The Korea Times, “My encounter with Passi, Italian glass artist”, Seoul 2017

By Choe Chong-dae   Italian glassware art is very impressive and has a long history. Core-formed and cast glass vessels were first produced in the region of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia as early as the fifteenth century B.C. It began to be imported and, to a lesser extent, produced in what is now northern Italy around the mid-first millennium B.C. By the time of the Roman Republic (509-27 B.C.), glassware vessels were used as tableware or as containers for expensive oils, perfumes and wines, and commonly found in Etruria, modern Tuscany, and Magna Graecia, areas of southern Italy including modern Campania, Apulia, Calabria and Sicily. While glass making technology was gradually developing, blending Roman experience with skills learned from the Byzantine Empire (Eastern Roman Empire), and trade with the East, Venice emerged as a prominent glass-manufacturing center as early as the 8th century. Venice and the adjacent island of Murano became the heart of Italian glassmaking and glassware art. Glassmaking has been operating continuously there. It was one of the Renaissance’s most coveted treasures. The unique exhibition entitled “Reminiscence” by Lorenzo Passi, a prominent Italian glass artist, was held at the Gallery Ilsang, Mapo-ku, Seoul from July 10 through July 16. The exhibition was curated by Giovanna Maroccolo, an Italian art curator, and Lee Kyou-hong, a professor in the Graduate School of Design, Kookmin University. It was sponsored by the Italian Embassy and Italian Cultural Institute in Seoul. It features twelve recent handcrafted sculptures using glass and iron that reflect Passi’s exploration of the theme of the “Past and Memory.” The attendees including Marco della Seta, Ambassador of Italy to Korea were very fortunate to enjoy a detailed walk-through of the displays by the artist and curators at the opening ceremony of the exhibition. The exhibition was enhanced by the auditory ambience created in collaboration with Italian sound engineer Mario Marino. It was an extraordinary opportunity for viewers to imagine and reminiscence in the space of the gallery that was transformed into dream landscapes and memories of distant experiences in many different places. The exhibition evoked feelings within me of “Reminiscence.” These solid objects evoked the earliest, most primordial memories, the most ancient psychic archetypes, upon which our perceptions and thinking are based. Passi’s art led me to ponder the profound questions of human existence, the nature of our deepest anxieties, our fears and desires, freedom and bondage, memory and forgetfulness, reality and abstraction, wishes and dreams of happiness. After graduating from the Liceo Artisitico “Francesco Arcangeli” in Bologna, Lorenzo Passi (Milan, 1985) began working in glass art professionally. He moved to Venice and began working for the prestigious Murano art glass company as did Archhimede Seguso and Zanetti, learning and practicing the techniques for the manufacture of blown and solid glass. To enrich his professional career and technical experience, he ventured to Nuutajarvi in Finland in 2009, where he attended the Nuutaj√§rven Lasikoulu (Nuutajarvi Glass School). In 2011, the Finnish Glass Museum entered one of his pieces in its collections and displayed. Furthermore, Passi’s work was recognized by the Aldo Morelato Foundation in Italy and by the 2013 Cheongju International Craft Competition in Korea. Passi lives and works in Venice today. Passi’s art is a commentary on the transformations occurring in our time. He attempts to crystallize and memorialize our experience of urban life, finding metal objects around the peripheries of our cities that are developing speedily, from the long-enduring traditional past to the evanescent future, blowing glass into metallic forms. The precious craft and tradition of Italian glass art is embodied in Lorenzo Passi. His art significantly strengthens cultural exchange between Italy and Korea. Choe Chong-dae is a guest columnist of The Korea Times. He is president of Dae-kwang International Co. and director of the Korean-Swedish Association. He can be reached at choecd@naver.com.