Laura Matei

Gian Carla Zanutti

For her first solo gallery show, Laura Matei, a young Romanian artist living in Italy, forged an unexpected union between canvas and sewing needles. Four white canvases hanging in a row tracked the progression, from left to right, of an acrobat walking a tightrope. The figure was “drawn” by passing black thread through the eyes of needles stuck through and protruding from the surface of the canvas.

Exact in its geometric conciseness, fascinating in its airy lightness, Funanbolo, 1999, is also ironic, since, while remaining almost disembodied, it presents itself as a kind of bas-relief. Matei has said that it is precisely this element of contradiction that she is after, working with “almost nothing” as material, using elements that are minimal, impalpable, and improbable. Thus her art stems from a challenge and becomes an investigation into the very conditions of visibility.

Three other small-scale canvases were placed perpendicular to the wall, like shelves. Their surfaces were run through with needles to varying heights, arranged in circular or elliptical patterns. Colorful threads tautly connecting the needles became the armature of miniature circus tents, a structure that the eye easily recognizes, associating it with the figures of tightrope-walking acrobats. Below the canvases, the ends of the threads were left dangling, exposed to view, as if to emphasize the absence of a solid foundation beneath these small constructions and to point up their precariousness.

The circus theme suits the minute virtuosity of these works, which might themselves be said to walk a tightrope in the act of starting from “almost nothing” and becoming “something.” To the labor-intensive precision of her work, which is clearly the result of great concentration and manual dexterity, Matei adds an element of healthy mischief by adopting needles as her expressive tools, stuck into the raw canvases like tiny instruments of torture.

Giorgio Verzotti

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.