Roberta Cotterli | Berlin, GermanyJun 07, 2022
In my practice, I work principally with sculpture that seeks to analyse the body, with a particular focus on the skin, as a living mansion for the human being. The idea of something so easy to harm but at the same time so strong and able to regenerate itself fascinates me almost to the point of obsession.
I started getting interested in the skin and its potential while I was studying for my Fine Arts Degree. I was awarded a research grant in sculpture, with which I developed a series of sculptures depicting a body where the epidermis instead of the limbs was the protagonist. In the last four years, I have been experimenting with latex and found in this material to be my perfect medium. Fragile and tough at the same time, just like skin, it allows me to produce uncanny works that embody its subject’s duality.
I am currently working on Corpus Christi, a series of new pieces that present fragments of a hybrid and wounded body made of latex and wax. I am aiming to realise a total of seven sculptures; number seven is imbued with a great religious and mystical charge that I also want to translate in these works. I think of them as some kind of of ex-voto, morbid offerings of a believer to a carnal God.
The beginning of my creative process is almost always the same: I cast several bits of my model’s body and then I start applying layers of latex to obtain a light piece of skin. Sometimes, I feel the need to do something more solid, more concrete, and this is when the wax comes in handy; I normally just fill with latex the parts that I want to highlight (a bruised knee on a pair of legs, an Adam’s apple in the neck) and cover the rest with white wax. A couple of years ago, I started pigmenting the latex: I seek to refine my method through the study of classic painters (Caravaggio, Bellini, Cranach, Guido Reni) and how they portray the skin. This study led me to use something similar to the painting technique of the velatura, where I overlap pigmented latex coats and play with their transparency to obtain a more or less even result.
It is the translucent properties of both materials (latex and wax) that informed my decision to avoid using pedestals for exhibiting my pieces. Most of them hang from the ceiling like raw pieces of meat, so the light can go through them; in the case of sculptures where the wax component is predominant, I prefer creating specific supports that allow me to have the work coming out from the wall, almost reaching out to the viewer. For example, The fact that you have forgotten, doesn't mean you are forgiven consists of a pair of outstretched hands made of wax with stigmata that will be anchored to the wall, wanting to show their wound to you.
I am conscious that all the material I use will be affected by the passage of time. It is precisely this kind of fragility that I seek in my work, the idea of something on the verge of being consumed and disappearing. An empty sculpture, stripped of its classic materiality, a halo of what has been, or what could have been. My ultimate goal is to open up a reflection on the dichotomy of strength and weakness naturally contained in our flesh, and therefore in the human being.
Personal story of Cotterli's works
The first time I made love, I was seventeen. We did it in my single bed while my mum was at work, and my sister did her homework in the kitchen.
When he left, I went to the bathroom to pee (a piece of advice that an older friend gave me), and something got my attention: right between my legs, on the upper part of my inner tights, two small purple circles were starting to surface. It took me a few minutes to understand that those were marks from his pelvic bones. All that pushing and rubbing left me bruises!
We broke up a week after, but it took two weeks for the bruises to disappear. Has skin a better memory than people?
I thought about those two bruises when I started working on my new sculptures made of latex and wax. I thought about all the times I fell; I cut myself, I scratched my knees, and my body silently rebuilt itself, healed the wounds offering me a new and fresh skin to harm again. However, my mind never l how to avoid obstacles.
Through presenting fragments of wounded and hybrid beings (a lacerated belly, bruised knees, a rushed throat), I want to open up a reflection on the duality naturally contained in our flesh. So easy to damage and at the same time so strong in its ability to reconstruct itself, a demonstration of a tough delicacy.
It is precisely this kind of fragility that I seek in my work, the idea of something on the verge of being consumed and disappearing. An empty sculpture, stripped of its classic materiality, a halo of what has been, or what could have been.
My sculptures are always moving over the unsolid ground. Like I do.