Luisa Calè e Clarissa Botsford – Biografia Critica ENG – 2015

 In Testi Critici

Marina Bindella was born in Perugia in 1957. At a very young age she moved to Rome, where she attended the Classical Lycee. After enrolling at the University of Rome ‘La Sapienza’, she first attended Angelo Maria Ripellino’s lectures at the Institute of Slavic Studies, which introduced her to Slavic culture, a fruitful encounter which was to shape her future work. She later decided to major in Art History, developing an interest in the various denominations of early twentieth-century abstract art, which she discovered at lectures by Lello Ponente and Jolanda Nigro Covre. Bindella”s BA dissertation on František Kupka privileged poetics that were less pure and geometrical and more “lyrical”, seeing “the creation of art” as “the creation of another reality”. As Nigro Covre observed, the astral trajectories of Kupka”s linear abstraction, his play of curves, his “vertical variations” and “circular forms”, as well as the distinction between “imitation” and “creation”, are echoed in the works Bindella produced in the second half of the eighties.

During her University years, Bindella”s work acquired a more distinctive and autonomous profile. Experiments in a number of different media defined her research on the abstract morphology of images, which was evident in her 1990 retrospective exhibition. Acrylics on canvas, and works mixing drawing and collage, articulated the rhythmical play of geometric forms in a tension towards the construction of non-Euclidean space, where images appeared “as a series of variations on regular geometrical forms that depend on the search for light effects” (Jolanda Nigro Covre, 1990). These light effects, which fragment and unveil form through a play of correspondences, are reflected in the chromatic inversions of transfer lettering. In the latter, the ground is fragmented and reconstituted through letters of the alphabet. Divorced from their linguistic contexts, these minimal units articulate “relations of attraction and repulsion based on morphological harmonies and disharmonies (…). Letters are perceived in their transit from one meaning to another, from the world of writing to that of form.” (Claudio Zambianchi, 1999).

The research on form that disarticulated and unveiled images in their minimal components gradually led Bindella to choose engraving as her preferred means of expression. Her familiarity with woodblock printmaking and both direct and indirect chalcographic techniques dates to her apprenticeship under Adriana Gai at the San Giacomo School of Ornamental Arts in Rome between 1983 and 1986. From 1986 onwards engraving techniques have been her chosen means to analyze the processes of image-construction and to meditate on materials and their potential for transformation.

At the same time, Bindella”s passion for the graphic arts informed her course of study at Urbino University. There she chose Alina Kalczyńska and Polish graphic arts as her dissertation topic, which gave her a chance to gain greater knowledge of the peculiarities of contemporary woodblock printmaking and of the wider context of Polish graphic arts. Initially the presence of light and the fragmentation of signs in the works of Józef Gielniak, Jerzy Panek, and Roman Opałka, revealed the potential of the xylographic medium. Far from “the ideas that recurred in xylography”, the images carved out by Gielniak reveal the many ways in which the quality and quantity of the mark change depending on the frequency and energy of the movement: “rather than stiffening in its two-dimensionality, space shows its ability to flex and curve” (Marina Bindella, 1993).

Since 1990 Bindella has chosen to focus on woodblock printmaking, a technique that requires a reflexive and controlled hand movement, rather than rhapsodical or feverish iteration. In the second half of the nineties, “rigour and technical difficulty are the key to unusual effects, as if her conscious reduction in the lines of inquiry were the condition for an expressive leap” (Ilaria Schiaffini, 2002). In this process of discovery, Guido Strazza identified Bindella’s potential to find new formal possibilities within the very “limits” of such an unyielding technique. It was by abandoning the seductions and superimpositions of colour that she could venture into the purely graphic depths of light at the heart of black and white. The choice of such a path feels like “a challenge”, as Giovanni Maria Accame has argued, “drawing the image of transparency, the appearance of light out of a technique as severe and concrete as xylography” (Giovanni Maria Accame, 1999).

The progression of her work gradually elided continuous marks in favour of small rhythmical units, which generated new and unforeseen shapes of equilibrium through different modes of aggregation, whether through separation, union or fusion. Marks “are defined by the instruments used, such as gouge or burin; by the movement of the hand, be it fluid and continuous or brief and interrupted; and, finally, by the material used, whether end-grain or side-grain wood, linoleum, or pvc. These alphabetic units (signs, traces) interact on the surface, each endowed with a clearly identifiable morphology” (Claudio Zambianchi, 1999).

Bindella’s retrieval of the poetical and structural functions of each “trace”, emptied of narrative and descriptive allusion, involves a dialogue with the work of Giulia Napoleone. In fact, friendship and work encounters have marked Bindella’s artistic itinerary since the end of the 1980s. In particular, Carlo Lorenzetti’s desire for “rigour and lyricism”, “modernity and knowing use of medium” “his tension between abstraction and evocation” pushed Bindella towards a more cogent synthesis and identity between sign, light and space.

In the mid-1990s, the preference for woodblock printing led Bindella to a symbiotic complementarity between relief and intaglio marks. While space was disembodied from the physical features of the paper, elusive and unforeseeable light slid into the shapes of marks. After works such as Filigrane and Chiarìa, Bindella started to superimpose two plates obtaining images whose conflicts and tensions, attractions and convergences were shaped into elegant clear lines and “the thick explosions of suspended microlites” and “nebulous fragments” (Rosalba Zuccaro, 2001). In subsequent works, this more evocative poetic tension was resolved as Bindella almost traces her way backwards in search of the matrices of the creative act. Hubertus Froning argued that the artist referred to “areas of experience that elude conceptual verbalisation”. Bindella “turns forms and structures into meaning” in works in which “references such as left and right, high and low, close and far become relative and tend to vary in the open form of the image” (Hubertus Froning, 1999).

The artist’s poetic evolution was reflected in drawings and watercolours. Form evolved into the additive process of the nib and the overlaid transparencies of colour, where the white interstices of paper absorbed light transformed into signs. In her inks on paper “black signs cross with white ones (…) saved by ink” giving shape to “impalpable dust (…) with an almost tactile feel, inaugurating a new emotional spectrum that differs from the dramatic, blinding lights found in the prints” (Ilaria Schiaffini, 2001). The dialectic between “units” that articulate the ground and “signs” that generate space was achieved through what might seem a reductive process in which the body of watercolours is almost dried out and graphic morphemes deprived of smudges, blurs, and dribbling. Yet, each time the images reveal dynamic equilibriums and unbroken tensions marking the border between the organization of expression and the search for new modes of knowledge.

In subsequent years, in the second half of the 1990s, Bindella won numerous prizes, including the Biella Prize and the Cairo Triennial, establishing contacts with some of the most important national and international contemporary galleries such as Sergio Pandolfini’s Bulino (The Burin) and the Galerie Monika Hoffmann, to name but a few. In this same period the artist engaged in prolific exchanges cadenced by exhibitions, refined art editions and organizing woodblock printing courses.

The field of teaching, which Marina sees as an non-hierarchical exchange between “teacher” and “pupil”, gave her the opportunity to develop, and experiment with, a language of her own. She started teaching very early, first in high schools, then in Fine Arts Academies, and she still teaches woodblock printing and engraving history at the Rome Academy. Her highly variegated interests, as well as her dedication and passion for the graphic arts, led Bindella to contextualize the expressive languages of engraving in the wider field of art history. This artistic and historic path led her to compile monographs on leaders in the field, from the German and Slav tradition in particular, such as František Kupka, Józef Gielniak, to more recent practitioners, as well as contemporary artists like Giulia Napoleone and Carlo Lorenzetti.

Since 2000, Bindella’s work has followed a path that has led to new expressive developments. In works produced between 2000 and 2003 Bindella kept a balance between explicit referentiality and purely formal rigour, which has meant that she could “move away from gestures that may be termed “figurative” allowing ambiguous sign formations to rise to the surface”. This choice allowed her to fashion “abstract forms that can nonetheless evoke figures or images linked to interior rhythms, as if signs could bring to the surface echoes of deep and slow natural or psychic movements” (Beatrice Perìa, 2003).

At the same time, the interweaving of different techniques – woodblock printmaking, watercolour, and ink drawing – has continued in an ongoing game of denied symmetries and refracted mirror images that find their counterpoint in the art editions that have always played an important role in Bindella’s formal vocabulary. Since the 1990s, Marina Bindella has interpreted the poetic rhythms and cadences of writers such as Marina Cvetaeva and Ingeborg Bachmann, transforming the impact of their poetry into graphic lines with a strongly lyrical spatial sense.

In the early years of the new millennium, Bindella further developed her interest in art books, a form of expression she has always loved and pursued. Having experimented with the dialogue between words and images, trying out different methods – words inhabiting graphic textures, or text alternating with engravings – the artist went on to enrich her technique by means of typographic art.

Her long friendship and fruitful artistic exchange with Alessandro Zanella opened up a new world for Bindella, revealing the potential of this art form, which looks as though it is iron-based, but is actually a way to highlight the surrounding space, and to underline the primary identity of the “book” as a piece of “art”. For Marina, a book is a container in which many different identities (the project itself, technique, the intimate space of the page – whether it is in-folio or unfolded from folded sheets – become a single artistic expression.

In the same years, in addition to Alessandro Zanella’s Ampersand editions (for whom Bindella published the volume Vertical Poems with 14 engravings on pvc illustrating 14 poems by Maria Luisa Spaziani) the artist worked with the most important Italian presses. Her editions include Alta Marea (an ink drawing for a poem by Biancamaria Frabotta, EOS edizioni, Roma 2001); Terre Nere (together with Carlo Lorenzetti, Giulia Napoleone and Lucio Passerini”s engravings illustrating Lea Canducci”s poems, L”Oleandro, Roma, 2001), Per Isole e per golfi ( mixed technique for Elio Pecora”s poems); Le foglie del decoro (2 engravings on pvc for 6 as yet unpublished poems by Jolanda Insana, I quaderni di Orfeo, Milano, 2007) and a portfolio for the Gallery Il Salice di Locarno, where she held a solo exhibition in 2008). In 2009 Bindella also curated the exhibition and catalogue for an Alexandro Zanella retrospective, followed, a year later, by an exhibition of art books from Lucio Passerini”s Il Buon Tempo editions, both of which were held in Rome’s Vallicelliana library.

In a parallel trajectory, the exhibition with Guido Strazza at the Galleria Comunale d’Arte Contemporanea in Ciampino (2006) opened up new research paths. Bindella’s iconographies melted into fragmented signs flooded with light, while the reverse black became increasingly fine and evanescent, becoming an illumined backdrop and increasing both the dynamism of the surfaces and the evocative quality, as well as the mnemonic suggestion of the images.

The forms that Bindella proposed, as Claudio Zambianchi wrote in his presentation of the exhibitions, “do not offer a copy of the outside world; they are rather the fruit of an inventive process that seems to resolve itself in the instant when the image, in its luminescent quality, coincides with the suggestion of memory. In other words, it is the configuration of signs that moves memory, not the other way round.”

In the years that followed, the Gabinetto delle Stampe antiche e moderne in Alessandria (2007) added Bindella’s woodblock prints to their collection, as did the Slesia Museum in Katowice (2011), while Rome’s Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica (2009) houses donated woodblock prints as well as ink drawings and watercolours.

When her work was bought by the Gabinetto in 2007, Marina held two solo exhibition in Alessandria, invited by Gianni Baretta at the Triangolo Nero gallery and at the Gabinetto delle Stampe, where she showed a collection of her woodblock prints, highlighting, as Rosalba Zuccaro wrote, the results of “her marvelous laboratory stoked by curiosity, skill and imagination”. In these works, Zuccaro continued, “the co-penetration of thought, action and imagination, in the exercise of self-critical control, is a brave choice dictated by urgency and the desire to discover new perceptive knowledge by inventing forms that certainly evoke memories of natural phenomena but most of all represent a poetic presentation of other realities.”

In the same period, Bindella’s work, or rather the nature of her images, was exposed to new experimental techniques, including the use of computers. The artist did not view computers as mere digital tools for converting images into pixels. She saw them as a way to deconstruct a multitude of signs in video and as an opportunity to reconstruct her own texturized vocabulary using the computer almost surgically. This unusual degree of freedom in formulating an image was at the same time rigorously controlled. Enlargements, light inversions and superimpositions were a way of analyzing anew her own visual repertory. Computers, in Bindella’s view, are nothing more than a “medium”. The file leads to a polymer matrix that is then covered in ink and printed onto either a sheet or a lith film, which can in its turn be scratched and carbon printed with pigments or with a silver chloride technique. Bindella’s new-found confidence with computers allowed her, as Ilaria Schiaffini put it, to “navigate freely and without hesitation between black and white, between filled and empty spaces, and, most of all, between depth and re-emergence on the surface (Ilaria Schiaffini, 2010).

Towards the end of the first decade of the millennium, the artist started to reconsider and renew her artistic codes, focusing on new work where the purely graphic contrasts between black and white were slowly replaced by the use of colour. In her oils paintings and oil on board with sgraffito, “escaping the ineluctability of the xylographic sign, as well as the implacably liquid transparency of watercolour […] Bindella added paint and at the same time excavated material. She was able to dive into the opacity of the blue, black and purple surface while at the same time allowing diaphanous signs of light to filter through and become clear with delicate expertise” (Ilaria Schiaffini, 2010).

Bindella”s new cycle of works was shown in a solo exhibition called Luce d’altura, at the Ricerca d”Arte Gallery in Rome (2010). This unexpected body of work was made up of unique pieces rather than prints, as Jolanda Nigro Covre noted. “In order to comprehend the novelty of this work we must above all appreciate the depth of the surfaces, looking close up and then drawing away again to see the complexity of the structure. The work reveals its own process, while creating ambivalence between an apparently flat painted surface and a deep bass relief. Marina rolls colour onto a prepared board. She then scratch the signs that cover the white, and subsequently scores further signs that create a dialogue with both the basic colour and the white. The process is repeated layer by layer, up to three or four times. In this way the artist achieves incredible depth, which is born from the chromatic relationships as well as from the time dimension of the process (Jolanda Nigro Covre, 2010).

This chromatic research went hand in hand with experimenting new formats. The artist stretched her work to include unusual sizes, invading new space. Modules set side by side to form Partitura d”acqua e Partitura d”aria (Water Score and Air Score), for example, fill whole walls in the installation Bindella created for the Cafeteria at the Tor Vergata Hospital in 2013. In order to “occupy” the space, Marina chose neither a sculpted or assembled object, nor a video projection. She “chooses two dimensions of coloured surface. Actually, she gives form to several monochromatic squares that engage in a dialogue with one another, recreating chromatic and spatial unity in two sets” (Arianna Mercanti, 2013). Bindella intervenes in the capacity of a work of art “to bend and call to itself its surroundings, planning, on the basis of absolute rigor – a table of square shapes arranged equidistantly – an absolute variation of chromatic and sign illumination” (Ibid.)

Bindella’s formulation of new tessellations that reconstruct space and make it dynamic rather than fragmenting it, together with her more recent work, was presented in 2013 at the exhibition Corpi Celesti (Celestial Bodies) at the Porta Latina Gallery. In the yellow wall installation made for the exhibition, Tiziana D’Achille wrote, “the artist’s life long reflection on light has reached a higher and more illumined level, achieving a description of the essential components of sunlight. […] It is almost as if she has methodically pursued an idea of reconstruction, the modular boards that are the protagonists of this exhibition are made up according to a criterion that re-assembles them into organic sets. They are views that only seemingly belong to each other as sisters. And yet they are there, telling us about worlds that are light years away from one another” (Tiziana D’Acchille, 2013). Between 2011 and 2013 she provides the engravings for two of the books published by Alessandro Zanella’s private press: La Stella lei lo sa, with a poem by Patrizia Cavalli dedicated to Helena Dalhoff, and m2, with a poem by Valerio Magrelli, dedicated to the memory of the Veronese typographer.

In 2014, Bindella also participated in the LXV Michetti Prize, and was invited by Bruno Aller to contribute a portfolio Passo di Cometa IV to Club 365 where her linocut print was presented by Daniela Fonti.

Bindella published several articles between 2013 and 2015. These include: Quatre histoires de blanc et noir – la xilografia di František Kupka, in AA.VV, “Contemporanea, Scritti di Storia dell”Arte per Jolanda Nigro Covre”, Rome 2013 and “La grafica contemporanea fra realismo e astrazione: Chuck Close, Vija Celmins e Franz Gertsch, in AA.VV. “Amusante et poétique, Scritti di Storia dell”Arte per Enzo Bilardello” Rome 2015

The artist has never stopped working on woodblock prints, renewing and reinventing her production constantly. She has also continued to produce oil on board with sgraffito in addition to new cycles of water colours and ink drawings. Her chosen path keeps her away from facile fashion or worn out practices. Her art, precisely for this reason, gives off a “concave sensation” as Robert Musil put it, where an image denounces its “prime nomination”, suspended between experienced reality based on phenomena and a new created reality which is both “visible” and “invisible.”

Luisa Calè e Clarissa Botsford

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