Alinea* tells the importance of the line in the work of Raffaella della Olga. Yet if the straight line and the orthogonal are predominant, the artist doesn’t conceive geometry without irregularities, nor a grid without hand- altering it. Similarly, the alinéa*, made to rhythm and lighten a text, cuts its continuity.
For her first exhibition at the Laurent Godin gallery, Raffaella della Olga presents fabric and paper artworks. The hangings draw frontal views of a grid. They are beckoning us. Their squared surface blinks slightly; hypnotic, the lines vibrate, the eye gets caught in its perpendicular snares. We need to get closer for our vision to come undone, because these Stoffe, as op art canvases, product a visual effect. This effect dissolves, as we get closer to the artwork, leaving room for a tangible perception of the textile. We notice the square incisions made by the artist’s cutter in the canvas, at regular intervals. The artist slices through a grid, as in any substance. As she’s cutting in the pattern, she produces a weft in the weft. The withdrawal is a constructive destruction.
These canvases are not paintings. They are industrial fabrics. Madras and the Scottish pattern are representative of a globalized world – but didn’t William Morris already notice the absorption of local techniques and cultures in a globalized world? These fabrics-grids play with different fields, architectonic, decorative, pictorial, converging in a dynamic and suggestive perception. These can evoke the facades of modernist buildings (Alinea), a turquoise seaside landscape (Céleste), an optical perspective.
Geometry is Raffaella della Olga art basis: a conceptual and spiritual framework that builds an autonomous space. The line is her mantra, and turns into repetitive gestures – “ I follow the line not to lose myself”, similar Agnes Martin or Sol LeWitt techniques, but unlike them, della Olga doesn’t draw lines by hand, she doesn’t turn to other hands than hers. Her gestures are equipped and mechanical.
Let us take a moment to look at her in the workshop, working with her tools and her method. To draw lines on paper, sometimes on fabric, to make her beautiful Tapuscrits, the artist uses a typewriter. The ink roll is replaced by carbon sheets of different colours, blue, green, yellow, red, black. The artist and her machine form a peculiar coupling. She concentrates on one gesture and lets herself be carried away in a repetitive and monomaniac mechanic. It is the repeated strike, during hours, more often of the “hyphen” key that create parallels, oblique and criss-cross rectilinear lines. In this way, she makes her lines typing on one unique key, with one finger as a typographer, she hammers lines, as a blacksmith, she builds line by line, brick by brick, as a builder, she advances her work point by point, as a seamstress.
The machine is used at least of its capabilities, a contrario of its efficiency: a touch, a sign, a gesture. Similar to weaving or braiding, form and gesture coincide, creating the idea of a concrete abstraction. In fact, della Olga associates art of form and applied arts, in a Bauhaus spirit: she’s in line with artists like Sophie Taeuber-Arp or Anni Albers, who renewed and expanded the strict conception of modern art by the practice of weaving. Our artist takes in her hands, literately, a history of the grid and she enters it with a certain sharpness – aren’t her incisions characterized by a hint of aggressiveness?
Minimal Art and applied arts imply a repetition, or even a reduction of the tasks, which means meticulousness, concentration, and obsession with the details: a discipline that sometimes implies tiresome labour conditions and forces the body into immobility. A hard-line discipline characterizes della Olga’s practice similarly to other artists with whom she has obvious affinities: Dadamaino, Irma Blank, Agnes Martin, among others. By means of repetition and a “controlled manner”, the “transformation of an emotion that spreads in a harmonious way” operates, as Lucy Lippard explains about Agnes Martin. Aren’t these artists, modernists and minimalists, including della Olga, seeking a sort of harmony?
Through repetition the artwork takes its place in the ordinary order of days and hours. The artwork is at the same time a mesure of time and its abolition, the watch of a start that will never end. There is always a hidden production in an artwork; through della Olga’s lines, we can perceive a meticulous hard work: “ she was living like a character from a book of hours, studious in her work and studious in her dream”, writes Hans Arp about Sophie Taeuber-Arp applied arts.
The Stoffe invite us to a grid crossing. The Tapuscrits attract the hand; we’d like to touch them, to stroke them. Their texture and relief resonate in a restricted action, similar to incarnated relics. Like Mallarmé in Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard, della Olga pursues without doubt the idea of an abstract and concrete language.
Because the book is a model to her, a matrix: the book as a space and object. She expresses the materiality of the paper making various wefts, by direct imprint, like her typing technique. To make her Tapuscrits and compose her pages, the artist borrows her gestures from the typographer, from the craftsman and the concrete poet, inspired by Spatialist Poetry, focused on the freed word of syntax. Doesn’t she produce writing without writing?
Rigorous, these applied arts aren’t austere but light, cheerful and playful, as concrete poetry is. Conceived like a game of forms, her art builds a flat, but also plain and dynamic, space. The line crosses and brings together text, textile and ordinary life, connecting poetry and plastic.
Raffaella della Olga was born in Bergame, Italie in 1967. After a brief criminal defence lawyer carrier, she studies at The Milan School of Fine Arts before coming to Paris in 2007. There, the discovery of Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard, Mallarmé (ed. 1914) leads her to a complete disruption in her artistic work. Finding inspiration in Minimal and Conceptual Art as much as in avant-garde poetry, she seizes the typing machine to build her own language, which is a crossing between typescript and drawing and where the hyphen, air sign, takes over the letters and numbers. With four keys, including one modified, Raffaella draws on the writing scene with discontinuous lines and multiplies the breathing and silence echoes.
Recent exhibitions: Dilecta Paris, 2017, Pliure [Prologue – La part du feu], Fondation Gulbenkian Paris, 2015, Air de Jeu, Nouveau Festival, Centre Pompidou, 2015, Une exposition à être lu, Jeu de Paume, 2013. Many artworks have recently entered the collections of the CNAP.