Andrea Anastasio is hard to define, and that’s what makes him so interesting. A precocious artistic talent and student of Eastern languages and philosophies, he found himself (almost) by chance in the field of design when, at Ettore Sottsass’s birthday party, the great designer noticed a pin he had made and scope. This opens the door to a whole new world, leading the autodidact Anastasio to design lamps and other objects for big names in design, while developing an artistic career in which ceramics played a key role. I myself met him (almost) by chance in Milan, when he was putting the finishing touches on the Battiti exhibition ready for the opening of FuoriSalone 2022. The exhibition brings together two series of works, Intervalli and Esodi, in terracotta glazed with majolica. with LED lights. The criterion underlying Intervalli (“Intervals”) is the decomposition of square decorative panels into horizontal and vertical sections, using molds found in the archives of the Ceramica Gatti 1928 workshop in Faenza. The rhythm of the cross sections is determined by LED strips, like in a musical score.
In Esodi, on the other hand, the artist expresses an equal but contrary impulse to the accumulation of things: in this case, the research in the archives began with the legacy of molds for ceramic animal statuettes. Figures are grouped chaotically into compositions, molded together as if escaping (hence the title, Esodi or “Exodus”), with different proportions and inconsistent postures, all in a heap, like a kind of fantastic and monstrous being. Rods of LEDs run through their limbs, heads and legs like swords. The light comes to be grafted on the two series, like the last element, the ultimate stage completing their meaning. “Throughout the history of bas-relief, from Egyptian tombs to Roman sarcophagi,” Anastasio explains, “meaning is highly dependent on the light, its angle and its strength.”
To make both series, Anastasio was inspired by models of statuettes and bas-reliefs from the Bottega Gatti 1928 archives that were no longer in use. This is what drew his attention to them: “These are domestic types that have been used for centuries, especially the decorative ceramic panels celebrating the seasons, the harvests, the saints, the Madonna, the work of the peasants. This form of representation disappeared after the Second World War. I wanted to use these historical, traditional forms in my work, treated in a non-linear way. I used the Bottega Gatti 1928 archives as raw material.
New forms are therefore grafted onto existing ones, without altering them, bringing them back to life. Anastasio tells me about his recent trip to Morocco for the Festival of Sacred Music of the World in Fez, which is in its 26th edition, in which he participated as a speaker. It was there that he heard the Sardinian musician Gavino Murgia play with the polyphonic choir of Nuoro. Anastasio was struck by how Murgia’s jazz saxophone combined with traditional religious choral music to create a new musical form. “I found it really exciting,” he says, “because this process is very similar to the process behind Esodi and Intervalli. New shapes are made visible by looking at familiar shapes from a new perspective. I see the manufactures, especially the old, historic ones, as the expression of an ongoing creative process, a flow like that of the seasons in nature.
Anastasio therefore considers it essential not to add new forms: “The world of form is extraordinarily full, fertile, and I find it much more interesting to look at forgotten forms than to invent new ones. And the archive is precious, it is what makes the identity of a place, a company, an institution: it is enough that it be used”.
Captions and Credits
The exhibition of the Battiti collection was open from June 6 to 19, 2022 at the Foscarini showroom in Via Monforte in Milan.
Images courtesy of Andrea Anastasio, except where noted.
01 Portrait of Andrea Anastasio
02, 03, 09, 10 Battiti, Intervalli series, in double-fired glazed terracotta and LED lights, Ceramica Gatti 1928, 2022, ph. Mr Gardone.
04, 06-08 Battiti, Esodi series, in double-fired glazed terracotta and LED lights, Ceramica Gatti 1928, 2022, ph. Mr Gardone.
05 Volpedo 2018, Ceramica Gatti 1928, Aritmia exhibition installation, MANN National Archaeological Museum of Naples, 2020, ph. Luciano Romano.
11, 12 Un Fiore per Dodici Mesi 2019 (A flower for twelve months 2019), courtesy of Galleria Giustini Stagetti, Aritmia exhibition installation, MANN National Archaeological Museum of Naples, 2020, Ph. Luciano Romano.
13 Corallium 2014, quilted marble tables. Courtesy of Galleria Giustini Stagetti, tel. Simona Caleo
14 Fluxo 2021 – Installation (Eden 2016) and scenography for Hangar Bicocca, ph. Wu Rui.