on display at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Rome as part of the Contemporary Ceramic Sculpture in Italy exhibit. With the help of engineers, micro-sensors were introduced into the ceramic paste enabling visitors to manipulate the work space on the ceramic panel either by voice or touch. Reactions to this new art form are varied and surprising as the artwork takes on its own sensitivity, practically coming to life. Evolution is the result of the union between an artistic project and the fascinating effect it produces in the onlooker.
Nicola Boccini has been carrying out research on perception, space and interaction since the 1960s by observing the movements that create machines and installations. He has also been experimenting with new materials, such as neon and laser, in the hopes of find a new way to conceive reality. “The only difference left between real machines and the machines which are the object of art is the uniqueness of the latter whose fruition is purely aesthetic” , said Corrado Maltese as he introduced the international movement, Kinetic and Programmed Art. The movement is best represented by Hungarian artist Nicolas Schöffer who has been building his Lux machines since the Fifties. Interacting with their surroundings, the machines combine movement, light and sound. Italy has the kinetics from Gruppo T in Milan with Gianni Colombo and his Elastic Space (1967) and the Topoestesie (1965-1970) where the onlooker enters dark spaces in which he is exposed to optic and physical stimuli intended to disorient and confuse him. Gruppo N in Padua with Alberto Biasi is another artist who, in 1963, began diffracting light to create light prisms in order to study the individual reaction the luminous stimulus had on people. The proposal is to heighten the knowledge surrounding vision; to educate and develop optic or visual perception.
It is a “new art”; one in which there can exist no separation between architecture, sculpture or handicraft, as is the case with Boccini. A new way of relating to the public with dynamics which are open to creative and unique dialogs, almost “whimsical” ones. It is like the type of art that came out during the historic avant-garde years which then evolved into such movements as the Fluxus in the 1960s. The public can get up close to the art, can experiment with it, “[…]” and play within the very piece of art. Boccini is following in the footsteps of these artists, transforming ceramic into optic, audio and luminous works of art with the aim of then turning them into instruments that evoke and solicit images and dreams. In the face of such artwork, the public, which until now, has been passive, is transformed into its co-authors through physical interactivity. To paraphrase Pier Luigi Capucci, the onlooker’s “body” becomes a “technological” tool enabling them to immerse themselves in the piece of art, “to go inside it and interact with it in real time.” Thanks to the use of “kinetic means and motor perception, […] the articulate body emerges from the oblivion of a sacrificed condition, almost unwillingly, to shoot to a new level of luminosity” . In Evolution, spectators can choose, change and “play” the panels to create interwoven geometric shapes. Genuine “interactive light murals” made up of simple, repeating shapes that enable light and shadows to play within the surface, giving the impression of movement.
The creative and playful use of technology has prompted Nicola Boccini to increase the number of shapes his ceramic can create. In December 2015, he created Pectus terra, an exhibit consisting of three sculptures in bone china—the first such work of art made entirely of interactive ceramic. Three bosoms of varying sizes reflect the pale light of the porcelain flesh, representing the three ages of a woman. The creation was made to be exhibited in the Luce4Good – Light Art Ensemble 2015 in Milan, curated by Gisella Gellini and Domenico Nicolamarino as part of a charity event for the fight against breast cancer. Light from within changes continuously and emits auroras, rays of light, that envelop and protect the bosoms. They are spirits capable of overcoming the disease and the decline of biological existence; faint forms aiming at perfection and eternal archetypes of feminine beauty. The concentric circles on the ceiling up above form a constellation, a night sky that invokes the idea, both physical and spiritual, of infinite space.
In just a few years, Nicola Boccini has managed to elevate the importance of light as an applied art that gets its life from new, “contemporary” artisanal objects and animates the very material it is part and parcel of. A luminous material with infinite possibilities that enhances the space it is housed in more than any other substance, thus creating unexpected impressions and simple luminous images in dark spaces.
Versatile and eclectic artist, as he has been often described, Nicola Boccini has established innovation and research as his primary fields of interest. His continuous experimentation arises from a real and careful technical knowledge, acquired during a long lasting, intense and hard work inside his family’s workshop. Here he studied and learned the secrets of majolica, the material that made Deruta, the artist’s home town, one of the most excellent and best-known ceramic centers in the world.
The ceramic tradition, and porcelain in particular, represents the starting point of the artist’s peculiar research, focused to identify new artistic fields of reference. His knowledge of the basic notions of ceramics led him to experiment unexplored fields for this material, in a unique and personal research that sometimes reaches incredible results. From Deruta to the world: over his training and artistic career, Boccini has intended to compete with the most important centers of artistic innovation (such as the Dutch EKWC European Keramic Work Center) where he can find his own professional dimension, that is new, original, contemporary and suitable to the present usages.
A correct term to identify Boccini’s artistic experience, a process in constant evolution, is “contamination” among languages, techniques and poetics. The formal research follows the technical analysis, as the artist declares: “first I analyze, deepen and experiment a new technique, and only later I make it suitable for a new shape”. Actually, as it happens to many artists of his generation, it is the concept itself that, joined to the realization process, became the essential moment of the work of art and of its definition.
The innovative process the artist has deepened in the latest years concerns the light art characterized by luminous porcelain panels, joined to interactive and multimedia devices.
The synergic approach with the audience represents the landing place of the installation: chromatic effects interact with the voice of the public, the palette of bright colors reveals their state of mind, the light becomes a dynamic, variable and mutual element. The spectators place themselves at the centre of the work, becoming the temporary author proposing a dialogue. In this way ceramics is more than ever a lively and fluid material, characterized by a new life and a new vitality: this is the goal but it is also a starting point to face, in a different way, this ancient artistic field which has joined people and civilizations for centuries and today it is looking for new applications.
In the new ongoing researches the spectator will be soon invited to face new experimentations and synergies with different materials (such as bacteria, mosses and lichens, which are now subjects of the artist’s experimentation) following a continuous exchange and personal involvement. Boccini is the pìcaro of ceramics, the rebel who spreads innovative energy, a modern
Johann Friedrich Bottingër (the inventor of the hard porcelain, author of a real European revolution in the 18th century), a contemporary alchemist always excited by the innovations. From his experimental workshop this modern Apprentice Wizard leads us to discover a new form of art which transforms ceramics in the real material of the future, in a dialogue with all the forms of art and all the generations, in a “personal” relation, as the artist himself declares describing ceramics as “a long unique explorative travel inside the material which characterizes my soul. It is moving, charming, dangerously exciting, unique unstable and jealous life-companion!”