Claudia Losi

Luigi Franco Arte Contemporanea

CLAUDIA LOSI TAKES WALKING as a point of departure in her work. For her, “walking the terrain” doesn't just mean going about on foot in nature, but also listening to places, investigating analogies between processes of growth in nature and structures that organize the formation of thought. Or, better, intuiting more than investigating, for Losi's research is by no means scientific. While she may call on such disciplines as geography, cartography, geology, and ethnology (her projects stem from a collaboration with the writer and geographer Matteo Meschiari), works like those in “Marmagne” —which comprised Marmagne, 1999–2000, and Moribana, 1999—take shape from the direct experience of perceiving space with the body, feeling it physically and psychologically and thus also intellectually.

During one of her reconnoiters, in Burgundy, the artist discovered an abandoned trout farm. She shot exactly ten photographs of the hatchery's cement basins. She printed them in black and white on large-scale canvases and then embroidered their surfaces. Using white thread, she wove into each photograph an image of one of ten hypothetical phases in the process of continental drift, the threads running in and out of the stratifications and superimpositions of plant elements and water reflecting the sky. Thus in Marmagne the unfathomably distant time of a remote geological era merges with the infinitesimal, with the minimal and imperceptible time of the slow, everyday mutation of things: a passing cloud, dry twigs floating by, a flower, the ruffling of the surface, the nature that lines the water sinking into the vegetation filling one of the basins.

The artist then abandoned thirty paraffin forms in the water at the trout farm. Shaped like landmasses subject to continental drift, they were left to the mercy of another drift, thus representing the extremely slow separation of the continents. (Moribana, a term that refers to the Eastern art of arranging plants in water, is the title of this action, documented on video.) Losi has long focused her attention on geographic sites or plant elements—a glacier in Vorland, 1998, the polar cap in Nord (North), 1998, the Orkney islands in Orkney, 1999, for example. Using materials such as paraffin, stones, fish scales, locust tree thorns, and cotton thread, embroidering profiles and landscapes on balls of thread or other supports, her work can be extremely refined formally. Her cartography is not pure transcription or representation.

First of all, the image of drift expresses an idea that is organized in constellations, floating memories that associate one with another, migrate and mutate. The activity of embroidery, another constant in Losi's work, functions similarly to walking: A slow, repeated gesture becomes a form for explicating an idea, for narrating time, for organizing mental maps. Embroidering is a way to review and revive the physical and mental experience of traversing space and time much as one would measure it with one's footsteps. Embroidering images of lichen on raw canvases, as Losi did in an earlier work, Tavole vegetali (Botanical plates), 1995, or weaving the drift of continents in Marmagne—mimetically repeating, point after point, the growth of plant organisms or the invisible but incessant movement of the earth—Losi gives shape to time and thereby to memory, to history, and to the complexity that time engraves within the structures of both place and thought.

Alessandra Pioselli

Translated from Italian by Marguerite Shore.