Albisola Keramik Zentrum

Mauro Castellano

Up until last year, as far as I was concerned ceramics were Albissola/Albisola (to cite the orthographical inconsistency still around today). Just as for those who live in one of the cities of art (take those of Tuscany for example) and visit on a daily basis Piazza dei Priori, della Signoria or del Campo, for natives of Savona the neighbouring Albissola (in this case the double “s” is obligatory given that we’re talking about Albissola Marina) signifies the extraordinary “Artists’ Walk” (as Nicolò Paganini would have undoubtedly called it, paraphrasing his dedication to the Capricci) and the numerous finished fragments of works of art in ceramics you find along the way like the incredibly rare examples of Futurist architecture.
“Is your past perhaps reproaching you?” sings the baritone Germont, the father of Violetta Valery in La Traviata. In fact, these ceramic monuments, in which the Albisolas are rich, remain monuments. I began to understand things a little better thanks to a friend, Leonardo Gensini a ceramicist but above all a musician, with whom I attended the Fiesole School of Music. I am a pianist; that is to say, I play a percussion instrument; I particularly love the piano when it is used to play chords that simulate the resonance of bells. I have recently seen stunning new cymbals and percussion instruments created on Leonardo’s wheel that, struck and left to vibrate, release wonderful resonances into the air (we should never forget that air is the fundamental “musical instrument” without which sound wouldn’t exist). These ceramic sounds had colours — a musician frequently sees colours in sounds — similar to the “bells over the calm lake of memories” (De Pisis), memories that for me are the bells of Venice, similar to my research into piano resonances. Materials are important. A great Italian pianist, Pietro Scarpini, now forgotten because he was extraneous to the star system, insisted on the fact that the piano is an object composed of woods and metals (and many other materials, even graphite) and thus produces a particular kind of vibration. In the work of Leonardo Gensini, the ceramic resonating instruments feature musical markings that, like true musical scores, prescribe their use, just as bells are decorated albeit in this case to dedicate their bronze voices to God. My musical piano materials of chords and resonance will superimpose themselves in counterpoint (a long-established musical practice) over the ceramic pictographs: in my case I shall adopt only Indian ink on paper. The Savona School of Music made a fundamental contribution to the “concerted” complexity of this project both logistically by housing the rehearsals and because a number of students participated in its execution.
Another musician, Nicola Cisternino has used ceramics to create musical scores with features never previously experimented in these contexts and of which I shall be the piano interpreter, while the brief post-script by Trisha Donnelly has transformed my piano performance of a posthumous prelude by Rachmaninoff through the use of ceramic materials.

Text published in the catalogue of the 2nd Biennial of Ceramics in Contemporary Art, Attese, Albisola (Italy), 2003.

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