Designer Piero Fornasetti
Was a Milanese painter, sculptor, interior decorator, engraver of art books, organiser of international exhibitions, and creator of over eleven thousand objects and of stage sets and costumes. Generally recognised as the most typical representative of the surviving art of decoration, he was defined by Gio Ponti as "a genuine Italian", given the nature of his works, fully in line with the celebrated Italian tradition. From tiny buttons to pieces of furniture, from the interior of transatlantic ships to exceptional exhibitions, during his lifetime this unusual promoter of excellent workmanship developed a fantastic parallel world. Over time, Fornasetti renovated shapes and decorations without ever following the trends, but rather forestalling them. Or better still, creating an unmistakable style which ensures his creations will continue to amaze for their extraordinary visual language. His creations span across all fields: fabrics and fashion, glassware and metals, lacquers and porcelain, theatre and great exhibitions. His works may be found in many collections, in Italy and worldwide.
Barnaba, Piero's son, is the guardian of his father's inheritance. Delving with expert tenacity and passion into the precious Fornasetti Archive, he re-edits Piero's most significant items, and reinvents others, in line with the artisan tradition inaugurated by his father. Thus, Fornasetti's extraordinary visual language never ceases to amaze, becoming more powerful and full of life than ever before.
This small but significant collection of twelve tiles - fragments of Fornasetti's universe of decoration – has been put together and presented by Barnaba, the artist's inspired son. Optical illusions, elements of classical art, columns and capitals, the sun and the moon, a flying hot air balloon, a red chequered cat, a fiery mouth ... And then, the imperturbable and ever-present female face returns to question us with her wide gazing eyes. If the imagination is truly the queen of all faculties, then nothing can be truer than that which is fictitious.
Rare and ancient books, both open and closed, rest on simple shelves of untreated wood. At times they are placed one above the other, in a precarious balance. At others, they judiciously display their elegant leather covers and perfect bindings, sewn with silk thread, as you would a sophisticated item of evening dress. Noblesse oblige. And now we are tempted to scroll through their titles, sometimes barely legible, as one is instinctively inclined to do before a real library, in order to get an idea of the interests, the passions, the tastes, the inner world of the home owner. There's simply no cure for curiosity.
Fun and humour feature even in the name, almost becoming an oxymoron. They appear in every corner and every element of this timeless calendar, designed by a "20th century Renaissance artist." Twelve months flow by, and inspiration is never eclipsed, in the alternation of images in which the world of nature prevails in all its splendour, and a mischievous sun acts as its accomplice, lending itself to imaginative transformations and playful disguises, finally allowing itself to be placed behind a comet, thus deservedly honouring the last and most festive of months.
Hot air balloons, solitary, in pairs and in clusters. Airships, with no flight or landing plan. Sailing Ships, ready to take flight on the waves, and sail towards the stars. There is no need to fasten one's seatbelt with a flight of fancy. Or to open a private museum in the air, in one's home. In his father's house, the young Piero had frescoed his bedroom with trompe-l'oeil motifs, even then reserving a place of honour, on the ceiling plaster, for his very first flying machines. Still today, with their innate lightness, they defy the laws of gravity and of daily life.
"I feel the need to do things, and I do them. I try to do them as best I can. What has inspired me to create over 500 variations on the theme of the female face? I don't know." Perhaps we should ask the enigmatic portrait herself, first stumbled on by change in a 19th century magazine, giving the cue for one of the most spectacular developments a theme has ever known. Whether or not we find our answer, the mute dialogue created with this timeless grace is worth a thousand words.
Time to turn over a new leaf? The author's self-confessed passion for the printed word is transformed into yet another beautiful game. Newspaper sheets paper the walls, or become the very flooring, sometimes in actual fact covered with such sheets for protection. Multicoloured butterflies rest on a sea of characters, irresistibly attracted by the perfume of lead and ink. Printing works, populated by swarms of compositors donning black aprons, emerge in a nostalgic flashback, which cannot fail to affect even those nervously awaiting the next breaking news story on their mobile phones.