Mariella Sgaravatti, English
Evelien La Sud
Evelien La Sud’s home is outside Barberino Val d’Elsa, in the heart of Chianti. It is an old farmhouse built around a small central tower that dates from the thirteenth century. Over time, the house underwent so many transformations that when its current owner arrived it had been reduced to little more than a heap of stones. La Sud restored it with her own hands, with the same loving care she lavishes on the crystal vases and orchids. “This house”, she says, “was a ruin, completely abandoned. I fell under the spell cast by the solitude, the tangle of plants, trees, stones, and bricks. I was intrigued, any human effort is destined to lose the contest with nature”.
As a matter of principle, La Sud’s restoration work always utilized recycled building materials found abandoned along roads that run by old farmhouses. Most of the old farmhouses in Tuscany have either been converted into mansions or destroyed to make room for modern apartment buildings.
“It really hurt me to see all that material being thrown away. I began to collect the hand chiseled stones, handmade bricks as every size and shape, oak beams, windows, roofing tiles, flooring, and even entire ceiling. I wanted to recover and reuse material that once formed an integral part of reality of a particular place. For me this material is not just a means to an end, it is something of interest in its own right, worthy of attention. This material holds memories and has forgotten essence that is waiting to be rediscovered.”
La Sud came to Tuscany after many years in Milan where she studied at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts. During her studies in Milan, in the seventies, the artistic and intellectual communities were immersed in a general revolt against both moral and social constraints.
Artists refuses to be put into traditional categories and began to discuss new theories and develop new movements “I decided to move to Tuscany to work in natural space. It was a type of artistic experience that does not produce works of art, but involves events limited in time that leave only traces. A fundamental moment in my development was first time I visited a small chapel by the cemetery in Montevarchi and saw Piero della Francesca’s fresco, the Madonna del Parto. In this work a pair of angels pull back the curtain of a pavilion to reveal the pregnant Madonna squarely in the middle, immobile and solitary. In that great fifteenth-century Tuscan painting I recognized the landscape that I saw out of my window. The world may have changed, but a constant thread remained: the quest of mankind, human expectations, in a whole intimately bound up with nature”.
Thought La Sud says that she was not consciously aware of the tumultuous exodus of peasant farmworkers in Tuscany, their history had an effect on her. “ My desire to rebuild this house stems from a desire to understand the profound forces that shaped the live of the people who worked the land and inhabited these old farmhouses.
I wanted to recover and reuse material that once formed an integral part of reality of particular place. For me this materials not just a means to an end, it is something of interest in its own right, worthy of attention. This material holds memories and has forgotten essence that is waiting to be rediscovered”.
“I wanted to experience the rural environment – the huge peasant kitchen, hearth, and the rooms that were demolished, then rebuilt, adapted, extended over time. Their experiences are like a hidden spring, a source of new ideas. The important heritage of the world of peasant farm workers in Tuscany, with all its magic and mystery, is self-contained. It must be handed down to future generations so that we do not lose this unique identity. The simultaneous existence of the histories of various people –where no one part cancels out another, creating the wrap and weft-gives Tuscany its sense of the eternal”.
The living room is carved out of an old hayloft and is the house’s main living space. It has a large windows that face a striking view of the valley and hills that surround the house. At sunset the difference between indoors and outdoors seems to be erased. La Sud says “living every day in direct contact with this landscape has made it a part of me. Natural phenomena-dawn, sunset, seasons changing-represent part of my artistic imagination.
from text publiched in: Tuscany · Artists · Homes, edited by Mariella Sgaravatti, Photographs by Mario Ciampi, Thames & Hudson 2005