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Inventing myths and dramas: Inside the colourful world of Elisa Nicolaci’s fabric sculptures

The Pothi team profiles Elisa Nicolaci, whose dramatic sculptures are made of various fabrics, each representing itself as well as qualities like depth and light

Sculptor Elisa Nicolaci was born in Palermo in 1977. She trained at the Academy of Fine Arts of Carrara. During her years at the Academy, she went through the traditional rigour working on monochrome sculpture, which was often rigid, heavy and “tiring” materials.


However, colour made a comeback as a memory and she veered towards fabric. “I needed to work with a material made of colour. I felt a great nostalgia for colour and fabric was a natural choice. I also started thinking about structures that could support the fabric. At the same time, I began to feel more and more subtly the infinite and formidable plastic and narrative opportunities that fabrics could give me. The velvets were the depth, the cottons were the surface filled with light, a shiny fabric could mimic metal, an opaque fabric could be plastic or wood,” she says.

She adds that each fabric could represent itself as well as something else, a whole “fake world of real things but ready to be made different from the real”.

In her practice she has never felt the need to make the fabrics that she works with. “I use existing fabrics in the spirit of those who use a readymade material. I like to observe matter that already has in itself a pre-existing reason for being,” she says.

“I like to borrow this specific relationship with reality to build my fiction. I believe that a work of art must always know how to mark its area of fiction, one’s own sphere of belonging that is different from reality,” she adds.

She says that the figurative sculptures which she makes exist in three dimension, which means that it is a real object no matter what she is trying to represent or hint at.

“For this reason, rather than thinking of a representation less likely than reality, I like the idea of inventing myths and dramas that affect the same subject I use, in which the human drama can only be recognised indirectly or by deduction,” she adds.

“In my sculpture, a face is sad due to the fatigue of the threads of the fabric’s weave. It has to hold itself together against the wear and tear of gravity,” she says.

According to her, the fate of the inert matter that surrounds us has always been a reference point for reflecting on the fate of humans.

“Matter is subject to wear and tear, as we are, and in this capacity it gives us something that we can realistically meditate upon. But at the same time its existence continues well beyond ours and tells us something about possibility of eternal existence. So, matter for me is both an instrument and an object of contemplation, she elaborates.


Elisa Nicolaci currently lives and works in Rome. She has done many group and solo shows like Intrecci Mediterranei/ Arachne’s canvas at the Fabric Museum of Gibellina in 2006. Her latest show was in 2020, which was titled ‘900: From Pirandello to Guccione – Artisti di Siciia’. It was curated by Vittorio Sgarbi. To know more about her shows, click here.


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