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Tutti Frutti


  • Tipografia Grifani Donati Corso Cavour, 5 Città di Castello Italy (map)

One can say, about a painting, that it was painted en plein air. But can you say the same about a house and a studio conceived as elements of the landscape? I was thinking about that as Andrea Tana welcomed me into her home and studio, surrounded by the rustic discretion of an Umbrian ridge. The walls disappeared, the light of the sunset invaded the studio, and the disorder of colors and paintings mixed with the glares of the grove scrub. On the ground wooden crates painted with abundance of fruits; some portraits under preparation; sketches of landscapes instantly recognizable; views of valleys in the passing of seasons. A light that is absolutely Italian, that perhaps has its roots in the Southern California (where Andrea was born) but that also transited in the French Riviera - the beloved Matisse and Dufy - and here is back to feed on colors and emotions. When Andrea tells me how she found this abandoned house, I recognize, in her eyes and in her voice, her passion for Italy, as the one that overwhelmed the English ladies described by E.M. Foster in A Room with a View or in Where Angels Fear to Trade.

The artistic career of Andrea Tana has always been revealing a vital curiosity. Her passion for the engraving was born around 1980 with the discovery of the Japanese artistic printing on woodblocks. Called Ukiyo-e (pictures from the floating world) it described the life of the pleasure quarters in Edo, the capital, in the second half of the seventeenth century. The beautiful courtesans, the sumo wrestlers, the famous actors. The style of the Ukiyo-e subsequently involved also great masters such as Utamaro and Hokusai. The latter, in order to survive, sometimes designed kimonos. Just this little fact, read in the Herald Tribune, inspired Andrea Tana for the series of etchings, Kimono Suite, a limited edition of 10 triptychs, printed and exhibited at the New Crane Studio in Wapping, London. An invitation to collaborate with the ceramist Julian Sainsbury opens to Andrea the doors of the ceramic art. She works on a series of large plates decorated with motifs inspired by her trip to Peru and Mexico. In the Grazia Studio in Deruta she deepens the traditional technique of the majolica. And ten years later, the access to the foundry of Julian allows her to realize an edition of small bronze sculptures. The desire, however, to develop the techniques of engraving, by using color, took her to Paris, to the renowned atelier Lacourière Frélaut where, under the guidance of Robert Frélaut, she learnt the complex technique of aquatint. In 1983, the Carnival Corporation proposed her the first major commission for its luxury cruise ships: 30 oil paintings on canvas and 14 editions of serigraphs, printed by Advanced Graphics, London. The topics ranged from the recurring one of fans, to Greek mythology, the Indian temples and to portraits of great legendary characters. In 2000, Andrea Tana’s prints are exhibited at the prestigious Galerie Maeght in Paris, with which she publishes in 2004 a book of her lithographs illustrating the poems of Dereck Walcott, Love After Love.

"Art is a universal language. Nature and Art History are my vocabulary”. With this declaration, Andrea Tana’s path could hardly avoid coming upon the place that represents the essence and magic of the art of printing: the Typography Grifani-Donati 1799. The meeting took place in 1996, during a guided tour by Gianni Ottaviani that leaves Andrea incredulous and fascinated.

The first collaboration was in 2006 with the series entitled Engravings. Two years later, a series of painted fans followed, Fans, and two small artist's books of engravings: Souvenir d'Umbria and Fans. The latest collaboration is represented by this "Tutti Frutti" that, starting from the title itself, is meant to be an anthology of the multiform and varied work of Andrea Tana. The song from which this show takes its title is the first single of Little Richard in 1955. Characterized by a wild rhythm and a text that reproduced the sounds of drums: wop bop-a –loom bob- a-lop bam boom! This show has the same vivacity that inhabits the rooms of the Typography Grifani-Donati between the ancient presses and cases, and even the window and the interior of the shop in Via Cavour.

A path marked by large paintings of landscapes, etchings of the Kimono Suite, the serigraphs of the Sea-Shell series, those dedicated to the Greek mythology, characterized by a so elegant and dancing line, and the Matisse-inspired Interiors, the beautiful African chair with Amaryllis, the ceramic plates, the Portraits, the delicious and saucy Teatime with the Old Masters, where among blue cups and porcelain teapots Andrea pays tribute to the beautiful Ranuccio Farnese by Tiziano, to the blonde Dama of Veronese, to Parnassus and the Bridal Chamber of Mantegna, to Allegoria del Buon Governo by Lorenzetti. In a game of references and gratitude that distinguishes this painting and an existence that is full of future.

                                                                                                                                                       Ivan Teobaldelli

Earlier Event: May 21
Andrea Tana at Home in London
Later Event: October 1
Dan Tana's 50th Anniversary