Isolation and Abstraction: Laura Manfredi in the StudioFebruary 29, 2016
Laura Manfredi’s works on paper piece together evocative, semi-familiar scenes from small parts of the world around her. The Italian artist zooms into details that interest her and uses them to compose what she refers to as “emotional landscapes.” She repeats these specific elements over and over to reconstruct the memory of what she saw rather than to depict accurate representations of reality.
“It’s like meeting someone new,” Laura says. “I may not remember his face or his name, but his shoes interest me so that is what I remember when I think of him.”
During her time at WSW as an Art-in-Education Workspace resident, Laura created a series entitled The American Diary. Through this work, she documents her time in New York, from what she saw on the Wallkill Valley Rail Trail to the view from her New York City hotel room.
The New York City chapter of The American Diary focuses on a single shape—a window frame she pulled from a skyscraper—repeated over eleven prints. Laura then collages onto the print with different papers and expressionistic linework recalling Franz Kline and evoking the busy streets of the city. While the window frame is constant, how Laura sees it and the world around it is in a state of flux; she collages over the frame to convey this temporality and to make each work a unique reflection of this ongoing change.
In contrast, Laura’s prints of quiet sites around Rosendale are rendered in sharp, geometric linework. For these scenes, she uses a vocabulary of semi-abstract shapes to create tiny houses and buildings of businesses around town. Here, Laura is not only inspired by her surroundings, but uses her surroundings to create the work itself. “I’m working with these pieces of cardboard that I just found in the litter bin,” she says with a laugh. “Just to try!”
With the cardboard plates, Laura achieves harder edges and more precise lines than could be yielded from linocut. She cuts the cardboard into different elements, isolating parts of what she sees around her that grab her attention—like the angle of where the roof meets the side of a house—and abstracting the rest. She goes through this process over and over, taking things apart and piecing them back together, to create new images out of the same cardboard pieces with each run through the press.
For some of her infrastructures, Laura experiments with coating her plates in pencil, leaving a ghostly illusion on the paper. This produces a soft, dreamlike quality in the prints, which appear to be pulled out of a childhood memory. “It gives it another dimension, not of reality, but of something far away,” Laura says. In one print, the inky blackness of the foreground melts into the wispy pencil impressions, which dissolve into inkless embossing, creating a kaleidoscopic sense of space distorted by time and memory.
Using these tiny, repeating elements, Laura reconstructs the architecture of her surroundings. It’s part of her way of looking at the world, through encounters with small and seemingly insignificant details. When she lived in Milan, she meditated on a single unchanging street corner; and when she’s at home in the middle of nowhere in Austria, she focuses her attention on the notches in stems of the weeds. Laura finds something special and interesting in everything she sees, and it is with these miniscule elements that she creates her own personal landscape.
“That’s why we do art,” Laura says. “Not to reproduce exactly what we are seeing, but to open a door to another world.”
Laura Manfredi is an Italian artist currently based in Austria. She graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera, Milan and her work has been exhibited internationally. To see more of Laura’s work, check out her website lauramanfredi.com and see more images from her residency on our Flickr.