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Gabriella Goffi: work of my hands  
Nadia Scardeoni (english translation by Jane Toby)
ISSN 1127-4883     BTA - Telematic Bulletin of Art, January 16th 1999, n. 155
Artists Area

My meeting with the objects, whit their concrete matter, volume and dimension has not been casual to me. Forever known, they are part of my memory and today they allow me to give shape to my pressuring imaginary. The iron provokes owe and fear in me. In a special way I am struck by the particular shape of certain old scrap-iron, pieces of junk, part of things that do not exist any longer and that have lost their original usefulness. However, thy hid unexplored possibilities !
My pleasure is in looking at them with new eyes and to find for them and for me a new existence. The moment of discovery is rich of deep listening, of passivity and intense search at the same time. The aim is to reach a combination that unites them, keeping the original shape and material.
To put them together, satisfies my need to put order. This is a woman need, to look at each small reality (always in disorder) that needs to be re-ordered. I do not feel the need to rebuild the world, I am rich, I just transform an existing reality. The cloth material sends back more complex images ! It requires a long time of sewing; here, there is the pleasure of patient work, the repetition of stitching and the fascination of colors.
The new characters are born very slowly as if I had to brood them.
At times nothing is born !
It is all right like that ... it is all right that not everything comes to completion! At times, the solution comes much latter, and where I would never imagine it could be. There is the unforeseen, the unplanned, the possibility, and the choice. To look in myself and outside myself, inside and outside.
It is a game, a struggle I know! It is that kind of doing that calls for my attention and that belongs to me. There are women and knights, characters that come and go. After all they are all figures that lie in wait.
And why do they have those eyes that make them so alive? For sure each sculpture I first feel it with my "inner eye" before I touch it with my hands. This allows me to dare the meeting between my inner and outer reality. It satisfies a thought that speaks of freedom. A thought that I allows to tell its own story.

Gabriella Goffi

My first encounter with the works of Gabriella Goffi will remain, as I lived it, a gem set in the fabric of experience that, owing to the sensation of awe, the unexpected wonder that enchants the mind and the heartís delight within joyous discovery, compels us to an immediate hug -- almost as if separation, leave-taking, would mean a grave loss of ourselves.
It does not have to do with a tangle of emotions.
I believe that Gabriella Goffi constructs for herself and for us, an extraordinary journey within the most painful metaphor of existence: the absence of love.
From the mutilation of familial warmth to the loss of her identity and capacity to know herself. The loss of herself like a precipice within human history, until she reaches a spring issuing from rocky crevices, and begins again to spell out a superbly essential language, evoked and refound - we are granted to understand - within a new relationship of love.
Bodies of a naked and proud sacredness, impossible to corrupt because of their total foreigness to the details of the quotidian and of the present day, sewn from archetypes of existence, mute and eloquent, they look at each other and watch us while they narrate with their simple primer of recuperated wood, ribbons and nails, an incredible most precious history that, once again, stretches the limits of our hope.
Gabriella Goffi, you can make us believe, finally, that enough for us to meet it, we must stay still. And then embark with faith upon a new path.

Through a path in the forest, in a comfortable corner,
an elastic and neat spiderís thread,
sprinkled with solar happiness and shadow,
is suspended in the skies; and with an imperceptible quiver
the wind makes it vibrate, attempting in vain to tear it down;
the thread is strong, light, diaphonous and simple.
The living cavity of the skies is cut
out of a radiant line, out of a policrome rope.

We are accustomed to esteem only that which is confusing.
WIth false passion in tangled knots
we search for subtleties, holding impossible
the uniting of simplicity and grandour in the soul.
But complex things are paltry, rough and dull;
and a light spirit is simple like this thread."

(Z. Gippius)

Interview to Gabriella Goffi
by Nadia Scardeoni

Gabriella, if you could look over your life again and remake an ideal route to retrace the signs, the premises of your work today, thinking of your hands as instruments that liberate a language, what would you find ?

If I were to think about my childhood: it was very solitary....
I felt fine alone..... I was self-sufficient and played with everything.....with buttons, with trees.
Now I spoke with trees, now I was silent.
There was a time when I studied poetry, in a book we had at home and I spent hours learning poetry by heart.
I learned poetry and I was happy.
When I think of my childhood, I remember this pleasure of being alone.

Why alone? Didnít you have brothers, friends ? Did you live by yourself..... ?

I stayed by myself. Mine was a numerous family.
I had brothers and sisters but I also felt fine alone, watching the others.
It was as if I were always at the window.

Brothers, sisters ?

There were two sisters and a brother before me ...... and a brother after
When I was little, my older sister was very ill. Then she died ... I was eight and she was fifteen.
She had always been ill but I had never understood. Now, as an adult, I understand that the grownups wanted to protect me by not telling me. She would appear and disappear because of her heart disease. And one day, she vanished totally. Two years later, my other sister decided to become a nun. They were very important to me.....I began my adolescence and they werenít there anymore.
They were everything to me. I admired them, I adored them. I had a difficult adolesence, very difficult. Then, when I was nineteen years old, another person passed away: my mother.
She died from an electric shock. It was a violent blow.
When I was twenty years old, the women in my house had all passed away and my sadness and discomfort were so great that I disappeared too. After they passed away, I wasnít anyone anymore. My identity went away with them.
My hands ?
I always used my hands alot. We were poor and I used to play with everything. I used to write alot, I kept diaries, I copied over poetry. I was very attached to poems because "they" gave me images that, otherwise, I didnít see.
One, in particular, I repeated like a prayer: "The gleaner of Sapri: They were three hundred, they were young and strong and they died....." I saw them.....
A long time passed before I discovered that I could do more with my hands. Many years. I rambled around till I was thirty. Then I married a man who was an artist.
He was an artist, not I. Before then, my hands had worked and that was all. I am the daughter of peasants, I believe that real art in my house wasnít..... The possibility for me to learn didnít exist.... I even loved alot..........
My mother taught me to sew. I was a woman, and so I had to learn to sew. If I think back to my hands at that age, they were hands that had to sew and make useful things. There was one thing that she always used to repeat to me: "When we die and go to Heaven, Saint Peter will look at our hands and he will say: these hands have worked, these hands have not worked." This thing remained deep inside me: my hands must demonstrate that they had worked. It isnít that she repeated this continuously to me, maybe she said it to me only once.

Your sister, who died so young ? ......

Being ill, she couldnít do anything else but write or draw and so, she used to write and draw. These things made her stronger as they were the only things she could do. She was very deep and she used to write poetry, she also used to draw and write... musical pieces.
I was very close to her, I do not have precise memories but it seems that I ....absorbed her.
She was a mirror for me
I really adored this sister. She was so beautiful. But maybe now I understand that she was so white because she was sick: I found her so beautiful with those white hands of hers. She seemed like a Goddess ...........
Probably it was next to her that I felt all these stimuli, without realizing it.
I imagine myself as a passive child who looks and listens.
A child who doesnít make noise but absorbs. I was like this: "a child who doesnít make noise but absorbs."
I remember only useful things connected with my hands.
My hands for working.

Do you remember the first time that you changed the destination of an object ?

Yes, a very simple object. Part of a door from my old house when I was little. I liked this object very much but I was about to throw it away. Then, instead, I took it, planted nails into it, a lock, ribbons. I was old, almost thirty. I felt that it was tied to me, that it was something too important and I couldnít throw it away.
But I didnít know what I was doing....... Even now: I do things without knowing why I do them. I donít understand when Iím doing it, I understand afterwards ...........
I understand now: five nails equal five siblings, I read my history there..... I always need to know, at the end, why I have made the thing: five nails with five ribbons that bind them together. The lock that divides the nails, two to the left ( my parents ? )
On top there was tied a small stick that moved a sun. The first time that I sewed, I made two enormous eyes and afterwards I called it: "the vain owl" and I filled it with ribbons.
It was a very strong need.
I never thought of becoming an artist, this was very far away from me.
Then I became aware of having this possibility, even beside my husband.
During all this time, I never stopped loving poetry. When all these images came to me, I thought: "What can I do ? "
It was through poetry that I arrived here. I had so many images that were coming to my mind and then I asked myself: "What do I know how to do ? "I learned how to cook, I only know how to put together that which exists, I only know how to cook."
So I did what I could do.
I thought of sewing and putting together what exists.
This is a well known fact: "I even sew with objects ..., I sew and bind
I bind things together with a knitting needle.."
I need to put things together.

As if they were the people you have lost ?

Maybe so; they are bodies.
At first they were bodies without arms and then, little bylittle, I also felt the need to put arms on them...........and then, also hands.
While, at first, I had no desire to put on arms and hands.

These bodies without arms are women in your life that donít exist anymore ? The three women who couldnít hug you anymore, who couldnít cuddle you when you needed them ?

They are surely a sign of the lack of love that I underwent. And also of my impotence. This thing of building made me come out of my impotence.
It brought me a desire of tremendous force.
Before, I wasnít able to say what I was feeling. I didnít know how to tell it.
Now I know how to speak.


This object,
an old tailorís ironing board found in a little market, is part of a desire I had: two things that had to join in symbiosis, a desire to be in symbiosis, to be connected. A desire to connect all my parts.
The pendulum is like love that vibrates, it is connection, it is the heart that moves: love moves, it can move the fixity of these images and keep them connected. The two bodies arenít opposite, usually one doesnít hug like this. I expressed the desire to let go, to give freedom to love.

Living Within
This was not an easy "birth". It is a piece of brass that I folded.
I wanted there to be a caved body that receives.
It was a desire for power, a wish to risk, to have possibility, to be able to speak.
My desire for power is not for violence or abuse; it is the desire to express my inner energy without censure.
"She" has this child within herself. It was difficul for me to understand what she had inside.
I found this wood in the attic, it was my parentís, so it was a thing that belonged to me, a very "strong" thing.
At first I wanted to put a weight in the cavity, then I understood that I could "create" a child.
It could be a mother with her daughter, but I didnít think of that.
It could be a woman with her young girl within.
This energy could be the young girl, always alive, with all her potentiality
for expression because she still has her whole life ahead of her.
The baby girl is the beginning, something new, curiosity and capacity to change oneself, to renew. The baby girl is even restless, she is living and growing and she is always going ahead: she is an energy that wants to be heard, that cannot be silenced.

Love seat
It was a game within my desire for symbiosis: they are two people who are looking at each other, they are identical, one is reflected in the other.

Light spirit
This is always the child who plays, the happy child. It is also a very old child: the head is ancient, it is a "woman", old with sorrow, thwarted, pricked with pain. It isnít the lightness of the irresponsible child, it is the lightness of the child who has undergone violence within her head, but she is still living.

Border watch
I built it thinking about death. At one time I always used to build warriors, I was very attracted by images of warriors.
...."They were three hundred, they were young and strong and they are dead"....? Maybe....
Itís like this. I wanted to make a shield for him but it is symbolic. It is a "feminine" shield, made of nets; it is fragile, it doesnít protect.
Maybe this waririor is a warrior and maybe he is not.
Even his sex is a little ambiguous. I always need to give them a sexual identity because they are people.

Being 1996
I wanted to create very wide arms many hugs. He was born after a long interruption, after a long period when I thought: "maybe I will never make anything anymore."
There was a long silence and it was interrupted like this with this large "hug".

It is fragile with this caved body but it is also light and perhaps its lightness is also its force, its energy. Therefore it can move, it knows how to go. It is a wish I want to make, that it wants me to make: go half-way.

Attempt to fly
Very high, it has very small arms, it doesnít have hands yet. It is an attempt to rise, to leave the earth........We are not ready yet.

What is your last sculpture?

The last sculpture that I made was the warrior tied to my thoughts of death.
The warrior doesnít have a precise identity. Maybe it records, through the delicate sensitivity of Gabriella Goffi, the moment we are living, the change of roles, the philosophic and historic transition from identities defined through ideological constructions that have kept us distanced from life to a lively and incandescent subject that, without appeal, asks us to recover our own form. It is life that invokes the liberation of her original plan.
Through suffering, sacrifice, contrasts, contradictions that by themselves keep movement, grandour and splendour. Her work makes vain rigid categories that mock the primacy of sentiments with phantasmagoric conceptual constructions.
All of her sculptures record this interior dynamism: they depart from a place of memory, a place of life in order to land in another that is only apparently its opposite. It is research interwoven with fibres of the body and spirit, expressed with an authenticity that eludes any cerebral pose of self-definition or self-gratification.
Gabriella Goffi lives her sulpture in her being and her sculpture restores intact to us the secrets of her humble existence. The deaths, from abandonment, that accompanied her childhood, sublimated within the energy of a huge hug, shatter the gravestones that life has imposed on her, force her to rise. And she gets ready for the flight, towards a destination that is already delineated beyond the limit and code of banality, beyond the huge folly of contempory pride.


fig. 1
The warrior

fig. 2

fig. 3



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