Dear Delphine,

Looking back, three clear mental pictures of the two of us come back to mind. The first one in Bologna. Interior/Night. A small cheap hotel downtown. It is the night before the opening of “Artefiera” in 2005; my first experience as a gallerist in Bologna, and you with me in the role of my assistant.

Between checking the price list, and a comment on our new hairstyles made by a mediocre but expensive hairdresser, we start making daring speeches on major issues. The adrenaline runs as high as the anxiety for our upcoming presentation.

The second mental picture is in Rome. In my home terrace. Exterior/Sunset. It’s one of those days of mid-May, as they were in the past : warm, with a taste of the coming summer, the air filled with the smell of jasmine which pervades Roman terraces. The sky is blemish-pink and seagulls flutter around above us.

The third picture of us is strong and tender at the same time. Orte. Interior/Day. Winter. We are in the countryside in November with Alfredo, Paolo, Alessio, India – your strong hand resting on my big belly- I am seven months pregnant. I am mourning while generating two lives.

I left you while you were taking the first steps in the world of art, writing, drawing, making photographs, small sculptures… I find you now, after seven years during which we totally lost sight of each other, with the same intensity as before, as ever. Your work is moving, it fascinates and intimidates me, to be honest. I use this strong term because I think it takes great courage to venture out and work with sculptures. This feeling in me is provoked, I suspect, by what lies behind, aside and beyond your work: I sense a bridge that you unconsciously threw between the visible and the invisible dimensions, and trying to establish with every one of your pieces a personal dialogue with the mysterious world that surrounds us, protecting us, but which we do not have the instruments to decrypt, being human beings with limited skills, except in rare moments of interior tranquillity. In that sense your research is absolutely rigorous, and becomes evident in all those instances – and knowing you there are many of those – in which with child-like poetic enthusiasm you have the capacity to be amazed by a small detail, like a street that had seen many times before but re-discover: that capacity you have to transform the banality of routine into a magic, unique moment of pure delight and joy.

Trying to follow a common thread in all your work, a short sentence written on a piece of paper during my first pregnancy, which coincided to a period of personal mourning, comes to mind: “The sweet presence of the absence”, but in your case I would say: “the presence of the absence” tout court. Through your work it seems that you re-claim possession of everything that lies beyond what is Visible, underlying through sculpture, as you say yourself, the quality of emptiness, adding thus value to emptiness and the invisible, meant as values of space, at least as much as concrete presence and visibility.

With stubbornness, and extreme delicacy, you claim possession of a space redefining its boundaries, and suggesting to your audience how misleading perception can be. With the photograph of our “Aurelian wall” you have immortalized time, your Master of form. Powerful, reaching to the sky, they reveal forms in the form deeply rooted in space. Through your drawings, an autonomous body which is not only a reference for other artworks, you investigate the outer space carefully balancing out the colour surfaces to reveal their hidden side. With the coated plates you fill the space without ever oppressing it, leaving a place for other visual perceptions. With the moulds, made with the iron square ruler, you invite us all to sharpen our visual perception in order to welcome in the global vision of the object the apparently invisible part defined by the shadow as well. With the elastic rope installation you immerse us the physical usability of the sculpture inviting us to carefully observe where the shape multiplies itself by means of the shadow. With the drawings on glass plates finally, you introduce a new language, between painting and writing, encouraging us to savour the various facets of perspective.

We meet again now, after seven years, and between vibrations and interest, I quote a little sentence you say all the time: It’s incredible. Absolutely!

Who would have thought even a few months ago that we would meet again to share this new adventure!


Rome, May 4, 2014

Dear Betta,

When we first met I didn’t know how to get on with things and get started, I was fresh out of the Academy and was feeling perplexed.

I remember your mobility; if I try to visualize your face for instance, it appears mostly in movement, blurred, your head of hair in the light.

At the time, you had a gallery in 9, Via della Vetrina and were looking for an assistant.

In the midst of trying to find myself, I was riddled with doubt and uncertainty, and thought that since the art world was so difficult to penetrate, I might as well just observe it from the outside, the contemporary art world seemed as an alive continent, after all.

Even as a young gallerist I remember you were always in constant movement. There was a dynamism in your way of being that made me curious, and encouraged me to pursue my dreams.

Last fall you dropped by at my studio to see my work after years being we had been apart: almost ten years since we last worked together.

I remember the dervish we saw the other night, and how he moved in perpetual circles for hours to tell about, and uncover, old mysteries. I think that the presence of people can be described in the same way by a series of convolutions surrounding us. We are united by the profound mystery of our lives, and its deep sense of substance.

You have offered me to participate to a collective exhibition with India Evans and a third artist, and you were thinking about a show on violence. I had no idea how I could fit in, but you immediately solved the problem thinking of a solo exhibit of mine, and one of India, and of the art pieces of her father John Evans as well.

From that moment on we started working on different aspects of the show. You with your itinerant show, which suits your free nature so well, me in this individual exhibit which became larger when Marialda suggested we use her 200sq mt apartment, located so close where I used to live in Rome.

In this case too, I go back to places of my Roman past, I see the same rotational movement, and consider I went full circle.

Often I think it would be about time I started getting serious about things.

Generally, when I think about serious things, I find out that serious things are not necessarily serious in themselves, but are only considered serious by others. Serious things are the things we don’t feel like doing, but we do them in order not to feel lonely, and to be able to join the big family of those who do “serious things”.

So in that sense, art is not a “serious thing”. In reality I have the feeling that making art is a serious as playing at being cowboys and Indians, or hide and seek, when you are a seven years old child.

When we are children, we play at being detectives, salesmen, Formula 1 pilots, or airplane pilots, but we never play at being an artist, at least I never did.

So as an adult, I seriously started playing at being an artist with the same commitment I used as a child a t playing Invisible Man or Seven Clocks.

And I think that this way of doing things catalyses around you, in a mirror-like manner,  a certain kind of people whose destiny crosses mine, as it has happened with you.

We continue together, in a warm and fertile association, implementing our respective intents with the sensation of obtaining something substantial which is inherent to one’s life.

Why work if it wasn’t for that end?

You came back into my life last year, after the death of both my parents. Sometimes, you called me to ask how I was doing and if I was working on our project. I replied I was crying, and I had done everything wrong. Your voice on the other side of the line was warm and firm, confident in the certainty we have the strength to endure absolutely everything that life hands out to us. In fact, as I held to that thin thread, I knew I was finding my way back home.

I am happy that you are part of this journey.


Rome May 8, 2014

Some considerations on my work

A sculpture is often considered as an object, it is observed and appreciated in the same way as an image is. As far as I am concerned on the other hand, it underlines the quality of the void relating to it through a visible geometry. Absence and invisibility are values of the space as much as presence and visibility.

 The irregular geometry of either a solid or a surface (also of a virtual solid since the eye translates a number of lines in a volume) renders a perception only based on the eye unstable, underlining its precarious nature. In some cases, the drawing of shadows participates in the instability of perception.

The dynamics deriving from the relation between what is visible and the invisible are at the heart of my work.

The use of cheap, industrial materials, underlines that the object – the sculpture – is not at the heart of the matter, but the relation which originates from its permeation with space is.

Sculpture becomes the catalyst of vision, making it possible. We could metaphorically use the image of the flame which shows the presence of the otherwise invisible oxygen.

It is a bit like disobeying to pre-determined space and material limits to suggest an individual vision which confronts the void.

When I draw, I try to set, through transient forms that may appear impossible, possible perceptive experiences. The limit of the image is that it determines a form, I don’t want to determine a form, I want to share the experience in which perception wavers, together with certainties that go with it.

Delphine Valli