Greta Schodl: Marbles

10 - 29 May 2021

Part of Saltoun Online, this virtual presentation brings together 92-year-old Greta SCHÖDL’s new and never-before-seen series of marble works made during lockdown in Bologna, her hometown since 1959. In Marmi [Marbles], as in most of Schödl’s work, the word becomes a sign – an abstract sign – repeated on the stone’s surface and emptied of meaning. The dematerialization of language is one of the principal achievements of her 70-year artistic research and output.

 

The Austria-born, Bologna-based artist is one of the most significant visual and concrete poetry artists living in Italy today. Active from the 1960s, when the presence of female artists using text represented a minority, Schödl has spent the past six decades honing a unique visual language through a range of mythical compositions. Her work incorporates letters and symbols, obsessively repeated until rendered abstract, echoing the fervent repetition of Hanne Darboven or the symbolism of Tomaso Binga. 

 

“My art constantly engages with nature, which I love deeply, and time is one of its most fundamental aspects. So, if I start a piece today, I might finish it tomorrow, or in ten years, as my works are traces of my lived experiences.” Schödl’s work draws fully from the flow of life, like a never-ending train of thought, evident in particular through her Marmi series, which she returns to 40 years later after producing an archetypal model in 1979, a small rectangular block of Parian marble first exhibited at Fabybasaglia Gallery in Bologna that same year.

 

The marble is a powerful statement itself: the mineral is one of the most precious materials used by many sculptors – notably mostly men – to carve images of gods, heroes and goddesses. “I don’t exactly carve marble; I find it and become captivated by the warmth it takes on whilst I handle it,” Schödl affirms. The marble blocks symbolise beauty and grace, but here she renders them in a completely different way from her predecessors by covering the surface with the material’s name inscribed repeatedly. For Schödl, writing is always employed as metaphorical cloth, a conceptual and tautological garment that covers the idea. Her intention is to penetrate language, breaking it down into its constituent parts, and recomposing it visually and aurally aided by the alchemy of gold leaf. As a feminist artist, Schödl employs language as her main weapon for defining the self and the world. Quoting Angela Marchionni: “If you follow the thread of Greta Schödl’s writing you find empathy with someone who has used tools to look at reality critically without becoming submerged.”[1]

 

Born in Hollabrunn, Austria, Greta SCHÖDL currently lives and works in Bologna, Italy. The artist’s formation took place in post-war cosmopolitan Vienna where, from 1948 to 1953, she attended the Academy of Applied Arts, before permanently moving to Italy in 1959. After ceasing her practice temporarily to raise a family, Schödl returned to making work in the mid-1960s and has since exhibited widely in institutions around the world. Her work was included in 'Materializzazione del Linguaggio', curated by Mirella Bentivoglio, in the Visual Arts and Architecture section of the Venice Biennale in 1978, and the 16th São Paolo Biennial, Brazil, in 1981. More recently her work featured in the exhibition ‘Scrivere Disegnando’ at the Centre d’art Contemporain, Geneva, Switzerland in 2020; 'Poesia Visiva' at MART (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Trento) in Rovereto, Italy in 2011. Work by Schödl can be found in numerous collections around the world, including the National Gallery of Modern and Contemporary Art, Rome, Italy; MART, Rovereto, Italy; MAGA (Gallarate Art Museum), Varese, Italy; King St Stephen Museum, Székesfehérvár, Hungary; the National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington DC, USA; and the Sackner Archive of Concrete and Visual Poetry, Miami Beach, FL, USA, amongst others.

 

A virtual studio visit with the artist accompanies the online exhibition, where visitors can gain in-depth insight in the artist’s life and work. A video featuring Greta in conversation with Guido Santandrea, Artistic Director of ALMANAC, and Lorenzo Balbi, Artistic Director of MAMbo (Museum of Modern Art, Bologna), can also be viewed online.



[1] Angela Marchionni, ‘La distanza e l’io’ in Greta Schödl, Pagine Pagine, 1957-1999.