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Materiality changes: in conversation with Sara Enrico

Materiality changes: in conversation with Sara Enrico

Winner of the New York Prize in 2017, of the Menabrea Art Prize in the same year and of the IV edition of the Italian Council in 2018, Sara Enrico (Biella, 1979) is our new web Italian artist protagonist. Through an excursus on her past exhibitions and projects, in which she explored the different facets of tactile experience and materiality, that led her to combine different materials and thus create new languages, Sara opened the doors of her imagination, letting us immerse ourselves in her fascinating creative process that lies behind her creations, to arrive at an interesting consideration about gloves and masks, going beyond their functional conception of “barrier objects” that is predominant today.

Sara Enrico & Andrea Respino. Mai un vestito dunque, adeguato | Quartz Studio, Turin 2019
courtesy Artists & Quartz Studio | ph. Beppe Giardino

The focus on materiality and the tactile experience of reality led you to experiment with fabrics and materials, approached with digital and non-digital hands, highlighting their interrelationships with the body and the space. How did your study consolidate? How did the years at the Academy of Fine Arts in Turin and then that at the Institute for Art and Restoration of Palazzo Spinelli in Florence influence your creative process?

It is mainly with the restoration that I began to re-read some paradigms of representation, decoration, matter, and thus space, fictitious or real. That practice imposed me the discipline of gaze, of precise observation, constant comparison. Therefore, from the very fine brush for retouching, to preparing the mortar to consolidate falling walls, I was in constant movement, literal but also conceptual: approach and departure, and change of proportional scale.
The warm reasoning remained around the surface of an image and its potential physicality. The most immediate and stimulating starting point was the painting canvas, and then the fabric in a more general sense, in its spatial relationship I came to the dress.

Mirroring, 2016 | bronze, neoprene, silk thread, variable dimensions| Fonderia Artistica Battaglia, Milan 2016 | courtesy Archivio Fonderia Artistica Battaglia | ph. Virgina Taroni

– In 2016 you created Mirroring, a project accompanied by the experience of the Battaglia Artistic Foundry in Milan in the bronze working and in the lost wax casting technique. The result seems to be an encounter and a dialogue between different materials and manufacturing techniques, from which a new type of language and a new materiality could be said to have sprung. How did the project and the title “Mirroring” come into reality?

I made the Mirrorings by spending a period of work in the foundry, and a new piece was recently presented by Quartz Studio, in Turin. This series has to do with the issue of copying, of transformation and the loss that comes with it. By observing a shape through a fluid membrane like that of water, it breaks, it loses its clear boundaries, and is an interesting system of relationship between elements. This is what happens, in a more macroscopic sense, in the materials and shapes that you decide to combine, one deforms the other. The Mirroring bronze enters the neoprene fabric (the one used for diving suits) and seems unstable in its extrication in that fabric, it claims its own space. A significant part of the project was the lost wax casting, and the non-canonical way in which I got there. From certain affinities between the deforming plane of the body of water and the “disturbances” of the digital sign I have obtained drawings, using a graphic tablet, which I reproduced by combining thin paraffin candles. These are used as pouring channels in the lost wax technique, I have modeled them instead, following the typically grainy sign of an enlarged digital drawing.

Introducing Sara Enrico: The Jumpsuit Theme | Národní galerie Praha 2019 | courtesy artist & Mart
Photo (c) National Gallery Prague, Katarina Hudačinová

– In à terre, en l’air created in 2017 and exhibited at the TILE Project Space in Milan, the objects placed in the space seem to interact with it and create a narration from which the spectator is not excluded, but on the contrary is at the time same agent and reagent of a performative action started with the encounter of different volumes and surfaces. Was there a spark or a source of inspiration that contributed to the formulation of these fascinating projects and thoughts? What materials did you use in the process?

Often when I choose a title, I focus on how I feel it if it is pronounced several times, or on the first image that comes to mind when reading it. That title sounded well and contained two spaces and two actions (the terms contained in the title come from the realm of dance) that could give a certain musicality and rhythm to the arrangement of the works in that space, characterized by tiles which, looked at in perspective, I thought to be a physical basis for a possible score.
I used cement and painting canvas for the Cactus (sculptures that give body through a small pour of cement to the void inside the roll of canvas, which functions as a container and in the finished work remains only as an impression on the surface), foam and technical fabric for RGB (skin), polyurethane and pigments, nails and false eyelashes for Cut outs. I like the question about the materials, without adding anything else and returning to the title, multiple readings are possible.

à terre, en l’air | TILE Project Space, Milan 2017 | courtesy TILE Project Space, Milan ph. Floriana Giacinti

In 2019, The Jumpsuit Theme arrives, exhibited at Mart Rovereto and accompanied by the same exhibition at the National Gallery in Prague. How did the jumpsuit function as inspiration for this project? Were there a few moments in the history of fashion that guided you in defining the work? What materials have been used for its realisation?

The first image I saw of the T-shaped Jumpsuit was a template. This jumpsuit was first invented in 1919 by Ernesto Michahelles, and called Thayhat: some instructions and a design, easy to make with a simplicity of materials, to independently make a suit. The development of that suit, with a geometric but versatile shape, met a principle that I wanted to use to make sculptures with fabric, being this a soft material. I wanted to imprint and record with the cast an idea of ​​skin and volume, a minimal physical gesture, almost intimate. Working on the shape of the suit seemed absolutely charming to me, also because of the many and varied implications that are around that garment. Thayhat brought me to the French stylist Madeleine Vionnet, with whom she collaborated for some time, and to her observations around the concept of cutting the fabric, on how to think of a model and on the use that she made of a mannequin for fine arts, preferring it to that of tailoring. I realized how close their methods were to what I mean by sculpture, starting from a soft and flexible support such as canvas or fabric. Through the fold a space is built, a first possibility of containment; from flatness we move on to volume. So, the idea of ​​variation on the theme (the Theme in the title) was a possibility of working on poses, on space. In this sense, the project consists of sculptures born from overalls-formwork, of prints made by working with the scanner and of a fabric installation that plays between being a dress under construction and a space, a dressing room, as the title of the work suggests. The two exhibitions are like two acts: Intermezzo at the Mart in Rovereto and Camerino at the Prague National Gallery.

There are many examples and uses on the suit and tailored cut, in its western and eastern conceptions, I would like to rework new ones in future projects.

Speaking about materials: I used cement mixed with pigments, pigmented plaster for the spheres. The prints are mounted on aluminum plates, and the installation in Prague is of the same fabric, a textured PVC, with which I made the formwork suits for the sculptures.

The Jumpsuit Theme | Mart, Rovereto 2019 | courtesy artist and Mart
ph. Mart, photographic archive, Alessandro Nassiri

– The most recent exhibition Mai un vestito adeguato, dunque, created together with Andrea Respino and exhibited at the Quartz Studio in Turin from 16 September to 23 October 2019, told of a union between two artists, between painting and sculpture, focused on the question of dress and the uncertainty associated with it. This uncertainty is visible through Respino’s painting, in which the subjects appear partially dressed. His sculpture seems to accompany this motif, approaching it through a tactile narration. The power and tactile memory of a dress are perhaps the most evident qualities when you experience it by touching it or when you wear it. In your opinion, does the dress hide other forms of language? How will the digital innovation influence the material conception we have of a suit?

The dress is a form that is activated if put into action, otherwise it is an object that seems to miss a potential … you can therefore look at it in different ways, and these correspond both to your habits and to the way the dress itself appears, is worn, or when is on a mannequin, on a hanger; sometimes it is seen flat, leaving out the question of wearability. By bringing up that “potential”, that “how would it be”, some existential and political questions open up, our need to define ourselves, to see ourselves with the right dress, suitable for us, where there is harmony between the interior and the outside. In the exhibition created with Andrea we somehow wanted to emphasize the precariousness of this condition of harmony and work on its fragility. And that title, is like a sentence in the air …

I do not have a clear vision on the relationship between digital and clothing in particular, but I can tell you about my work with fabric, scanner and digital software. There I feel that there is a strong need and importance to put in close relation the physicality of an element with the possibility of working it digitally to establish an “haptic” experience, the quality with which our eye is able to touch, to recognize at a distance the tactile and material sensation of an object or surface.

The Jumpsuit Theme (detail)

– Looking at the events that are upsetting the whole world, one can think perhaps something will change in the way we approach ourselves to reality, to experience materiality. Let’s just consider the fact that for a long time after this quarantine many will touch objects, people, through a plastic glove or breathe through a mask. Have you thought about the effects that these new ways of interacting with reality can produce in your art? In your opinion, will new narratives and languages ​​be created around materiality? How can art tell this collective experience?

Thinking about gloves and masks, I would leave aside the health issue for a moment. I would focus on what they communicate, something strange and particular, beyond being seen now purely as “barrier objects”. In social rituals, gestures and objects are closely linked, carrying complex, sometimes ambiguous indications which makes them potentially poetic. The glove and the game of intrigue that could trigger imaginatively were at the center of complicated handlings at the Renaissance courts and in the nineteenth century they were a symbol of seduction and eroticism. Who knows how the level of significance of these objects will be transformed further?

To come to your question, our relationship with materiality is constantly being redefined and this movement interests me as it searches for possibilities to give shape and tactile consistency to materials that are little considered in that sense, as well as to thoughts and visions that would tend to remain abstract.

-Do you have any new projects under construction, of which you can anticipate some details?

A publication is in progress together with Nero and the Mart which collects texts, drawings and images around the latest project, The Jumpsuit Theme.

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