Two or three things I feel I can say
Guido De Zan
I have always thought of art as the possibility of expressing oneself through the one’s own labor. As the construction of something that might remain to bear witness to the way I see the world. Constructing was what my father did, as a builder of houses. When I was a child, it was very fascinating to see something that sprang from under the ground, from the earth, and rose into space. To see these men who were digging – back then there were not so many of the machines that now replace much of human labor – and then placed brick upon brick, erecting the house until they reached the roof, was like watching a miracle. I think the origin of my desire to make things with my hands came from those worksite visits as a boy, which later, as a youth, were transformed into work during vacations from school.
Another figure in the family who influenced me on a creative level was an uncle who was a painter. To see him trace figures or a landscape on a white canvas, and then fill it in with colors to achieve a realistic image, was very captivating. I think I have inherited a lot from both of them. Above all, the passion for work. My father was rational, severe, but with a great passion for his work, which he did with a great sense of responsibility. My uncle was viewed by the relatives as the black sheep of the family, who fed on major passions like the mountains, photography and painting, and had trouble finding his own space in the world. They are both close to me, and dear to me.
At times my ceramics tend to have a rational form, similar to architectural structures. Then I think about the influence of my father. In other cases, they represent human beings and landscapes in figurative or abstract form. Then I think about the paintings of my uncle Arrigo. Maybe the more or less unconscious attempt to imitate them has led me to use clay to construct solid, functional forms that last in time, as the buildings of my father, and to use papers and colors to make graphic works, like my uncle.
These two people gave the initial imprint to my personality, which then evolved thanks to the ceramists and artists I have met over the years. The transmission of technical and expressive knowledge in the crafts and art in general helps us to grow, to improve, and to pass on to others what we have received from those who came before us.
My works reflect a leaning towards lightness, and the pursuit of a stable balance. Due to the materials that go into pottery, lightness is not easy to achieve. What I try to do is to transmit a sensation of lightness to those who observe my work. For my ceramics I use pale clays, like porcelain and a compound of stoneware mixed with porcelain. If they are left without glazing on the outside, they convey the impression of being something other than ceramics. I also tend to keep the walls as thin as possible. Porcelain, when it is crafted in such thin pieces, reaches the point of resembling parchment, while stoneware – though it is thicker – can seem like cardboard. The signs that decorate the pots are also made of slender lines, which by crossing and becoming more dense in certain parts give the impression of chiaro-scuro, of shadows-lights typical of drawings on paper or prints made from engravings.
Another impression of lightness is due to the particular form of my ceramics, above all of the vases that have elliptical bases, and therefore seem to be without thickness, two-dimensional. The disorientation some people feel when looking at these forms brings me the satisfaction of having achieved the result I had in mind: to ‘lighten’ matter. On the other hand, I feel close to the sensation of precarious balance my double-face forms often transmit – composed of a front and a back, like anthropomorphic shapes, tending to lengthen in space – because their precariousness is also mine, it has always been a part of my personality. In any case, those forms and I occupy our space on the earth in the company of many others, whether they are human beings or objects.
Recently I received a commission to make a series of vases for the interiors of a ship. At first I thought they did not seem very suitable for travel on the high seas. But then I thought the decorators must have a way to protect them in mind, so I now can imagine them fearlessly riding the waves.