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Gaia Bellini and her bond with nature: an interview


How were Sindoni Vegetali born? Tell us about the link with natural dyeing starting from your travels …

I formally identify the beginning of my path in an experience that gave me the courage to transform my everyday life into what we call art. With all the carefree - and recklessness - of eighteen years, six years ago, I bought a ticket to Argentina that changed my life. It was a journey of unforeseen and fatalities, throughout Latin America, by hitchhiking and every few days as a guest of several families or in tents inside national parks.

Without certainties and going through the continuous discovery of concepts, intuitions and experiential training, thanks to the women who helped me during the journey, I learned the strength and the wonder of delicacy, kindness, and with these the great artisan tradition of colours that arise from the plant world that unites the most ancient cultures of the world.

Thus was born in me the need to tell life through images: the most autonomous way to express the sensations that I know. I, therefore, chose to deepen the aesthetic part at the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice where I marked my path by daily walks inside the Gallerie dell’Accademia.

I love walking as a visual exercise among the beautiful Renaissance artworks. I first fell in love with the colours, leaving out the form. Then my attention turned to the background, to those wonderful gardens of the soul, investigating symbols of the most disparate areas of human life, placed at the beginning and the end of the world. With my artwork, I have thus tried to find my own interpretation for that delicate and precious beauty. So after inner research in myself, the study and understanding of the aesthetics of the void, I found a way to express my poetics through the Vegetable Shrouds.


How do you combine drawing and installation in your research?

I have never thought of these ways of expressing one's research as something to be combined, nor as separate concepts. They are both material externalizations of an inner world that become an equal matter for the sole reason that they come from the same hand and the same mind.


My experimentation concerns, among other things, the importance of materials: when you start thinking of natural dyes as a modus operandi, you become more sensitive to the natural world than anything else. Although it can be tackled in the long and short term, the focus is on the materials. The sensitivity you use looking for the answers becomes your focus. Your sources really become different, the botanical layer provides you with the material, and the techniques help you express it. In this way, the materiality of natural dyes brings you to the heart of colour.


This transformative activity and what it embodies is truly bewitching. I try to pursue a minute aspect, digging deeply, in the hope that, in this way, it is possible to understand something greater about who I am. The practice thus embodies the possibility to approach the knowledge and becomes a response to the immateriality of the virtual.



Which readings, visual, sound or cinematographic works have influenced or are influencing your work?

All these things inspire me: poetry, herbal medicine, literature, aesthetics, history and philosophy. Reading is my knowledge's main source, and I love paper books. I think my passion for writing and my research in notebooks also depends on this.

I also love words, I find it essential for a visual artist to look for the correct words to express what the artist has in mind and to give a clear image of a concept and perhaps, my focus on the words comes from my passion for Italian songwriting and theatre. Then and first, nature, in which I breathe and enjoy daily life, is an inspiration.

I like to nourish myself through beauty. From this aesthetic-psychological source, intuitions are born that materialize and ensure that the projects come to light. I would say in a list that is not exhaustive Vecchioni, Mancuso, Baricco, Pasqualotto.


How are you experiencing this difficult time of the pandemic? Is your work moving forward or do you feel held back and disheartened (due to lack of contacts/resources)?

Nature does not stop! Beyond the sad historical situation, I lived the quarantine in a very serene way. This long break from everyday life allowed me to fully focus on my art and reflect. There is a connection between art, as a creative act, our perception of space and time and stillness - the absence of commitments. The silence of the cars that finally did not pass in front of the house was fertile ground for my thoughts or my sketches. It was also a fertile ground for growing all those "weeds" that thrived in the valleys near home - my favourite materials.


Can you explain us which is the concept behind your Sindomi Vegetali?

Sindoni Vegetali in English "Vegetable Shrouds" are canvases within which I enclose seeds and berries, creating real vegetable prints. The colour manifests itself overtime on the fabrics.

To create these artworks, I use a botanical printing technique which - over a long period of contemplation, plumbed by strong variables that will affect the result - ensures that the canvas will absorb what is the imprint and colour of the botanical material wrapped inside, during the first stage of Changement. The canvases, together with the botanical trace contained within them, become skins of a nature that exists now and no longer tomorrow, in a silent and continuous change of vibrational colours.

Real shrouds then, but this time of nature of which we all are intrinsically part. To create the Vegetable Shrouds, I use seeds and berries from my territory because they are the part that the plant produces intending to recreate itself, and which, going to harvest, does not damage the plant itself. I use the plants of the territory as a sign of the bond that unites the bodies to the place that generated them. We all need to keep our feet on the ground, if possible on our land.


Just like wild herbs, we reflect the history of the places, of the land from which we draw the strength to grow. This first phase is what I see as a hidden performance. After being framed and over time, the canvas will then change in sunlight until leaving on the surface only the most intense signs that time has engraved, making it intrinsic to the canvas, and in some cases returning to the original void.

In this series of Vegetable Shrouds, the primary component will no longer be the sign but the absence of the same, in a backward movement of creation, as in a spiral: destruction becomes, in turn, a new type of creation. It is my way of speaking about the delicacy, but also of accepting the transitory nature of things, finally, of grasping the beauty of impermanence.


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