Interview with Elizabeth de Vaal

“The central theme of my three-week stay was ‘Above Ground and Underground’. Above
Ground for swimming, eating outside and vistas at Casa Amenta Maria. Underground
for necropolises, hiding and goodbyes.”

It took a while to find the house, but once we arrived and saw the house, the view and the
pool, we were overjoyed. We felt so welcome, with a bedroom with rose petals on the
bedspread and with the towels folded in the shape of swans, it was all so beautiful. I had met
Dieuwke at a birthday party where we talked eagerly about common friends and artists. There
she invited me to come to Celleno. I was pleased, for I am fond of the Etruscan history over
there and of everything that has to do with it. Altogether we spent three weeks there and
enjoyed the magnificent views. The Borgo in the Old Town is a beauty. Celleno is a small
town where one can easily sneak through its streets and alleys.
My husband Arie and I live a busy life, with an Artist in Residence and a vineyard in
Hungary. We had just finished putting our 2019 harvest in barrels, when, in October, we left
for Celleno. On our first day there we walked up to the old Borgo. Unfortunately, all ice
cream was already sold out.
Every other day we made a trip somewhere and we have seen a lot of places in the
surroundings, the Etruscan necropolises and museums in particular. On alternate days we read
about the history of the area and decided where to go the next day. We went for our daily
swim in the pool, and Arie raked out the leaves and dirt. We were lucky with such good
weather so late in the season.
Above Ground and Underground have become the central theme of these three weeks, with
Above Ground standing for CAM, for the present, for things that one can see, for swimming,
for the sun, for water, and for eating outside. Necropolises, on the other hand, belong to the
Underground, together with darkness, the earth, hiding, goodbyes and the past.
It was October and on clear nights there were vistas. But from time to time there was a dense
fog hiding objects in the distance. My favourite colours are purple, violet and eggplant, all
contrary to the colours of CAM. The latter include the orange of a sunset, the white of a
morning fog, the blue of the sky and the turquoise of the water in the pool. Thinking of these
colours I hear silence and the jingle of sheep bells. My stay at CAM, together with all my
other experiences in Italy, have led to new work on my return home.
While staying there I started doing something new: working with felt as a basic material. At a
market in Hungary I had found old, hand-made, felt objects in the shape of a flask or
amphora, which people used to give as presents. They carry embroidered names of the sender
on them, as a kind of well-wishing. This idea made me take the outline of a car as a starting
point for an object in felt. Indeed, outlines of cars are an old flame of mine.
Back home from Italy I began a series of small works on paper, in gouache, pencil and ink.
These works were no bigger than approximately 14 by 11 inches. I usually work in a series
when I respond to a dramatic event I have experienced, with the event itself staying out of the
picture. For the event is of no importance for the result; it is merely a trigger, a quest for
making a comprehensive work. This quest is the process, and the series of works is the
tangible result.

The picture above is one of the gouaches.
I usually work on several of these small works simultaneously, and after a while the focus
gets clearer. This gouache is finished now. One can see Hungarian houses in an Italian
background. But why are the houses Hungarian? Because I was remembering the facades of
these houses. The background of this gouache is the view from CAM. All the other gouaches
don’t show a landscape yet, but this may change.
During the Incontro festival I will show a number of gouaches that express my experiences at
CAM, Italy, 2019: houses, their interiors, landscapes, in short: Life Above Ground and
Moreover, the belt can be attached inside out. After the festival one can take his or her belt
home again.

Translation Hans Kal

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