Tuesday, October 10, 2023

The Venice Glass Week 2023 - Le Gallerie dell'Accademia di Venezia - Laura de Santillana - Beyond Matter

Le Gallerie dell'Accademia di Venezia
Laura de Santillana - Beyond Matter
Winner - Fondazione di Venezia - Prize

In occasion with The Venice Glass Week at Le Gallerie dell'Accademia di Venezia, the exhibition - Laura de Santillana - Beyond Matter - until November 26 - in collaboration with the De Santillana Foundation Stichting - curated by Rainald Franz and Michele Tavola. The exhibition celebrates one of the most important figures in the international glass scene, the late Laura de Santillanaby placing in dialogue two of her vital bodies of work: sculptures crafted in nearby Murano and artworks made in the artist's later years in the Czech Republic. The daring sculptures presented in the exhibition capture her unparalleled artistic vision, as she consistently ventured beyond traditional material boundaries.

Laura de Santillana - Sleeves - Czech Republic - 2016
Antonio Canova - Creugas - 1796-1801 + Madame Letizia Bonaparte - 1804-1807

"I think in Glass"
Laura de Santillana

Laura de Santillana - 1955 – 2019 - was born in Venice and trained in New York, where she also worked in the Vignelli studio. From 1975 to 1985, she worked for Venini, the family company founded by her grandfather Paolo Venini, designing objects and lamps now collected globally. From 1989 to 1993, she served as the artistic director of EOS. In 1993, she left the design world to dedicate herself solely to art. Her first exhibition was in Seattle, and her works have since gained global prominence. She created artworks between Venice, the USA, and the Czech Republic. Museums like the Victoria and Albert Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Arts, the Museé des Arts Décoratifs, and several esteemed private collections house her works. 

Laura de Santillana - Sleeves - 2015-2016
 Caterina Tognon Gallery - Exhibition - Laura de Santillana - Sleeves

 “It was as if I found myself with painting tools in hand. As if I had bags full of colors already inside the works. The first - Flag - sculptures reminded me of canvases due to their two-dimensionality, but they had such a tangible substance 
that they inevitably became three-dimensional.
I cannot imagine doing anything more painterly than with glass”.
Laura de Santillana

For de Santillana, color was not just complementary to form; it stood as its own distinct language, independent and equally expressive. Her interest in color began at Venini, and it developed into a central element throughout her career. From 1989 onwards, she embarked on global travels, immersing herself in non-Western traditions that enriched her understanding of color and form. Her extended research on color is exemplified in the Flags series, of which Primary Colors is a prominent example. This artwork, crafted with the intricate incalmo technique, draws the viewer's attention to the junctures of color, simultaneously high-lighting and veiling these crossover points with an opaque finish. 

Primary Colors -  Murano - 2011

This stand-alone installation represents the culmination of the artist’s experimentation in Bohemia. Between 2013 and 2019, Laura de Santillana grappled with the challenge of crafting sculptures that could stand independently. Unable to find a solution during this intense experimental phase, she devised unique configurations that eliminated the need for a traditional base. Partly because of this, these sculptures exhibit an unusual dynamism as they are mounted on rotating bases that permit adjustments to each cylinder's orientation. De Santillana's enduring interest in the symbolism of architectural elements, particularly columns, can be found in this seminal sculpture. Viewed in dialogue with Paolo Veronese's 16th-century masterpiece, The Feast in the House of Levi, a monumental painting with distinctive structural symmetry, 7 Elements highlights De Santillana's desire to craft stable solutions for vertical glass works. Unlike the columns in the painting behind, De Santillana’s glass pieces exude life, movement, and a hint of humanity, with vivid colors accentuated by their arrangement. 

Laura de Santillana - 7 Elements - Czech Republic - 2015
Paolo Veronese The Feast in the House of Levi - 1573

"Hosting Laura de Santillana's work is an extraordinary opportunity, this exhibition is a realization of our long-held aspiration...maintaining alignment with the museum's ethos and engaging with our permanent collection. The Gallerie open once again to glass and contemporary art, marking its significance during Glass Week a time when Venice reminisces about its unparalleled artistic legacy. Laura's narrative and creations capture this tradition like no other." 
Giulio Manieri Elia
Director of the Gallerie dell’Accademia di Venezia

 Michele TavolaCo-curator, 
Giulio Manieri Elia, Director of the Gallerie dell’Accademia di Venezia,
 Miriam Rejas Del Pino  Assistant Curator
Leon Diaz de Santillana, President De Santillana Foundation

Laura de Santillana - Liquid Orange Red - Seattle - 2015

Laura de Santillana's approach leant towards abstraction. She aspired to purify form rather than seek figuration, yet there's an undeniable anthropomorphic presence in her works. Many sculptures, like those displayed here, possess body-like features derived from intentional incisions: a navel observed in Blessure, and a gilded backbone evident in Untitled. The artist herself anthropomorphizes her works, referring to the top opening of these sculptures as a “mouth”. 

Untitled - Murano - 2006 - Mirra II - Murano - 2005 - Blessure -  Murano - 2003

Laura de Santillana - Egyptian Partition - Murano - 2013
Francesco Hayez - Rinaldo e Armida - 1813 + Francesco Hayez - Aristide -1812

De Santillana’s technique results in an almost two-dimensional, canvas-like shape. Trapped within this flat, rectangular form lies an ethereal presence — possibly the lingering breath of the maestro — giving rise to unique patterns and intriguing imperfections. Drawing comparisons to ancient artifacts, these works were often referred to as - books - tablets - steles - emphasizing both their physical appearance and their evocative, timeless nature. Within this flattened rectangular canvas, de Santillana created layers of complexity through a refined expressive language. This form, with its aesthetic research, allowed her to definitively break with industrial design, marking a point of no return in her creative process. 

Ciel Terrestre - Murano - 2017 - Nox - Murano 2017 
(In8.Vo) Lichen - Murano - 2018

Since her first trip to East and Southeast Asia in 1989, de Santillana’s artistic research has been deeply influenced by Eastern philosophies. During these journeys, she became captivated by empty frames, photographing and collecting them. These frames poetically straddle the line between - inside -  and - outside - standing as poignant thresholds that both bind and separate spaces.  In de Santillana’s sculptures, there lies a powerful union between the interior - or core - of the artwork and its external frame. No longer content with the mere suggestion of an internal space, de Santillana introduced materials that would underscore its presence. Using materials such as metallic nets and gold leaves, she highlights and sanctifies these interior spaces. Pieces like Tav. I capture this dynamic perfectly, where glass, reminiscent of supple flesh, drapes over and guards a metallic endoskeleton. These materials not only provide texture and contrast but also emphasize the ‘inside’ she wished to accentuate. 

Tav. 1 - Murano - 2007 - Untitled - Murano  - 2004c.  - Kumran (Infant) - Murano - 2005

Exhibition - I Santillana - 2014
The exhibition at the Stanze del Vetro - I Santillana -  traced the double trajectory of artists Laura de Santillana and Alessandro Diaz de Santillana, brother and sister who were direct descendants of the legendary Venini dynasty. 

Laura de Santillana

Initially recognized for her role as a designer in the family’s business - Venini - and as the artistic director at EOSde Santillana made significantly fewer design objects after Venini was sold in 1985. From the early 1990s, de Santillana would say that she was driven to create objects devoid of function — self-contained sculptures where glass becomes secondary to a profound aesthetic experience. While she distanced herself from design, its principles continued to influence her art, especially the idea of seriality. Upon identifying a desired sculptural form, which she called the - initiator piece - she would methodically explore its many variations. Each piece in the series would build on the previous, and collectively they present a cohesive narrative.  Within this hall, visitors will find some of the artist’s most ambitious works: the Twins and Triplets. These artworks were produced in the Czech Republic between 2013 and 2019 using the - slumping - technique.

Triplet - Czech Republic - 2019 - Twin - Czech republic - 2019

Laura de Santillana
Twin - Czech Republic - 2017

"The work of Laura de Santillana, born in Venetian glass, has flown around the world, in Japan, the United States, the Czech Republic and elsewhere: in the exhibition at the Gallerie dell'Accademia , this hieratic path is described with aesthetic and chronological precision”
Fondazione di Venezia Prize

Laura de Santillana - Beyond Matter
Winner - The Venice Glass Week
 Fondazione di Venezia - Prize

The third edition of the Fondazione di Venezia Prize was awarded to the De Santillana Foundation Stichting and the Gallerie dell'Accademia for the Laura de Santillana - Beyond Matter - exhibition curated by Rainald Franz and Michele Tavola.  Four years after the artist's death, the exhibition presents over thirty works, emblematic of the experimentation of the last years of Laura de Santillana's activity, a leading exponent of the Murano tradition and the art of processing of glass in the world. The jury was composed of Jean Blanchaert - Curator and member of the Scientific Committee - Giovanna Palandri - Director of the Istituto Veneto di Scienze Lettere ed Arti and Paola Marini -  President of the Fondazione di Venezia.

Leon Diaz de Santillana, Paola Marina and Giulio Manieri Elia

Laura de Santillana - Related Blogs Posts

Text - Many Thanks 
Text was adapted from
Laura de Santillana - Beyond Matter - Pamphlet
Gallerie dell'Accademia di Venezia
The Venice Glass Week - Website


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