Craftsmanship is synonymous with passion, energy and dedication, precision and discipline. All of this is on display right now in Venice at Homo Faber, the second edition of the fair that celebrates fine craftsmanship. At the inaugural event in 2018, more than 62,000 visitors had the opportunity to admire the objects of hundreds of artisans from all over Europe and see these creators at work live. This year, Homo Faber, until May 11, is even more ambitious, with 15 exhibitions at the Giorgio Cini Foundation and various shows throughout the city.
This year’s theme, ‘Living Treasures from Europe and Japan’, combines masterpieces from Japan with an exploration of the influence the country has had and continues to have on European aesthetics. These influences are visible throughout Venice itself, a city that has long benefited from cultural and economic exchanges between the two nations. The exhibition route at Homo Faber takes visitors on a journey through unique, high-quality works in materials of all kinds – from ceramics to wood, leather, metals, precious stones and the paper. Also, geometry is paramount to understanding much of this great work.
For one of the most significant exhibitions, 12 stone gardens, designer Naoto Fukasawa and curator Tokugo Uchida have selected the works of 12 living national treasures of Japan, people officially recognized for having deeply marked the country’s tradition and keeping it alive. Master Noboru Fujinuma’s bamboo weaves resemble abstract geometries and were inspired by real-life activities, like beach games in Atami or waters flowing in whirlpools in Naruto. Each of his works intends to encapsulate chi, the energy of nature. “The complexity and sturdiness of bamboo derives from the chi of the plant and when the chi meets my personal energy, the resulting work has a message to convey,” he says.
Geometric patterns also appear in the objects of Isao Onishi, a living national treasure specializing in lacquering using the maki-e technique. The various processing steps involve the use of gold dust, natural lacquer and deer antler dust, as in the kanshitsu dish with maki-e and shell inlay. The Keikan (radiant sphere) in the center of the plate symbolizes the energy of Mother Nature.
Organized by the Fondazione Cologni dei Mestieri d’Arte, Wonderful Connections is dedicated to Italian artisans who have acquired the title of Maestro d’Arte e Mestiere, the equivalent of Japan’s Living National Treasures. Here, a series of three small tables by Giuditta Doro for Alchymia catch the eye. The collection, called Konik, was made from beech, lacquer and brass. Traditional Italian craftsmanship meets retro shapes, evoking 70s sci-fi images.
The small exhibition Venice Tracing pays homage to the famous mosaic floors of St. Mark’s Basilica, one of Venice’s finest landmarks. Due to high water, these mosaics are often submerged and require constant restoration. Designer duo Zanellato/Bortolotto and metal fabrication company De Castelli recreated these geometric patterns with an experimental metal mosaic. Each material has been worked with fire and acids to highlight the passage of time and the imperfections that make the original mosaics unique.
One of the most surprising exhibits of Homo Faber is Magna Carta, a trip organized by Michele De Lucchi to discover paper craftsmanship. A magical cloud of thousands of colorful origami by Belgian designer Charles Kaisin welcomes visitors and pays homage to Japan. Along the way, one can admire the three-dimensional geometries of Zoe Keramea, a Greek paper artist specializing in folding. Also on display, “Small White Moth” is a flexible modular paper sculpture made from Aqaba paper hand-folded into triangular dipyramids.
Nearby soar the origami sculptures of Uroš Mihić, an artist born in Serbia and living in Italy. These stunning sculptures look like impossible columns and are handmade using old books, carefully dyed and folded one by one.
Organized by Judith Clark, Details: Genealogies of ornament includes luxury goods such as clothing, watches, bags, jewelry and kimonos. From Roberto Capucci’s series of rare ’60s and ’80s dresses and leather goods from Serapian (a glorious Milan-based house), gorgeous geometry abounds. For the latter, a craftsman carefully inserts strips of leather onto a pre-cut base in front of visitors. It’s another exquisite example of what Homo Faber has to offer.
Hero image courtesy of Zanellato/Bortolotto