Maria Lai (1919-2013)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY OF AN ITALIAN COLLECTOR
Maria Lai (1919-2013)

Al volger della spola

Details
Maria Lai (1919-2013)
Al volger della spola
signed and dated 'Lai 95' (on the inside back cover)
tempera, thread and fabric
12 5/8 x 8 5/8 x 1 1/8in. (32 x 22 x 5cm.)
Executed in 1995
Provenance
Private Collection, Italy (acquired directly from the artist).
Gifted from the above to the present owner in 1995.

Special notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.

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Barbara Guidotti
Barbara Guidotti

Lot Essay

‘…there is a relationship between ink and thread, and an ability to give body to an abstract fact. This way the illegible machine-sewn books were born’ – Maria Lai (quoted in E. Pontiggia, Maria Lai: Art and Connection, 2017, p. 151).

‘Touching the fabrics would definitely be important, yet looking at them – there are some tactile faculties in the sight – it’s like touching them already.’ – Maria Lai (quoted in E. Pontiggia, Maria Lai: Art and Connection, 2017, p. 125)

Created in 1995, Al volger della spola is a captivating example of Maria Lai’s enigmatic series of ‘sewn books,’ delicately constructed sculptural works in which small rectangles of fabric punctuated by lyrical lines of black thread are bound together to create a textile tome. Indecipherable messages dance across the ‘pages’ of fabric, like a secret alphabet, mimicking the linear flow of writing across a page, but ultimately remaining completely illegible to the viewer. Throughout her career the expressive possibilities of language had been of central concern to Lai’s artistic practice, particularly the fallibility of the written word, its potential and limitations as a system of communication, comprehensible only to those who understand the laws and logic of the system. As such, the sentences sewn on the pages of Al volger della spola remain deliberately enigmatic and impenetrable, open to unique interpretations by each individual who encounters them, making the ‘sewn book’ a site for endless creation and imagination as viewers construct their own fantastical narratives from the ‘text’ before them.

Sewing had become a central part of Lai’s aesthetic in the 1980s, as the artist transformed the techniques and gestures of the time-honoured craft into a purely artistic action, creating poetically conceptual artworks that married the past with the present, tradition with innovation, and the visible with the invisible. The connection between sewing and writing had deep roots in Lai’s childhood memories: ‘As a child, every time I saw my grandmother mending … I would tell her, “These sheets are written” and she would reply, “Read them.” I invented stories suggested [to] me by the movements of the tangled thread’ (Lai, quoted in E. Pontiggia, Maria Lai: Art and Connection, 2017, p. 151). By consciously leaving the text illegible, the stitching merely suggestive of words and lines written on a page, Lai imbues the artwork with the potential for infinite meanings, while also pointing to the written word as an exclusive and restrictive method of recording and story telling. Alongside the rhythmical lines of flowing ‘text’, lengths of loose thread dangle from the sheets, their presence suggesting not only the unravelling or disintegration of the ‘writing,’ but also hinting at the words unspoken, the stories that remain untold and unrecorded, and thus immaterial.

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