Excerpt from catalogue Carla Semprebon, by Maria Lucia Ferraguti
Cities. Historical cities, and the cities that Sembrebon sets as the focus of a graphical study to describe them in terms of the domains of colour and form. Geometric cities, spreading out like tentacles from the central town plan, and clearly proclaiming the profound culture of which they are the result.
But does Carla Semprebon look toward the past? Yes, she certainly does: her etchings coincide with the truth of historical fact and, at the heart of the journey of recollection of the memories of a city, their also lies art. And so these patterns of signs evoke recall silence or, we may even say, demand to be heard, so that the motif becomes an itinerary to follow within the work itself. It is this profound quality that the artist tells us to search for, to confer art individual category, or better still, temperament, to each etching, as first and foremost, the town plan – and by this we are not only referring to those founded against the curve of the Mediterranean – transmits, in the harmony of an earthly map, the sacred element of the sky.
The choice is vital, and assumes, in large format works of art, a necessary role: this explains why the urban fabric appears in the artist’s repertoire of work in reinterpretations of aerial views and archaeological representations of the Cardus and Decumanus. Fez, Babylonia… horizontal and vertical strokes forming a totally abstract, ordered structure, that expressed in a robust, uniform, script that breaks up here and there, leaving us to ponder upon human existence and evoking an infinite solitude.
But there is to more to this: the city seizes Semprebon, but it often also represents the starting point of another icon of a quest for its own sake – the labyrinth, square or round, echoed in her etchings for its symbolic value.
Moving away from history, which appears to characterise these images in the reiteration of a shape in different surfaces, other strokes interpret the modern city, in the evocation of a wall. Strips of masonry, originating from an aesthetic model, to then multiply and mutate in spatial relationships to achieve serial continuity; in this fashion we are presented with the image of a window, to accentuate the conscience acquisition of the visible and the invisible.
Then, among variations in forms progressing through a procession of sentiments and thoughts, a perhaps more expressive stroke asserts itself within the graphic rhythm, certainly a more rapid and poetic stroke, with a graphical character that alludes to the ideogram.
This is art that is the fruit of a delving into the soul and a tension, as it slips, in confirmation of its vocation, into the domains of history and geography, between the past and the present.
These are the images etched by Semprebon: to be appreciated for their refined implementation of aquafortis and aquatint, dry stylus and woodcutting techniques, and then for the images accumulated in the experiences of a graphic language that transforms as it organises and aggregates materials, as a gift to art and to breathe life into colour on different supports: fabrics, skins, chipboard, pastes and metals highlighted times imperceptibly with gold and silver.
Entropy, by Carlotta Giardini
The introduction of the concept of entropy has been the first attempt to face the problem of a global form: not so much as a measure of the nature of organisation, but more as its own general product, as in the quantity of tension found in a system.
Carla Semprebon’s works try to investigate this dimension through the interpretation of the casual aspect that derives from the interactions of orders that have nothing in common between each others, orders that are difficult to be perceived by the naked eye, because of the natural and human inclination to recognize an overall structural order, rather than acknowledging the disorder of the single elements that are part of said order.
The long tradition that comes from Greek philosophy, describing Art as an expression of harmony order and proportion, appears, in the eye of contemporary sensitivity, as something ideal that cannot nowadays represent a global system in which the deep differences of a very diversified reality of phenomenons are revealing themselves constantly.
The artist wants to guide us through this dual and alert analysis, aimed at the research of that disorder, seen as as a reflection of the existential and perceptive chaos, in which it is possible to discover the essence of the very own artistic process, acknowledging the fact that artwork doesn’t need to ask for a meaning, but it must hold it inside.
Carla Semprebon therefore adventures herself into that deep exploration, almost an analytical research, that, thanks to the expressive potential of sign, color and matter, is able to communicate an everlasting yet precarious balance between reality and imagination, figure and abstract, order and disorder.
But how can the artwork get rid of the artist’s controlled and subconscious visual order, showing thus a reflection of existential entropy?
Carla Semprebon investigates this aspect measuring her work through the contamination of languages, researching new expressive solutions, giving an end result that is never certain nor predictable.
The fascination of material alterations, given for example by the use of the pyrographer on paper, or the inserting of modern society scrap materials or used, worn fragments, allows the artist to rediscover some sudden, visionary correspondences by casual pairing and superimposition of images, just like many different lab slides get together and combine themselves in caleydoscopic visions.
These experiments bring to life a game of unexpected chromatic harmonies, lines and shapes that give substance to the space on the canvas, or that are imprinted on the paper, through the xylographic sign.
It is as if the artist was inviting us to observe, but at the same time to abstract ourselves from our daily unattentive vision, suggesting images and sequences that relate to each other by vibration and harmony, rather than by similarity.
Each work is the result of a savvy know-how: there is almost the impression of being exploring the matrix of a microcosm, of having access, in the very moment in which the artwork becomes image, to that unknown world that is inside everything, to that fractal sequence that can suggest a full, complete order, which is part of any chaotic manifestation of reality.
Carla Semprebon, in her artwork, captures the frame of a state, of an unique, irreversible moment, through the mutation of shapes, through the superimposition of colours, that put the audience in front a “before or after” doubt.
The optical effect of element thickly intertwined, casually put alongside each other, brings us to textures or curving evolutions. They appear to be observed through a magnifier, as if to say that reality must be looked at from really close, in its primary essence, in order to rediscover all that the sensitive world has to offer, which we cannot see, because we are numbed by images and compositions that our mind takes for granted.
Carla’s research runs on the wire of memory, with an everlasting need of leaving a trace of an individual and collective past, that is brought back to life by a reinterpretation of past and present, seen as an alteration of an evershifting balance.
Heterophonies, by Guido Signorini
In Entropia, her exhibition of engravings a couple of years ago, Carla Semprebon, through a selection of poor materials, had already proposed an association of works framed in an orderly chaos where collage and skilfully manipulated and burned paper merged in splendid xylographs. In Theorem on the unknown, the interpretation of the myth as alchemy of time was presented as an interior externalization, the dualism between life and death, the interrogation of the unknown. In the marvellous Invisible Cities, lines and forms dominated the idealization of the story.
Chaos, the unknown and narration. How do these three moments connect with Heterophonies? Apparently they do not, The artist develops, through a modular context, supported by an assembly of materials and technical actions, from colour to paper and the xylographic matrixes enriched with poor materials, a concept that we already find in Plato who, referring to the ancient Greeks, defined heterophony as the resulting differential between the melody of the song and that of the accompaniment, pure imitation with the cithara of the aulos, a wind instrument of wood or ivory belonging to the oboe family, which is opposed to the classic way of musical performance.
Carefully observing this most recent work by Carla Semprebon, we can draw an in-depth and detailed interpretation of her vision of chaos, fully understand her intentions aimed not so much at facing the dynamic nature of the variants but their analytical interpretation, seeking and finding that specific connection which acts as a bond with her earlier works.
Here the forma mentis joins what is perhaps one of her most important characteristics; the use and manipulation of materials. The layering of sheets of tissue paper wounded by a flame, of cords, yarns, embroidery, shellac and other materials, contributes to creating dynamic works rich in meaning, at times contrasted by refined dualisms, but always reinforced through a sign that appears clear and precise, both in the engravings and in the painting.
If, observing her marvellous creations, we give ourselves up to a post Art Nouveau perception or we are captured by flashing visions of decorations typical of oriental art, we can perceive immediately how her authenticity in taking on a precise identity can be defined.
The compositions are transformed into a continuously evolving explanatory project. The technical background is reflected in full in the concept of heterophony. Through a detailed analysis, we can identify some fundamental traces, both theoretical and practical, in the structure of her work. In the first place, the variation of the shape in space, where the dimensions almost always take on a vivacious elasticity, eliminating every static hint. Then, the dynamic of the sign as kinetic movement which is aesthetically transformed into a dissonant wound or a grille, a labyrinth or prison, confirming the concept developed in the 1960s by Guidi, and lastly, the construction and deconstruction of the volumes in the contrasts of signs and colours.
Here the story is translated into an evolution of contrasted forms, which can be identified as heterophonous variables that merge in fade-outs and abstractions rich in ornamental decoration.
Disturbing Plato once again, we can without a doubt say that the work created by Semprebon is never an imitation of the copy from reality and therefore without an idea, but she creates, with extraordinary perfection, those sensitive properties that are visible and enjoyable, through shape and colour, obtaining at the same time an enviable originality.