Born in 1982, Viviana Rossi-Caffell lives and works between England, France and Italy. She said: “I am simply overjoyed. The idea of a residency has intrigued me for many years, but, as many mothers do, I’ve always struggled with the thought of being away for a long time. In this case, for the first time, I feel ready.”
She continues: “Few places like West Dean College combine such otherworldly quality with historical heritage, outstanding facilities, and technical support while providing a vital role for contemporary art, nourishing the connection between artistic practice and craftsmanship, so I couldn’t have wished for anything better as my first residency. No other time has felt as crucial as the present for me, both as an individual and as an artist: the past year has been challenging us all, one way or another, to restructure. In other words, the pieces that compose our own puzzle have all been shaken and reshuffled, and this is when I think we are – or at least I am – more malleable, ready to embrace change. I foresee the residency at West Dean as a strong catalyst to bring another dimension to my work.”
Asked about her plans when at the College: “Although my work is never a direct response or a comment on world events – it derives from a more abstract place – it inevitably reflects the context and the dynamics in which we are all immersed, and is a way to make sense, and most often to make light, of what is around me. During the residency, I will be exploring the link between sculpture and performance, with a symphony of several metal pieces with balancing parts, in dialogue with each other, just as imaginary performers in a choreography. As a parallel thread, I have recently been researching on the origins of the “danse macabre” as an allegorical artistic genre from the Late Middle Ages (following the period marked by the plague) on the universality of death, and I can say that, although they certainly won’t be literal, there will be connections between my piece and this theme. Far from being funereal or grim, I wish to make something somehow cathartic while we are approaching the end of a dark phase for humanity.”
Asked about her inspiration, she said “Before even entering the College, walking through the Gardens already conveys the vision of the founder, a place where different species can coexist harmoniously like the instruments in an orchestra and where the value of the whole is much more than the sum of its parts. For me, the way the arts and crafts flourish at West Dean reflects the power of nature. As a sculptor using metal as a main component for my mobiles and stabiles, often together with found material, the metalwork studio is where I will spend most of my time. I have fond memories of long rows of tools lined up on the walls above the metalwork benches, like soldiers ready for action.”
She has visited the College three times – once for a lecture on landscape, then a workshop on stone carving and finally for a course on metalwork and annealing. At West Dean College, she produced Propeller, 2019 - a stamobile, or standing mobile, made of annealed copper and steel, which is the source of inspiration for her next, more elaborate piece that she aims to develop during her residency.
As part of the residency, she will work with students on the College’s Diploma in Art and Contemporary Craft and Metalwork Foundation Degree programmes. Depending on their need and on the easing of the restrictions, she hopes to share her working practice and offer creative ways to help students develop their own practice, and reach their potential, through an artists’ talk, a workshop or one-to-one critiques.
Fed by an eclectic background including social anthropology, performance, print-making, photography and martial arts, Viviana Rossi-Caffell’s work focuses on the relationship between bodies (intended both as living organisms and as entities), exploring the connection between space, materials and form, and its inherent narrative potential. The formal quest reflects the investigation of organic dynamics, such as attraction, exclusion, absorption and the play of forces, in a game of weights, in a constant redefinition of balance. Attracted by the principles of balance, she embraced the challenge of mobile making, a practice often associated with visual entertainment for nursery rooms, allowing it to incorporate assemblage and hybrid sculpture. The freedom of movement of the sculptures evokes the action of a performer or a musician, and their awareness of the present time: here, now. Her mobile sculptures remind us of the pivotal point between chaos and control, the tension between freedom and structure, destruction and order (www.viviana.rossicaffell.com).
The residency programme provides artist-makers with full board accommodation for the two-week period. Studio space is provided, as well as access to a variety of resources and facilities, including the College Library, technical support, the Historic House and the West Dean Archive and Collection. A stipend of £500 is offered to include materials.
West Dean College of Arts and Conservation has an international reputation for excellence and is a full partner of the University of Sussex. Students benefit from access to visiting artists, makers and writers as part of the year-long Artists-in-Residence programme, as well as the chance to view or work with material from the College’s amazing Collection and Archive. For Conservation, Craft and Fine Art study opportunities see www.westdean.ac.uk.
Upcoming Artists-In-Residence at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation:
17 May - 4 June: Michelle Ussher, Artist's Residency
4-11 July: Claire Ratinon and Sam Ayre, Gardens Residency
6-12 September: Sherie Sitauze, Artist's Residency in collaboration with Outside In
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