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Paper Perspectives

Exhibition of works created

during student grant programme

May 22-30 2021

Colonica di Villa Il Palmerino

Open to participating students and their families, our small-scale but joyous inauguration event, on May 22, 2021, was a tiny oasis of togetherness, after a year of mostly distance-learning. The Oltrarno-inspired exhibition, featuring 20-some etchings on handmade paper was designed to spotlight the process, not just the finished product. In several instances, black linoleum matrixes were on display as well, providing a clue to what it takes to create a finished etching. Each of the show’s stations had a old-fashioned workbench feel, with vintage tools and raw materials – including paint tubes and large glass jars containing the fibers used to make paper.


How did student artisans feel about the project? 18-year-old Francesco Bianchi shares his thoughts: “The experience of being involved in this grant program is definitely something I will take with me, no matter where I go and what I do in the future. The world is getting progressively more advanced and what people make is being replaced for convenience’s sake, as we strive for extreme perfection, which eliminates the wonderful imperfection inherent in our hands. Craftsmanship continues to have a say though, and having an experience like this one has made me realize that imperfection makes things more unique and more beautiful than ever could have imagined.”

Hanging out to dry

How is ‘Paper Perspectives’ well-suited for Il Palmerino and what stylistic choices were made to simultaneously capture the soul of the project and spirit of the place? This was the question we posed to conservator Beatrice Cuniberti, Atelier degli Artigianelli’s director who led the grant program, in tandem with fellow paper artisan Paola Lucchesi. “Il Palmerino is a fifteenth-century colonica, or country house,” Cuniberti explains. “It is a place of deep-rooted traditions that are in harmony with nature, but there is no pomp and circumstance here.


This show is the same way. We displayed the works on ‘clotheslines’ made with natural materials, hanging them up with tiny wooden clothespins… On the one hand, this set up recalls the process we use to dry handmade paper at the mill, on the other, it fits with Palmerino’s garden and the cultural center’s rustic Tuscan feel. Many of the works are presented against a red background. The ivory paper, the black ink contrasts starkly with that brilliant red. It’s a bold graphic choice – bold, like young people trying to break in, as they begin to carve out their creative place in the world.”

From the Oltrarno to Ancient Greece?

“To create their engraving plates, the students use linoleum which, as its name suggests, is made from linseed oil. Traditionally, artisans would use wood, but during course work for fourth-year high school students, like those featured in the show, we use softer, more malleable materials, to take full advantage of time,” says Silvia Coppetti, the grantees’ graphic arts professor. “They will begin working with wood cuts in year five. In the meantime, they practice engraving using the inside of old milk cartons as the matrix.” While the Artgianelli worked with our five grant recipients at their laboratory in Via degli Serragli, Coppetti was busy training the rest of their class, on site at the Liceo Artistico di Porta Romana di Firenze e Sesto Fiorentino.


“The students really liked having a single theme to work on, whilst preparing their art for this show. The Oltrarno was a topic that united them. For our upcoming work on acquaforte etching, they told me they’d like the whole class to work on one topic again. So, I looked through their sketchbooks – which is their personal practice journal – to see what might inspire them. I always try to draw from their interests. I don’t want to be invasive and impose my views upon them. I want them to learn my technique, but not my art, because they need to develop their own unique expression. But guess what theme they came up with on their own? Ancient Greek mythology. So, that is where we are going next!”


Source: Inside AWA magazine, Summer Edition, 2021

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