An expression of the cultural and creative tradition of the Val Gardena, establishing a close relationship between the land and its visitors, but with an increasingly ambitious international outlook: the 4th Biennale Gherdëina
in Ortisei, promoted by Associazione turistica di Ortisei in partnership with the City of Ortisei, grows and renews itself with a project entitled Legno/Wood/Holz/Lën, curated by Luca Beatrice (18 July through 1 October 2014) focusing on contemporary sculpture. The five artists invited to participate exhibit their works in the pedestrian zone in central Ortisei, all sculptures made out of the most traditional material in the area - wood: Chris Gilmour, Sonia Leimer, Willy Verginer, Velasco Vitali and Bruno Walpoth.
The far-reaching works included in the exhibition have been created by the artists in the last few months, specifically for the Biennale, in collaboration with local artisans and enterprises, giving the town an economic boost. The choice of wood as the material for the sculptures, the only limitation imposed on the artists, is intended to establish a strong bond with the Val Gardenas most traditional roots, while at the same time giving wood the dignity of an element linked with contemporary art rather than just crafts.
Chris Gilmour, a British sculptor who lives in Udine, specialises in cardboard sculptures; he now tries his hand at a new material, imagining and designing a sort of rediscovery of crates containing archaeological findings which have been stolen away or survived some sort of natural disaster; while Sonia Leimer, who is originally from Merano, though she lives in Vienna, created a conceptual revisitation of a theme dear to the traditions of the Val Gardena, the work bench. Others have been working with wood for a long time, such as world-famous local artists Bruno Walpoth and Willy Verginer: Walpoth installed a big wooden bust cut in half and hollowed out, while Verginer left his landscapes and portraits behind him and build a wooden house, or rather a hut or shelter, standing on tree roots. And lastly, Velasco Vitali, a Milanese painter and sculptor known for his packs of dogs, often in unusual settings, created a gigantic hot-air balloon made out of wood and iron.
For the first time since the Biennale has been held, the artists were asked to create public sculptures that would interact with the historic town centre of Ortisei, dialoguing with residents and tourists rather than imposing themselves as if they had been dropped into town from outer space, explains Luca Beatrice. There were no restrictions as to subject or theme, but the material used had to be wood, even though the artists were not all experienced in working with this material. Wood therefore brings its own added value with it, because of its incredible relationship with the past; it tells stories, it doesnt turn away the viewer, it incites with its warmth and texture. More and more artists all over the world are using wood as the material for their sculptures and in their installations. We might even call wood trendy, if the term were not such an ambiguous one!