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by Kathleen Menéndez

Pyrography News From Around the World

Newsletter No. 21, Page One of Three


Page One:
- Maria Luisa Grimani: Collages

Page Two:
- Songda

Page Three:
- John-Henry Marshall's New Show On Wood
- Rich Chin: His Father Remembered
- Romantic Pieces from the Past

Maria Luisa Grimani: Collages

Su Paulownia
by Maria Luisa Grimani, 2000

Pyrography, vegetable dyes, collage on Paulownia wood square,
35 cm by 35 cm

Image courtesy of the artist

Introducing Maria Luisa Grimani

For as long as she can remember, Italian artist Maria Luisa Grimani has been attracted to the technique of pyrography. She says that in Italy it is used a lot to embellish handmade wood articles.

Despite never having seen an artist using pyrography, she "had the feeling that its graphic possibilities were superior" to what she was seeing in those commercial objects. Nevertheless, for some time she forgot about exploring any possibilities the pyrographic technique might offer. Until one day, she says "when a game of chess changed things. . . "

Radix Series, No. 6
by Maria Luisa Grimani, 2001

Pyrography, vegetable dyes, collage on Paulownia wood square,
40 cm by 40 cm

Image courtesy of the artist

A Game of Chess

Maria Luisa Grimani began to focus her creative energies around a game of chess where she found her working method. Through analysis of the movements and synthesis of the game as a whole, she came to the realization that the movement of the knight could serve to carry the creative momentum.

There is one more critical element that contributed to the final outcome of Maria Luisa's methodology: A chess game has a support, a board that is usually made of wood.

Radix Series, No. 3
by Maria Luisa Grimani

Collage of pyrography and vegetable dyes on Paulownia wood square, 40 cm by 40 cm

Image courtesy of the artist

The Game and the Art Began

"It all started more than two years ago," Maria Luisa recounts, "when I was reading a novel by Italo Calvino entitled The Invisible Cities. In the chapters where the cities are described, there is a dialogue between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan, the Emperor of the Tartars. In the story, Marco Polo, who didn't know the Tartars' language, created a dialogue by means of gestures and objects from all around the empire, which were placed on a checkered floor."

"Over time, once Marco Polo could speak their language, the dialogue evolved into a real match on a chessboard made of ebony inlaid with ivory."

Calvino's novel was the spark that ignited Maria Luisa's inspiration. She remembers, "My old passion came out. I could finally work on wood panels with pyrography! I felt sure I had found the best way to interpret my ideas."

Maria Luisa Grimani and one of her art works

Image courtesy of the artist

Technical Aspects

Maria Luisa's approach was to use pyrography to highlight the wood's natural veining and colors "to find the rhythm and the story of the piece of wood [she] was working on."

After that, she says, "I communicated with my wood panels through my own objects: natural things I used to pick up when walking in the woods or at the seaside, or curiosities I found in small markets all around."

Wood of Choice. Although she occasionally works with woods like Beech, Fir, and marine plywood, Maria Luisa's favorite wood is Paulownia, which is the wood used in most of the examples displayed here. Paulownia is a tree (named in the 1800's for Princess Anna Paulovna of the Netherlands) that is native to Asia and has either white or purplish flower clusters and large heart-shaped leaves.

Tools. To create her collages, Maria Luisa uses an electric pyrography tool with various points to burn designs on the wood; she also uses carving tools; plus she uses brushes to apply clear varnishes or colored finishes and wax to the wood.

Journey in Africa Series, No. 3
by Maria Luisa Grimani

Collage of pyrography and vegetable dyes on Paulownia wood panel,
40 cm by 40 cm

Image courtesy of the artist

Website References

Maria Luisa Grimani's collages are displayed on her website at www.marialuisagrimani.it.

And in the Maria Luisa Grimani Salon in the E-Museum of Pyrographic Art.

Closing Thoughts

Maria Luisa Grimani spent more than two years (2000, 2001, and part of 2002) working on the pyrographic collages inspired by the chess game of Italo Calvino's novel. In addition, she is well known for her art books (displayed on her website), which were recently exhibited at the Marseilles Book Fair in France.

One very special book, which was included in that exhibit, is a short story (in Italian) entitled Radice (Roots). It is a handmade book with an original art work cover containing reproductions of details of some of the pieces shown here and in the E-Museum illustrating the story. It is Maria Luisa's own story, beautifully written for her by her son Tommaso Correale Santacroce, telling how her love of wood began in her childhood when she used to climb a large walnut tree.

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2003, Kathleen M. Garvey Menéndez, all rights reserved.