I never would have thought that art objects could come from scrap metal!
(Gao Shifu, taxi driver)
In the rush of the urbanization process, which in one instant wipes an urban identity clean and then rebuilds it, Lorenzo has gathered objects from the immediate past and uses them to restrain glass, a liquid substance, within a sort of mold cast upon a fossil of collective memory.
His glass and scrap-metal sculptures come from the interaction between classical Murano art glass and a truly unique contemporary viewpoint. The objects we see here are part of everybody’s daily experience: a schoolyard gate, a bicycle seat, a placard from a factory, old tools: all of them become the depository of a deep-set but well-established remembrance, a Proustian memory one must recover with an intentional effort. From this retrieval of a shared recollection comes the creative act. Lorenzo’s art glass is a global, transnational experiment; it rises from the encounter of various topical elements, and reinterprets subjective reality in an artistic métissage which is, at the same time, a métissage of widely diverging cultures.
The interaction between sand (the basic element of glass), iron/steel, ancient and modern, Murano and the world, East and West take shape in these sculptures through a process of latter-day alchemy. Glass and metal: these two substances, the fusion of which is rendered a priori improbable by the very principles of physics, are technically difficult to shape together, as their molecules are considered to be incompatible. The meld of these two materials achieved here is astounding, as are the lines and color variations of the objects that arise from their encounter: beyond all traditional canonical aesthetics, what they convey is a search for freedom. Freedom for glass, as it tries to escape from the rigid confines of its metal cage; freedom for the artist, as he produces his work: like a traditional master of Chinese calligraphy, he stands firmly grounded within the boundaries of a well-established traditional knowledge, but concentrates on the instant of an endless present in order to leap forwards, towards the future.
And the encounter between a neglected, resilient, strong, and cold object such as iron or steel, and its fragile, warm, and fluid counterpart, cannot but call to mind the relationship between Yang and Yin that governs the relationship between the Ten Thousand Beings under the Sky.
Lorenzo’s enquiry on the Chinese world is an act of bravery, unfolding in the contemporary art scene like a new Silk Road; or rather, a Road of Glass.
What can we say about a young artist from Murano who ventures all the way to China to present his glass sculptures?
It would be even too easy to evoke the names of illustrious Venetian predecessors of many centuries ago.
But in Lorenzo is found a stubburnness that is both trustful of the world and transparent like his glass; and it is remote, so I believe, from a merchant’s dreams of riches. Only by this kind of attitude can one decide to follow one’s inclinations, come to Beijing to attend the opening of a friend’s art exhibition, as he himself has told us, then get roused over the interest for, and the knowledge of, glass techniques on the part of local artists, and decide to set up an Exhibition – both conceptually complex and technically very demanding – directly in China.
The next chapters in Lorenzo’s adventure, the slow train, one of those trains that have almost disappeared on the routes between China’s major cities, the workshops in Zibo, then the actual production of his glass-and-metal sculptures, often of respectable size and technically demanding, are very much a tale of challenging the impossible.
On the other hand, Sabrina Ardizzoni wrote in the present catalog that Lorenzo Passi’s adventure is a “dare-devil act of courage”. She has enriched our imagery on the Silk Route with a new evocative impression in imagining that Lorenzo has followed a “Glass Route” from his island to Beijing and Zibo.
The Glass Route – a fitting, well-chosen name that calls to mind a precious merchandise that came to Venice from the Mediterranean basin, and there got enriched and perfected in manufacturing techniques, until it set off for the East again, towards China. The Middle Kingdom gave us precious porcelain objects, on the secrets of which European savants and alchemists pored over until the dawn of the 18th century, but it wasn’t particularly well-versed in the art of glass-making.
Then, over the centuries, grew and mingled, even if Chinese porcelain retains a “soul” which belongs to it alone, while Venetian glass, on the other hand, retains a unique, irreplaceable “magic”.
Today, a young Venetian, driven by his enthusiasm, and supported by technical skills handed down through many generations and fruit of application and hard work, draws on the themes of an ancient dialogue, the one between the world of glass and that of porcelain, to which he introduces new and modern elements – iron, even in its daily manifestations, the rusty iron of industry.
He brings all of this to the attention of China’s artistic world, and of all individuals who are curious about art. Thus, he repeats the miracle of the fertile dialogue between our two cultures.
And for this I thank him.
Director – Italian Cultural Institute, Embassy of Italy, Beijing.
Oggi, un giovane veneziano, portato dal proprio entusiasmo e sostenuto da una perizia tecnica trasmessa da generazioni e frutto di applicazione e fatica, riprende i temi di un dialogo antico, tra il mondo del vetro e quello della porcellana, e inserisce elementi nuovi e moderni, il ferro nelle sue declinazioni anche di uso quotidiano, il ferro rugginoso dell’industria.
Porta tutto questo alla attenzione del mondo artistico cinese e di tutti i curiosi d’arte, ripetendo il miracolo del dialogo fecondo tra le nostre due culture.
E per questo lo ringrazio.
Direttore – Istituto Italiano di Cultura, Ambasciata d’Italia Pechino