On the couch Lino Tagli­api­etra

Domus - - CONTENTS - Edited by Wal­ter Mar­i­otti

From talk­ing about Hugo Pratt to the eroti­cism hid­den in our ev­ery­day lives, a con­ver­sa­tion with Lino Tagli­api­etra, the last of the great Ital­ian master glass­mak­ers Edited by Wal­ter Mar­i­otti “You see those seag­ulls? They’re the ones Hugo Pratt al­ways used to put in his sto­ries about Corto Mal­tese. Or rather, they rep­re­sent my in­ter­pre­ta­tion of Pratt’s seag­ulls. To me he was not only an in­ex­haustible source of in­spi­ra­tion but a true master. Of ad­ven­ture, the search for dis­tant places, free­dom and, if we like, of that spe­cial form of eroti­cism that is bound up with mys­tery, dis­cov­ered in the cran­nies of life, in its pauses and voids. It is from that erotic mys­tery that the se­duc­tion of cre­ation arises, as I learned from Dale Chi­huly, the man who en­abled me to en­ter the sec­ond di­men­sion of my artis­tic re­search.”

Only the masters can know the masters. And give them what they have them­selves learned, with the re­spect and de­vo­tion that il­lu­mi­nate a life and last a life­time. This is the case of Lino Tagli­api­etra, born in 1934, un­doubt­edly the last of the great Ital­ian master glass­mak­ers. He de­fies the warmth of the Bi­en­nale from the win­dows of his Mu­rano gallery with a woollen sweater worn over his dark polo shirt. To Tagli­api­etra goes the credit for the global con­se­cra­tion of the Mu­rano tra­di­tion, a tech­nique dat­ing back at least to the late 13th cen­tury. Thanks to him, over the past four decades it has eclipsed the hege­mony of the Ser­bian tech­nique world­wide and helped cre­ate the New Glass Move­ment, the artis­tic cur­rent born in Seat­tle but to­day recog­nised from Aus­tralia to Ja­pan.

“My ap­proach to de­sign?” Tagli­api­etra smiles. “Some have called it vi­sion­ary, per­haps be­cause it has al­ways passed the bounds of crafts­man­ship, de­sign and even art, mak­ing them sculp­tural, fus­ing and amal­ga­mat­ing them in a sim­ple or rather nat­u­ral ex­pres­sive lan­guage.

Then, it’s true my work is al­ways done on the flame, in the fur­nace, where it’s the breath that gives life to ev­ery­thing — colour, form, struc­ture.” Tagli­api­etra’s works are ac­tu­ally the op­po­site of sim­ple.

They are the con­cep­tual, chro­matic and con­crete elab­o­ra­tions of ab­so­lute com­plex­ity, true ex­pres­sive vir­tu­os­ity, where mat­ter and form evolve in suc­ces­sive spi­rals, in mag­i­cal vo­lutes, math­e­mat­i­cally im­pos­si­ble yet held to­gether by the in­spi­ra­tion and mas­tery of a unique tal­ent.

“Ev­ery­thing is done by breath. You see this Saturn? Here, a single breath does ev­ery­thing — the planet, the rings, the raised edge. Sim­ple, right?”

Tagli­api­etra learnt glass-blow­ing when he was 14. This fol­lowed a twoyear ap­pren­tice­ship as a wa­ter­car­rier for the Gal­liano Ferro fur­nace, run by the great master Archimede Se­guso.

Pro­moted to ap­ply­ing rings to in­di­vid­ual pieces, he ed­u­cated him­self as an au­to­di­dact at the Bi­en­nale, with a pas­sion for the art of Mark Rothko, Bar­nett New­man and Ellsworth Kelly. He drew on their work to recre­ate his­tor­i­cal models, but at the same time ex­panded his artis­tic vo­cab­u­lary. Less than ten years later, on his 25th birth­day, he was granted the rank of master but had to put his work on hold to com­plete his mil­i­tary ser­vice. Dur­ing that pe­riod he met his fu­ture wife, Lina On­garo, whose fam­ily was a large part of the his­tory of the Mu­rano glass­works. Her fa­ther Al­berto was a friend of Hugo Pratt’s, with whom he trav­elled un­der the bound­less skies of Brazil and Ar­gentina.

Tagli­api­etra’s work with ma­jor Ital­ian glass com­pa­nies dates from this pe­riod, the early six­ties: Venini, La Mur­rina, Ef­fe­tre In­ter­na­tional. At the same time he trav­elled across Amer­ica, first dis­cov­er­ing it when he was in­vited to Seat­tle by his friend Dale Chi­huly, at the apex of Amer­i­can glass sculp­ture. Their meet­ing came about in 1968, by chance, like much else.

Chi­huly ini­ti­ated Tagli­api­etra into his art, in­au­gu­rat­ing the VeniceSeat­tle shut­tle. It con­tin­ued for decades and led to a new burst of development in his work. In the Eight­ies, Tagli­api­etra tra­versed mul­ti­ple ex­pe­ri­ences, trav­el­ling the world, teach­ing and de­sign­ing one-off pieces for com­mer­cial brands as a truly in­de­pen­dent artist. This phase cul­mi­nated in his first solo ex­hi­bi­tion, held in Seat­tle in 1990, with the crit­ics con­se­crat­ing his “con­tin­u­ous, mod­ern ex­per­i­men­ta­tion that com­bines the an­cient tech­niques of Ital­ian tra­di­tion: wheel-en­grav­ing, zan­firico, fil­i­gree, ret­i­cello, pulegoso, martelé, etch­ing and in­calmo”.

Since 1979 Tagli­api­etra has spent most of each year in the Bell­town neigh­bour­hood of Seat­tle, where he set up his stu­dio-gallery, re­cently ren­o­vated by Gra­ham Baba Ar­chi­tects. It oc­cu­pies a 1917 red­brick build­ing, for­merly the premises of an auc­tion house, where the pre­vail­ing tones are cold, from bleached oak floor­ing to high ceil­ings, ideal for cre­at­ing con­trasts with the colour­ful uni­verse of his vases.

As of­ten hap­pens, his home­land ac­knowl­edged his stature later, in 2011, when the Veneto In­sti­tute of Sci­ences, Arts and Let­ters paid trib­ute to him with “Avven­tura”, a ret­ro­spec­tive de­voted to a fig­ure al­ready cel­e­brated around the world. “Tagli­a­pe­tra’s vases,” wrote Glass Quar­terly, “emulate Ro­man am­phorae, ves­sel forms far older than the Mu­rano glass-blow­ing tra­di­tion and its chal­leng­ing

avven­tu­rina tech­nique… Six­teen tex­tured el­lip­ti­cal pieces form

Ma­sai d’Oro, part of a se­ries in­spired by the deeply sym­bolic shields used by the Ma­sai peo­ples in Kenya and Tanzania.”

Gifted with a child­like cu­rios­ity, Tagli­api­etra con­tin­ues his re­search, ex­pand­ing the vo­cab­u­lary and tech­niques made pos­si­ble by dig­i­tal in­no­va­tion. In Oc­to­ber 2012, he spent a week at MIT Glass Lab, work­ing with artists and school ed­u­ca­tors ex­plor­ing dig­i­tal glass­mak­ing models.

This re­sulted in the development of Vir­tual Glass, a soft­ware to fa­cil­i­tate re­search into ma­te­ri­als, re­duce pro­duc­tion costs and make the prices of the works more af­ford­able. In June 2012, the Colum­bus Mu­seum of Art an­nounced it had pur­chased a glass in­stal­la­tion by Tagli­api­etra: En­deavor, a fleet of 35 ships sus­pended from the ceil­ing, that im­me­di­ately trans­formed into an icon of se­duc­tion in the per­ma­nent col­lec­tion.

Be­gun un­der the aus­pices of the seag­ulls, our en­counter with the master ends with the seag­ulls es­cort­ing us to the Bi­en­nale. We prom­ise to re­turn in Septem­ber, when he comes back from Seat­tle.

To talk about Pratt and the mys­tery of ev­ery­day eroti­cism, which is af­ter all only a vari­a­tion on artis­tic free­dom, “I’m com­pletely open,” he says as he takes his leave. “What I like do­ing above all is re­search. I don’t want to rep­re­sent the Vene­tian tech­nique alone, though I was born here. Be­cause style is just who you are.” Sim­ple, right?

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