So there I was, happily holed-up in a casa di campagna, a country hideaway near Alba in Piemonte, Italy. Beautifully restored by Swiss friends, it was a rustico offered to me for a summer’s studio practice. They knew that my teaching work left little time for my own artwork; they also appreciated how important it is for a teacher in any field to be personally engaged with their subject.
I have written previously about a few works from that precious time at Casa Columbina. See, for example, one Italian summer, farfalle, and saying the unsayable. Also see this page in the ‘nomad collection’: Italy
But this little piece stayed in the shadows – perhaps because, at the time, it was too personal, something made for my eyes only, something made to help bring a chapter to a conclusion. You see, a long relationship had come to an end, and although it was a mutually agreed and (mostly) mature winding-up, there was debris. It took many moons for the debris to settle, and making this piece definitely helped.
I simply couldn’t toss out my ex-partner’s letters. He wrote beautifully. We shared so much: questions, ideas, travel, art. I wanted to honour both our years together and the traces left in his letters. I wanted to make some kind of a container for these letters, something simple and rustic, only using materials found at hand.
As I was playing with possible formats, my Italian neighbour popped in. I tried to explain what I was doing and she tried to understand… she spoke no English and my Italian is beyond pathetic. Eventually, she conveyed her understanding that what I was doing was “wrapping it all up”, making a dossier or file… and that Italian word for it was incartamento.
Oh, I liked that word – it fit my purpose perfectly, and in true Italian style it rolls off the tongue like honey.
Fast forward a couple of decades. My memento comes out of hiding and a dear friend who knows how to drive a camera expertly documents it for me: thank you, Carol Brandt.
acrylic and oil paints
old drawings and photographs
butcher’s twine and other threads
215 x 240 x 65mm
It can be opened vertically as a book, or horizontally as a box.
The letters, wrapped in khadi paper, stitched, bound with butcher’s twine and sealed with beeswax.
And now, all these years later, the quiet pleasure of having this memento matures like fine wine. It gives off a bouquet of gratitude and appreciation for the experiences shared, the learning and depth of feeling that flowers within intimacy. I prop it up and smile.
The capacity to make is nothing less than alchemy.