Alice Zanin | Focus

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Zanin Alice


Zanin Alice, Hippocampus Minor, 2022, bronzo patinato, acciaio, plexiglass, 103x30ø cm, Ed. 9 � Es 3:9

Alice Zanin is creator of refined sculptures, characterized by great essentiality and lightness. But she is also an artist with a lively soul, a colorful personality capable of giving to her sculptures a great expressive power and creating games of colors and dimensions. The love for papier-mâché was born by chance, after sperimenting with  terracotta, she has been fascinated by the sculptural and installation possibilities of this medium that contemporary art has strongly used.


Next to the seahorses – one of her most beloved subjects – there will be boa dragonfishes and sea snails with soft movements, but also the spotted rays or surgeonfish. A colorful aquarium whose final effect is still of extreme visual elegance, as elegant are the ethereal bodies of all those floating creatures.

There are two types of papier-mâché: Papier-Mâché (chewed, pounded paper) and Papier-Collé (glued paper). The latter in particular is the technique used by the artist and it consists on the fact that the paper is not chopped and reunited, but it is overlapped in sheets, alternating with each other by thin layers of glue.

Each work starts from a sketch, which is two-dimensional, with accentuated visual astigmatism – says the artist. The volumes are then made by paper and finally in the exterior, like a mosaic, a piece of paper at a time is juxtaposed to create a surface with a thousand colors, sometimes reflecting what is the realism of the animal, other times revealing a personal fairytale imaginary. 

In each sculpture we find a lightness that is as material and visual as it is poetic. Zanin creates real animals but then she transforms them into fairytale visions for us. With their slender silhouettes these creatures seem to come out of the natural world we know to give life and animate a dreamy dimension. With their invisible trajectories they suspend the time of the space they inhabit. The limbs extended, as if movement itself was inherent in their bodies. We perceive them so magnificent, now, and yet so fragile in front of us. Despite being motionless, these sculptures are able to trigger wonder, reflection and nostalgia within the viewer’s soul.

Zanin Alice, Weedy, 2022, cartapesta, voile, filo, resina, acrilico, plexiglass, 52,1x20,7x5,6 cm (part)

This is because Alice Zanin is also a shrewd artist. Elegance is certainly one of the predominant characteristics of her works but we cannot forget the great irony and acuity of these creations. Zanin is able to play calmly with the viewer, generating in front of him very subtle short circuits – to the limit of nonsense – thought to appear slowly to the sight and therefore even more significant.

Zanin Alice, Penguin Colony takes Implants for Ice Packs, 2017, cartapesta, resina, vetro, vasca d'acquario di riciclo, acciaio, protesi mammarie in silicone, 69x130x67 cm

«The penguins look vaguely perplexed. Placed in a semicircle around the large display case like believers in front of an altar, they stretch their necks to spy on its contents: two silicone breast implants» – clearly describes the art curator Redaelli, in the critical text that accompanies the exhibition. Here’s what Zanin puts in front of us, we see it clearly. However, «the nonsense on which this installation is base has a bitter aftertaste.»

The elegance and swaying bearing of penguins, creatures that usually raise tenderness in the viewer – just think of the documentaries that tell us about them as funny and somewhat clumsy animals – soon reveal a deep oxymoron, which the title of the work strongly affirms: “Penguin colony takes implants for ice packs”. 

These creatures are looking for ice.

Doubt instills into us: here it is, the short circuit. The simplicity and verisimilitude of these creatures suddenly leave path to an artificial aspect. Only at this moment we understand the contradiction of what we have in front of us, only now we understand how the harmony that every man feels when he is in front to nature – the same wonder that is initially felt in front of Zanin’s works – is actually a delicate balance, often only imagined, and how just a gesture can destroy it. 

«The anxiety with which the penguins observe those unknown objects hoping to be able to find some ice (albeit dry) brings us back to the water alarm and to that warning towards the protection of the planet that we can never forget: from the morning when we brush our teeth to the evening, when we load the dishwasher.» writes the art curator.

It is an urgent message that Zanin does not shout at us violently and as an accusation but on the contrary manages to elegantly insinuate into our thoughts, contaminating them, convincing them, making them resonate in unison with these works

Zanin Alice, Gala+Dalí, 2022, acquaforte su carta Fabriano 225 g, plexiglass, 19,5x13,7x3,5 + 19,5x13,7x3,5 cm, Ed. 30 � Es 1:30

With Zanin we make an exploration into the abyss that forces us from time to time to resurface and to come to terms with reality (and with our conscience), when we see the animals under display case, suddenly helpless, frozen in their beauty, carefully chosen to appear fantastic creatures, to instill doubt about their existence but also about the legitimacy of this act of canning to which we often condemn them first in our homes. 

What the artist engages with the viewer is a refined challenge.

Of these works and of the theme of the contrast between man and nature, which like an echo always remains in the background, despite the undoubted introspection to which we are called, we are not (narcissistically speaking) the protagonists. It is always grace that wins in Alice Zanin’s work. Nature wins, these creatures win, celebrated and magnified here, a gift that the artist gives to our sight.

It is therefore not surprising to discover that in these sculptures there is an iron soul, which allows them not to break down and to soar almost completely free from brakes, protecting them from us, physically and ideally.

An excellent metaphor to describe the emotional duplicity of the encounter with these papier-mâché animals and to tell once again the personality of this artist, able to experiment, although remaining highly recognizable.

Here, therefore, that even in the etchings on display, while returning to two-dimensionality, Zanin does not betray her lively spirit, proposing rich but delicate colors: yellows, purples and reds, and obviously a lot of light blue and blue. Once again then, the artist gives us a perceptive deception, applying to some of the works a small round lens that, like a drop, recreates on the paper surface the light effects typical of refraction in water.

Zanin Alice, Hawaiian Bobtail Squid, 2022, acquaforte su carta Fabriano 225 g, plexiglass, lente positiva, 24,5x24,5x5 cm, Ed. 30 � Es 1:30
Zanin Alice, Zebra Batfish, 2022, acquaforte su carta Fabriano 225 g, plexiglass, lente positiva, 28,5x23,4x5 cm Ed. 30 � Es 1:30
Zanin Alice, Spotted Eagle Ray, 2022, acquaforte su carta Fabriano 225 g, plexiglass, lente positiva, 35,7x35,7x5 cm, Ed. 30 � Es 1:30
Zanin Alice, Leafy Sea Dragon, 2022, acquaforte su carta Fabriano 225 g, plexiglass, lente positiva, 35,8x28,6x5 cm, Ed. 30 � Es 1:30

The poetic and alienating touch that allows us to focus on explicit and implicit meanings, and that makes us take a dive into a colorful sea world, an elusive world that must however be protected and never forgotten. A world that, beyond the surface we know and even in the most remote depths, shines with life and enchantment.