Elisabetta Gut

elisabetta anni 80.jpg

Elisabetta Gut  (Rome 1934)

After a first experience with painting, of post-cubist imprint at the beginning and then informal, the Swiss Italian artist experimented the relations between picture, writing, and natural elements, developing collages and assemblages that fit in visual poetry research.

Handwritten sheets bounded with cotton thread and leaves, music scores positioned within seeds, books in cages or cages of books, her works have been exhibited in important exhibitions such as: Materializzazione del linguaggio (Venice Biennale, 1978); Arte come scrittura (Quadriennale in Rome, 1986); Fotoidea (San Paolo Biennale, 1994); Post scriptum. Artiste in Italia tra linguaggio e immagine negli anni '60 e '70 (Donna di Ferrara Biennale, 1998). Her works are part of the permanent collection at MUSINF of Senigallia, MART of Trento and Rovereto, Centro Pecci of Prato, MA*GA of Gallarate, MRAG of Maitland and NMWA of Washington.

From 1956 she held over 30 solo shows in Italian and foreign galleries and museums, recently at the Cortese & Lisanti Gallery in Rome, Museum of Abruzzo’s People in Pescara, the National Museum Women in the Arts of Washington and at the Maitland Regional Art Gallery of Maitland (Australia)


Plume de Poète

The beginnings of Elisabetta Gut are pictorial, with prestigious afermations right from the first critical presentation, written in Fifties by the Italian painter Felice Casorati. But we can see even then in her work an autonomous, independent use of the graphic sign, black, almost inked, nervously superimposed on the brushwork, as if to contest it. The tangle is the first seed of what will become Elisabetta Gut's poetic writing.

Later in Sixties, we can see a constant preoccupation to stagger and interrupt the planes of the support's surface; incisions in the canvas, insertions of preexisting elements with strictly geometric values (lace and embroidery) but with subtly anthropological suggestions; articulation of reliefs with the addition of objects, involved in the support function and covered with canceling white pigment, so that the reliefs are animated by shadows which take upon themselves the task of delineating.

In short, a pictorical-antipictorical operation, aimed above at the picture as a three-dimensional object, and as the context of concrete relics of existence. Perhaps the artist's disorienting bilingual education is responsible for communication problems that have driven her positively to translate every object into a sign while the practice, not merely episodic, of scenography, is behind her increasingly manifest need to give space to the image.

So, in the Seventies, Elisabetta Gut arrives at a general mobilsation of the planes, by means of cutting and collage; with the construction of poetical objects that break down every disciplinary dam. An unchecked need of freedom, which only obeys the inner laws of constructive rigour, drives her to invade various expressive areas, with quotations form musical and verbal codes and re-use of elements of different origin.

So the artist has reached her present maturity through an operational process which has been an uninterrupted enrichment: polymaterial, optical researches, visual poetry, up to the aim of this mixed technique, which is able to connect what is distant, in a continual discovery of similarities: the branch and archaic writing, the flower and oriental writing, the vegetal shell and the cover of a book, the thread and the sign, the lace and the ideogram; here too upsetting the planes of experience and putting nature and culture on the same levels.

So the sign-tangle of her pictorial past has become the “dishevelledness” of her cut books, an objectualized tangle, a volumetric cancellation obtained by scissors. And the embroidery, which thirty years ago she inserted in canvas, revisiting Fontana's cut in order to sublimate in values of light the anonymous feminine  contribution, can be found in the Arabic and Chinese writings which her hands now cut out and immerge in aquariums of luminous void. Everything can come into this cycle of implicit metaphors and show the resemblance of the created world to the instruments of knowledge and harmony. As the names of poets form feathers, so the seeds separate threads for imaginary musical instruments, guides for an interior listening.

For this artist negation and affermation are identified. She was the first to use thread as signs of cancellation and of musical writing; pentagrams and strings for inaudible vibrations. And it's precisely her moroseness that guarantees her intensity. The difficult things, in operation in which, like this, resume an iconography widely connoted as poetical, is the ability to remove it from every prearranged poeticism, in order to reacquire a native freshness inside the very structures of culture.

So the Plume de Poète (a Poet's Plume) is also a Plume d'Artiste (an Artist's Plume), a tool, no longer literary, of global communication, a threefold sign of nature, writing, and levity.


Mirella Bentivoglio, text from the exhibition catalogue of Plume de Poète, Gallery Eralov (Rome), 1989.


Nedda Guidi


Rosanna Lancia