GIULIANA CUNEAZ : Remaking the Natural Magic

I speak within the time and out of time.
I speak for yesterday and today;
for yesterday which is a lesson of life,
for today which is a lesson of death.

Edmond Jabès

GIULIANA CUNEAZ, Le cabinet de la neige, 2014  Video installation  3D animation, wood, clay and acrylic paint with crystal dust, monitor.  76 x 65 x 50 cm.   Courtesy of the artist and Gagliardi e Domke Gallery, Torino

A myriad of interior sceneries from mother earth,
always struck with amazement

by Rosanna Albertini

Common sense says that we only see what we know. Giuliana Cuneaz invites us to the opposite journey and brings us, at least in our imagination, to a living universe out of the reach of our perception, a realm of infinite transformations and a variety of forms. She is attracted by the invisible presence of the same kind of patterns shaping the forms of neurons, roots, or mineral structures. She wonders about the natural ‘thinking’ that seems to have been designed for the shell, bark or minerals’ inner architecture. ‘Designed?’ By whom? When? Hard to find the proper words for the secret growth of a living world that doesn’t need humans to exist.

Her art is one more physical process, something in between visible things as they appear in the daylight and invisible configurations revealed by electron microscopes and digital simulations.

As an artist, she can only be absurd:

The absurd work illustrates how thinking gives up with prestige and accepts to be nothing more than intelligence activating appearances and covering with images what doesn’t have a reason to exist. If the world were easy to see, art wouldn’t be.  Albert Camus

GIULIANA CUNEAZ, Le cabinet de la neige, (details), 2014   Uncooked clay, acrylic paint with crystal dust.  

Through valleys and woods, Giuliana put her green eyes at work to discover the fairies’ sites – each of them has a name in her mountains. At the mouth of cracks, or caves, she placed a music stand holding a piece of music written for one instrument. She gave to the silent fairies a musical voice that the public could listen to in a building, where humans and invisible presences were wrapped in the same vibrations. Fairies are not always good, they can be scary or threatening.

One of these invisible fairies, hidden in the image of her place, followed me through a photograph — given to me by Giuliana — in all the moves I went through since my visit to the mountains: the site looks quite dark, with rocks and pine trees ravaged by the wind. The Fairy of Grand Brissogne is now here in front of me, between the keyboard and the computer screen. In my attachment to that picture I probably did see my own life as the life of an absurd woman accepting sadness and fear as a present. Obstacles needing to be defeated.

GIULIANA CUNEAZ, Matter Waves Unseen, 2013  Video installation. 3D animation, wood, monitor, plexiglass, led, sand, clay, acrylic paint. 165 x 113,5 x 40 cm.  Courtesy of the artist and Private collection.

Giuliana Cuneaz engaged her life in a similar struggle, at the same time asking her hands to remake the natural magic, covering with handmade figures of curiosities and rarities the shelves of contemporary Wunderkammers, the chambers of marvels. Only one of her many artworks. It’s so wonderful to see a snow that doesn’t melt on the wood and shines forever, crystal by crystal, and to realize how the artist’s hands transformed uncooked clay into stars, corals, and seeds and flowers: natural forms whose story is only “invincible progress of the form, a sort of visible music”. (Paul Valéry)
For once, the fairies have been benevolent.

To break the crust of solid material bodies, trying to turn inside out the natural birth of crystals, rocks, or shells, this is the challenge that Giuliana Cuneaz seems to have embraced for a long time, offering to us her imaginary visit into the heart of matter. Her handmade objects are humble replicas. That’s for their marvelous configuration. Where they came from, at first, is a process lost in the dark of undetected beginnings, as if an artist had made them.

GIULIANA CUNEAZ, Matter Waves Unseen, 213, details

Happiness and absurdity are two children of the same ground. …
When sadness raises up in a human heart, the rock is winning, sadness is the rock itself. …
The absurd woman contemplating her suffering shuts all the idols down. In the universe suddenly brought back to silence, appear thousands of small, stupefied voices of the earth. …
Sisyphus teaches the superior loyalty that denies gods and lifts rocks. She also believes that everything is good. This universe deprived of gods doesn’t seem sterile to her, nor trivial. Every grain of the stone, every mineral sparkle of this mountain filled with weight is a world by itself. Struggling toward the top can fill up a woman’s heart. Imagine lady Sisyphus is a happy one. … The absurd woman says yes and her effort will never cease.
Albert Camus, Le mythe de Sisyphe, 1942 (with my alteration into a feminine mode).

GIULIANA CUNEAZ, Matter Waves Unseen, 2013, details

3D computer graphics helped her to add a mental magic to the physical appearance of objects. Sculpting forms is not enough. They die in their frozen stillness. Giuliana Cuneaz’s chambers of marvels include a screen showing the 3D computer graphic version of the same objects she had made. The fantastic sceneries she displays have two different lives: one is a lesson of death cherished, honored by the artist’s fingers accepting the drama of making a physical form, the other on the screen is a lesson of life in search of visible modulations, bursts of changes, phases of passage, movements.


Giuliana Cuneaz, Matter Waves Unseen, 2013  3D computer animation  Courtesy of the artist and Private collection

Giuliana’s waves are earthly as if the clay, the shy and silent skin of the earth, had suddenly made her surface strong and dynamic like the ocean waves — each bringing new presents to the seashore. Although supported by numbers and programs, artificial life doesn’t cease to be human. It’s our brain trying to approach, to understand the admirable quality of natural artifacts. Inner landscapes suggested by microscopic photographs and nanotechnologies gave to my artist, maybe, the same surprise as the anatomic drawings gave to the 15th century’s artists. We see her imagination at work, and we can be transported with her inside her earthly waves, like we were invisible particles of dust.

Un saggio: L’anima verso cui andiamo è un paese di neve. …
Un saggio: … Un paese tagliato nell’acqua indurita dal gelo. L’acqua ci custodisce. Cosi i ghiacciai, gli occhi dilatati degli scomparsi.

Edmond Jabès

A wise man: The soul we go after is a country of snow. …
A wise man: … A country cut into the water hardened by cold. Water preserves us. So the glaciers, and the dilated eyes of the dead.

Yes, crystals are black in the valley of snow. They can’t forget they need to pause on the rocky surface of mountains, or the smoother layers of clay. Black is memory of their love joining them to the pebbles, of melting on the skin of an obstinate, stringent partner. Water and dirt are inseparable like day and night. Chemistry tells us that life springs from that wedding. We should unite our body to them, and remember in our cells what we are not able to know.


Giuliana Cuneaz, Chrystal Growth 2012, 3D animation Courtesy of the artist and Gagliardi e Domke Gallery, Torino

Giuliana Cuneaz at work


Edmond Jabès, Le livre des questions, Paris, Gallimard, 1963. Il libro delle interrogazioni, trad. it. di Chiara Rebellato, Casale Monferrato, Marietti, 1985

Paul Valéry, L’homme et la coquille, Paris, Gallimard, 1937

Albert Camus, Le mythe de Sisyphe, Paris, Gallimard, 1942

William Bryant Logan, DIRT, The Ecstatic Skin of the Earth, New York, The Berkley Publishing Group, 1995




By Rosanna Albertini

C H A R L E S  G A R A B E D I A N’s  paintings on paper at LA LOUVER

All our language is composed of brief, little dreams.*

Los Angeles, at the crossing of Venice Boulevard and Centinela the morning sky is so clear, so entirely blue that I forget signs and buildings and the few trees. As I stare at the yellow of the traffic light turning into green, I notice a flight of birds: sparrows? mocking birds? They are smaller than crows. The black bodies fly higher and higher in the sky drawing a big circle of joyful squawks. They move toward the right. My feet anchored at the bus stop, I see my mind following the birds as the Etruscan and Roman augures used to do: they said yes. My already made decision to write some notes about Charles Garabedian’s paintings and drawings I had seen the day before was approved by invisible gods.

A glimpse of gratitude followed, hard to explain: Garabedian’s art had moved my mind far away from opinions or reasonable thoughts. For a moment, I was free from obsessions about forecasts, directions, polls, rain or not rain, how many minutes the Uber car is from my feet. I was presently here and ancient, time did not exist.

Each instant falls at each instant into the imaginary, and we are hardly dead before we are off, with the speed of light, to join the centaurs and the angels.**

The sky joined the asphalt. These united elements In Garabedian’s paintings, human and inhuman, are utterly clean. Signs of history or artifacts have been wiped off. Images are painted on paper, big sheets of thin paper that shrinks and moves under the thickness and wetness of colors. Evocation of tragedies vibrates in mythological names: Electra, Cassandra, Antigone, Polynices, Prometheus. Yet these painted characters are the lightest one can imagine, they open their legs and arms in a silent flatness. Magnificent, absurd figures born without bones, with eyes lost in the night of time. No drama is there, no need of redemption.

CHARLES GARABEDIAN, Prometheus Chained, 2014 acrylic on canvas 56 x 75 inches (142.2 x 190.5 com) © Charles Garabedian Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice CA.

CHARLES GARABEDIAN, Prometheus Chained, 2014
acrylic on canvas 56 x 75 inches (142.2 x 190.5 com) © Charles Garabedian
Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice CA.

A chained Prometheus dances on the rocks turning his back to us. One would say he is a wizard titan who generates flames from his fingers, almost a joke. “What did you do with my most precious present? ― he mumbles ― bombs, global warming? When you realized that my fire brought you power, nothing else counted anymore, you cooked your soul. At least I’m devoted to my eagle that eats my liver every day. Because you hate your eagle, or consciousness, call her as you like, your liver won’t regenerate.” He keeps dancing on the top of the Caucasus. The very drama is our memory, imaginary blood congealed in words.

Artist Charles Garabedian doesn’t flinch from his own dream. His Antigone and Polynices leaves the genealogical tragedy out of the scene. Love circulates between the living figure of the woman and the dead young man on the ground, his long arms lying in abandonment as if death was no different than lovemaking exhaustion. Blood is red spread around his head. Sophocles’ story has been translated so many time over hundreds of years that it arrives to our days extremely worn out, with no details except the sweetness of gestures, a right hand hesitant towards a final stroke ―her nails are painted blue. At the same time each painted character seems to have escaped from a miniaturist’s sketch book, bringing us portraits of primary characters, completely contained in a graphic fantasy of absolute nakedness and natural feelings.

CHARLES GARABEDIAN, Antigone and Polynices 2014 acrylic on paper 51 x 48 1/4 inches (129.5 x 122.6 cm.) © Charles Garabedian Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice CA.

CHARLES GARABEDIAN, Antigone and Polynices 2014
acrylic on paper 51 x 48 1/4 inches (129.5 x 122.6 cm.) © Charles Garabedian
Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice CA.

Don’t confuse the story with the art. Garabedian dilutes human misery in colors and madness in gentle, benevolent scenes. Gods are pink. Mostly naked, of course. In our messy world threatened by control mistaken for intelligence, he brings us back to our senses.

Myths are the souls of our actions and our loves. We cannot act without moving toward phantoms . We can love only what we create.***

His drawings arise from the middle space between words, thoughts and visual symbols. Transfiguration produced by colors is missing. But charcoal is fragile, heated wood deprived of oxygen, it’s perfect to draw ghosts with the same matter as ashes. Cassandra (2014) and Supplicant I (2013) are two figures that I could count among the cells of my own body: they are part of me as of many other women, for sure. Cassandra is modestly self-contained; her gift of seeing into the future makes her rebuked, no one believes her, so much that her neck disappears, and her head sinks for protection between the collar bones, if at least she were a turtle! Her mouth is sealed forever.

CHARLES GARABEDIAN, Study for Cassandra, 2014 charcoal on paper 48 x 32 in. (121.9 x 81.3 cm) © Charles Garabedian. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA.

CHARLES GARABEDIAN, Study for Cassandra 2014
charcoal on paper  48 x 32 inches (121.9 x 81.3 cm.) © Charles Garabedian  Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice CA.

The Supplicant has also lost her voice, she is prisoner of a tower, or simply the house, that covers her like a protective and suffocating armor: as she bends her body toward the unknown space outdoors some bricks fall down, her feet start going but not yet. The artist has entered the tower of women’s condition, keeping their image self absorbed, aware of a destiny we could call impersonal. I believe I feel in my ears the final claim for compassion of a woman in Afghanistan while a group of men in a circle throw stones at her. She is in a hole in the middle of the human circle, the top of her head barely visible. A photo of the ‘ceremony’ was published two days ago in the New York Times. “please, stop, please don’t…” until silence pitied her.

CHARLES GARABEDIAN, Supplicant I, 2013 charcoal on paper 48 x 29 1/4 in. (121.9 x 74.3 cm) © Charles Garabedian. Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice, CA.

CHARLES GARABEDIAN, Supplicant I  2013
charcoal on paper  48 x 29 inches (121.9 x 74.3 cm.) © Charles Garabedian Courtesy of L.A. Louver, Venice CA.

Charles Garabedian knows about pain. His family escaped the Armenian genocide. He doesn’t complain, for himself or others. Physical or moral damage absorbed by bodies and landscapes are painted over, making his art a tapestry of patience, and a source of sympathy: the act of sharing pity and tenderness in stories told for centuries to lift the weight of knowledge, and continue to love.

* ** *** Paul Valéry, “A Fond Note on Myth” [1928] in The Outlook for Intelligence, Edited by Jackson Mathews, Bollingen Series XLV, 1962.


SHARON ELLIS: paintings from Yucca Valley (California)

All our language is composed of brief little dreams; and the wonderful thing is that we sometimes make of them strangely accurate and marvelously reasonable thoughts.”

FEATHERS IN MY MIND, by Rosanna Albertini

 When the language is visual, and painters make it personal, our visual habits are overturned, and thoughts themselves become imaginary feathers softening our brain from inside. Scared to see that each instant truly vanishes at the speed of light, we take refuge in a mythical country that we call time, or history. Then, strangely, we ask a painting to tell us what’s painted, as if images were more real than words.

A phantom sea,” says Sharon Ellis. Maybe she asked the Joshua trees to tell the story, they are so tormented and bristly that they looked old when were born, and perhaps are, or passed on the feeling of water all over the desert valleys from one forest to another. Oh, the painted water is soft. Her conversation with the moon and the stars is pure luminosity, a bright flower shaped by the petal-clouds. Wearing their perfect blackness, the trees look at the light in silence, stupefied guardians.

SHARON ELLIS, Phantom Sea, 2015, alkyd on paper, 11

SHARON ELLIS, Phantom Sea II, 2015, alkyd on paper, 11″ x 14″
Courtesy of the artist and Christopher Grimes Gallery

SHRON ELLIS, Phantom Sea, 2015   alkyd on paper, 11

SHRON ELLIS, Phantom Sea, 2015 alkyd on paper, 11″ x 14″
Courtesy of the artist and Christopher Grimes Gallery

Years ago I had a long walk on top of the mountains on the shoulders of Pisa, Italy, following narrow paths that a geologist friend of mine was tracking and naming for the first time. That’s why, on the map, one finds il sentiero Ho Chi Minh, and other memorable names from the time of the Vietnam War. Sausages in a bag were part of the scene, to avoid being attacked by wild boars. The geologist was Marco Tongiorgi, the son of a scientist whose name could shine in Sharon Ellis’ sky: Ezio Tongiorgi who dealt with chronology, climate, whale skeletons and human life in a small territory and invented techniques to measure their age. In Pisa I always heard he had discovered Carbon-14 radiation in organic dead materials, still a major dating reference. But I read in Wikipedia that Willard Libby from Chicago bears this honor, which led him to the Nobel Prize. Maybe they both did it separately, not knowing about each other. I’ll stay with the myth of Tongiorgi, because it radiates from my twenty years of life in Pisa.

“All history is made up of nothing but thoughts to which we attribute the essentially mythical value of representing what it was. Each instant falls at each instant into the imaginary.”

SHARON ELLIS, Aquatic Bouquet, 2015, alkyd on paper, 14

SHARON ELLIS, Aquatic Bouquet, 2015, alkyd on paper, 14″ x 11″
Courtesy of the artist and Christopher Grimes Gallery

The most vivid image coming to me after that walk, though, is a group of flat rocks whose surface was slightly wrinkled, as if horizontally shaped by a soft, repetitive bumping: “It’s the work of the waves,” I was told, “What you see is the still form of the waves .” I turned my eyes toward the invisible see shore. Ups and down of the hills, houses and the city itself disappeared under an undulated surface not unlike the one painted by Sharon. Her images are not a figment of imagination, they are her painted story of the beginning of time. Ancient Greek philosophers left us a few, fragmented words to isolate the physical essence of natural things. This artist of today has made each of the essences a visible motion: leaves and flowers of her Aquatic Bouquet are water herself; the shaped movements bloom in a frenzy of bubbles and filaments. The blinding power of the sun, instead, spreads a garden of comets, and white shadows: Sun Garden. And the blades of grass defy the celestial explosion for they come from the ground that makes them strong, flexible, and not obviously friendly.

“In the beginning was the Fable!” Which means that every origin, every dawn of the things is of the same substance as the songs and tales around a cradle…”

SHARON ELLIS, Sun Garden, 2015, alkyd on paper, 14

SHARON ELLIS, Sun Garden, 2015, alkyd on paper, 14″ x 11″
Courtesy of the artist and Christopher Grimes Gallery

PS. The three quotes are from PAUL VALERY, A Fond Note on Myth, 1928.