Eva Antonini, the figurative sculptor from Switzerland, was born in the picturesque town of Rapperswil. She spent much of her formative years in Rapperswil before moving to Geneva in 1981. Her artistic soul tried to find many outlets, through music and dance and even through her studies in linguistics.
She traversed many a path in England, in the United States, Italy, Middle and in the Far East. These cultural interactions helped her nourish her artist’s soul. The gems of experience gathered from all these journeys were collected with care and tucked away in her heart. They slowly permeated into the moulds of clay or alabaster that Eva lovingly caressed and cajoled into various forms.
Eva honed her skills under the watchful eyes of the masters in the studios of Oreste and Antonio Quattrini, Giorgio Eros Morandini, Giovanni Cimatti and Ettore Greco. She received rich accolades in the International Biennial of Contemporary Art in Florence in 2005. And, it was only the beginning. Because the former student of linguistics has mastered the language that is all pervading in its sublimity.
As a keen observer of life, how do you train yourself to pick up stimuli from the surroundings and depict them through your sculptures? What is your creative process like? Do you maintain a sketchbook or register your thoughts in your mind itself?
Inspirational stimuli usually occur to me very spontaneously and in a quite irrational way. Thoughts, states of mind, experiences and sensations, rather than my real surroundings, come to me – sometimes like a waterfall – providing me with inputs for new sculptures.
I actually always have a sketchbook with me in order to note down the ideas, either in drawing or in words. Once the idea is ‘nailed’ to paper, I further process it in my mind, until I can picture and feel the finished sculpture. I then decide size and materials to be used and start to work.
You worked as a linguist and translator earlier in your life. Do you feel it ironical that you are now speaking through the universal language of art that require no translations?
This is an interesting question I never asked myself before! Actually, by an irony of fate, I reckon that somehow I am still tied up in translations, as I try to translate the soul into a material state. In other words, I think that face and body are the translators of the soul into the visible! For this reason, I create body and face fragments, permeated by the marks of life, rendering the fleeting moments and the transience of life in general.
Your work is a depiction of feminine beauty and fragility. What inspired you in exploring the sensuality of feminine forms? What is your thought on the increasing vulnerability and dissatisfaction with one’s own body that society is experiencing nowadays?
As mentioned above, my work is about the fragility and transience of life in general, but also about its beautiful and harmonious, as well as tragic and sad fleeting instants. The female body with its delicate and soft forms is particularly suitable for this kind of exploration, although I occasionally also create male bodies whose pathos emphasizes the more dramatic aspects of my perception.
Unhappiness and general dissatisfaction are symptoms of our material society and lead, in many cases, to problems in relationships and friendships, lack of self-esteem and consequent refusal of one’s own appearance. It is a worrying trend in a society that seems to put the priority of being slim and attractive before any other values and interests. Above all, unrealistic standards set by media lead to an obsession with one’s personal look. Women, more than men, are continually bombarded with images of the ‘ideal’ face and figure. The focus is on glamour, not on joy and thankfulness for the gift of life.
You work with different materials as a medium of your storytelling. Do you first decide on the story and then the medium to be used? Is it a conscious choice to often sculpt a portion of the human body than the whole?
I mainly work with clay and plaster, in some rare cases with stone.
Yes, I first choose the theme to be represented. The initial phase of the sculpture is always realized in clay. Quite often, I mould the entire clay sculpture in plaster as a second step and then partially reproduce it with clay slabs, providing it with that worn out and experienced aspect and surface, which is the main focus of my present research and exploration.
Sculpting only a portion of the body is a conscious choice, but the outcome is often a very spontaneous fragment, which stands alone and has its own energy and expressiveness.
Observers tell me that they are challenged with the completion of the image through their own imagination.
Your work vividly depicts the many hues of human emotion. As an artist what has been the human expression that you loved exploring the most? Has there ever been a project that you particularly loved being involved in?
Silence, Melancholy, Abandonment, are some of the main and favourite topics I am exploring.
‘Reminiscence’ was the title of a past exhibition project, which I highly enjoyed. This theme gave me ample freedom to express my favourite topics and to depict my personal perception of life events and experience. To my great pleasure, it was magically enriched by a philosopher’s fragmentary poems about the instants and memories of life, perfectly melting together with my sculptural fragments.
This combination evoked – so I was told – strong and very similar feelings and emotions in viewers and listeners, which was a greatly edifying experience to both of us.
You have explored art in its many expressions through music, dance and now sculpture. How would you define art and your relationship with it?
It feels as if my previous experiences in music and dance, as well as my life story now converge into my hands and re-emerge through my sculptures.
Art opens new horizons to the artist and the viewer and can create dialogues of wonder. It allows the artist to picture him/herself and the world through different eyes, being the most intense means of individualism. I think it can join together humans in the same feelings, with more curiosity and wholeheartedness.
To me, art – or let me also call it ‘my hunger for creation’ – is one of the main reasons to get up in the morning. It makes my life infinitely rich, enables me to grow, to communicate, to transcend into my own self, make me find myself and at the same time abandon myself.
It allows me to redefine reality in my own and individual way. I find the following statement of Goethe very relevant,‘There is no surer way of evading the world than by art, and no better way of connecting with it than by art’.
‘Despite all of my travels through the world, my studio is still the best place to be!’ Art offers Eva space for her spirit to breathe. She enjoys listening to Blues and Jazz and also oriental instrumental music. She loves reading Tiziano Terzani’s Un Altro giro di Giostra (One More Ride on the Merry-go-round) and Sally Kempton’s Meditation for the Love of it. Okuribito, directed by Yojiro Takita that won in the category of the Best Foreign Language Film in the Academy Awards, 2009, happens to be her favourite movie.
Find more of her work at her website.