"The work of Evelien La Sud are unstable equilibriums ready to change, where the concreteness of the object generates correlations of far-reaching significance." (From the text published in : Evelien La Sud, edited by Jade Vlietstra, Florence 1995.) : this is what I wrote ten years ago, and I will use these words as starting point for my present reflections on the artist’s work.
Evelien La Sud was born in 1950 in the Netherlands; her mother is Indonesian, her father Dutch; she has lived and worked in Italy since 1968, and this is where she has received her education. One must take this complex crossroads of cultures into consideration in order to fully appreciate her chosen path, that is individual and at the same time part of its moment in history.
The idea of change, or in the other words the awareness that everything that is being created is undergoing an external transformation, permeates and orients the existential and artistic development of Evelien La Sud: she is deeply imbued with this profoundly Eastern philosophical principle, not only because of ideological choices but also due to her maternal heredity.
Change is a very essence of creativity, of the creative force of nature as well as of art.
(According to the I King, the book of wisdom “matured organically over the slow course of millennia” in China, that Evelien La Sud has always consulted and that she quotes expressly in her work The Change from 2003, the character of nature’s creative force is in fact “ a movement and development that is constant to the point that all things are gradually changed by this force, until their appearances are completely changed. Thus the seasons, and the entire world of creatures, mutate and change in its course. Thus the seasons, and the entire world of creatures, mutate and change in its course. Thus every thing acquire nature that is its lot, which is, from a divine point of view, called destiny. ...thus… the great and lasting harmony of the universe is born…. )
I met Evelien La Sud in the late Eighties in Tuscany: she was building her house and she was creating her kitchen garden, she created artistic installations in her domestic environment, and the attentive way in which she displayed her work turned the rooms of the house into perfect settings for the works, “temporarily show”. Everything bore witness to equilibrium, and at the same time to instability (one is reminded of the “dynamic equilibrium” that Piet Mondrian, Dutchman and follower of the theosophical doctrines, staged in his lozenge-shaped Compositions.): everything was accomplished, and at the same time ready to change, to harmonize with the life of the inhabitants.
The house (for a critical interpretation of the home and kitchen garden of Pastine, see writings by Pier Luigi Tazzi, Laura Vecere and Giuliana Videtta collected in : Evelien La Sud, edited by Jade Vlietstra, Florence, 1995) at Pastine in the Val d’Elsa, one of the most beautiful landscapes in the Tuscan countryside was build over the years starting from an ancient nucleus a tower from the 13TH century, reduced to a ruin and initially acquired as storage space with recycled materials gathered in the neighbourhood: the work created pleasant, welcoming volumes that merged harmoniously with the surroundings.(Evelien herself tells: “In the Eighties many farmhouses were razed to the ground. (…) I began to collect the hand-chiseled stones, the bricks of many different shapes, all of them hand-made, the oak beams, the windows with very thin panes. Roof tiles, entire ceilings and floors heaped along the streets by the former farmers turned bricklayers, who did not want to throw them among the rubble, and who were happy to give me this material”.)
The house still continues to grow and change.
Evelien also created an extraordinary kitchen garden, by terracing a wide and steep slope: for three years (form 1989 to 1992) that land produced, with unusual generosity for the Tuscan country, lush vegetables, herbs and flowers, arranged with the method of complementariness of plants of different species, that makes it possible to protect with the seasons.
Today there is an olive grove on those terraces inside the house the artist arranged her installations, that were different every time we met; also these were created from recovered materials.
Part in iron, small sculptures in clay, cuts of fabric, needle and tread, poles of wood, stationery, glasses, bottles, water, salt, pieces of writing, assembled and multiplied in a rhythmical arrangement in the space, or placed against the wall in carefully planned compositions, formed structures that concretized or envisaged the interests and thoughts of the moment, that gained substance from an observation of nature, from scientific and humanistic literature, and everyday experiences: the symbolism of numbers, the nature of the wind and its effects on water and earth, the transitions from different states of primary elements. (Lara Vinca Masini: “It is the relationship with the elements that the western civilization (whose art system in the most poisonous flower) has almost completely cancelled and distorted (..) that Evelien La Sud pursues, with all her force, all her unrestrainable passion of artist and woman, to re-establish, both when she measures swords, physically, with the work on the land, a necessary passage for her and for her artistic work and when she uses and transforms materials, that she elaborates on the basis of mythological-archaic and anthropological inspirations, linked by tradition to the life of woman, to the fact them being relegated to an everyday universe made of simple and natural materials and products ( clay, glass, canvas, veil..) in which she rediscovers female creativity and new alchemic reactions, once more forcing them to react with the elements in a ‘natural’ manner(..)’.)
This creative, all-encompassing force was therefore manifested within the domestic universe, where friends-artists, art critics, and anthropologists and philosophers-gathered and that therefore encountered an activate public, that found inspiration in the confrontation with the works and with the artist herself, who was also hostess, mother and companion, in an intertwining of roles that were sometimes hard to distinguish.
In the Eighties contemporary art research saw a reinforcement of the “need to work around a situation, logical or anthropological or historical, in order to lend character to a location with one’s work (…) using the chosen site as source of inspiration, and making it the self-same exhibition venue” (see. Gaia Salvatori, “The frame of art”, in: Quaderni Di, no.12, 1991, Liguori Publisher, Naples, page 105.) and in the wake of this development a trend became diffused, also among curators, to show art in the other places than those traditionally intended for the purpose, as museums or galleries, including private homes and artists’ studios. (In this sense the exhibition Chambres d’Amis is exemplary; it was organized in Gent in 1986 by Jan Hoet, director of the local museum, organized on the museum premises and in the private homes made available by artists for the occasion.)
While it is not my intention to analyse the various problems associated with this phenomenon and its numerous consequences for the relationship to note that the " difference between the public dominion and the private sphere, but also the interdependency linking them, has inspired one of the most important researches on the relationship between art and public life in the present epoch where, in a public space that has lost its sense as “civic place”, the home has in many aspects become a “more open, public forum”, a stage for the” complex play of the social dynamics".(see Gaia Salvatori, op. cit., page 108 and note 60, page 118.) And in the same context it is also significant to remember that the XVII Triennal held in 1986 was dedicated precisely to the home, to reflection on the dwelling of the Western Man, also assumed as metaphor of a "chain of contrasts between metaphysical concepts: public/private, collective/individual, conspicuous/intimate",(see George Teyssot, “Interior figures”, in: The domestic project: The home of Man: archetypes and prototypes. VII Milan Triennial, exhibition catalogue (Treatises), curated by G.Teyssot, Milan, 1986, page 20.) where the opposed terms are not merely confronted, but create a hierarchy "that establishes an order of subordination". (ivi, page 19.)
The rapid introduction to the context in which Evelien La Sud’s work developed in those years serves to highlight a characteristic trait of her approach: Evelien appears very well informed and participate actively in the world in wich she lives and makes her decisions, even if her interpretation of art connot easily be retraced to a specific sphere of research, because it is an intimate parte of her very life, of her existential dimension. When the dream of a profound and radical transformation of the entire society failed to come true, Evelien had left Milan,(In Milan from 1968 to 1978, the young Dutchwomen received her artistic and human education: she attended the sculpture course at the Brera Fine Arts Academy held by Francesco Messina, a charismatic master with a contagious creative energy; she participated in the student movement and experienced feminism; she got married (but marriage was to end in divorce) and had two daughters Maya and Luna.
The artistic climate of Milan was among the most vivacious and well-informed in Italy, as she herself remembers: “one still felt the breath of Fontana and Manzoni in the air. Art escaped recognized classifications, art was also speaking about art, behaviour, reflection optical-kinetic research, Arte Povera, Conceptual Art, Body Art and Land Art.”
) where she had lived during “hottest” years of Italian history, making a decision shared by many youth of generation: to live in the country, to rediscover the contact with nature. She did so as an artist: “ In 1978 I decided to stop, to act directly in the natural space” as she remembers - “in those artistic experiences that do not produce works, but events, that are limited in time, and that only leave traces”
text published in: Evelien La Sud, Il giardino dei semplici, La Bertesca-Masnata and Kaiser Art, Genoa 2005