Willy Verginer is an Italian artist who loves living close to nature, fights for it and through his unique sculptures, he sounds the alarm bell regarding all the planet’s woes.
“Our head is round to allow our train of thought to change direction” is the name of one of his sculptures and it’s a good motive to change habits, aiming to a better future.
You live in the Dolomites, one of Northern Italy’s most beautiful places. How did your location affect your work?
The area I live in is indeed very beautiful. In my work, I see two sources of influence that remind me of home. The first is wood, my raw material. In my area there is a long tradition of using wood in architecture as well as in artistic handicraft. I grew up in an area where there is a long tradition of wood carving. In 1700 there were already many artists and shops that created wonderful baroque artworks. In 1800, Val Gardena was the greatest centre of religious wood carving. That’s how I learned the art of carving wood in my valley. The second source of influence is the environmental issue. Living in an area where the beauty of nature is really dominant, it was obvious that one of my themes would be overexploitation and destruction of nature. Had I lived in a big city, my expression would have definitely been much different.
What types of trees do you use, where do they come from and what is the lifespan of such an artwork due to its material?
My favorite is the linden tree because it has no nodes, it is clean, easy to process and has a neutral color. In 1500, the famous gothic artist Riemenschneider already used that wood. Quicklime is also very appropriate to express my artistic language, contrary to typical, local wood which is the Swiss pine tree, very rustic, full of nodes and veins.
Some of your statues wear glasses or have their eyes closed and they never smile. What does that symbolize?
Glasses symbolize the deliberate blinding noticed in today’s humans, who do not want to see the environmental or other problems they cause for what they really are. But that is not the only reason my figures often wear glasses. The eyes are perhaps the main indicators of emotions and states of mind. In those artworks where I find the conceptual message to be more important, I have my character wear glasses, so that the message or the question invoked by the artwork is what dominates.
Color lines are almost always put in specific spots, do they separate something from something else?
The color line cutting is determined according to what I want to highlight or to put in the background. It surely needs to create or cause an estranging situation, where the viewer also poses questions. I believe color to be a very important element in my work (in the School of Fine Arts I studied painting, not sculpting). Color overwhelms the figures-elements. It doesn’t accentuate narration, but the narration is transformed, questioned and changed. A certain tension, a clash, as unity and harmony occur between color and wood.
What would you say is the most interesting aspect of your work that nobody has ever noticed?
Nobody has ever noticed – or very few have, at least – that I paint using multiple color layers. Obviously, only one color is visible but if you look closely, there are more shades that make the colored part vibrate and feel more alive. In short, sculptures are not dipped into one color, as many believe.
What is the future of your art in a world that is led towards applying ever more 3D printing in almost every sector?
When photography was invented, it was said that it would be the end of painting and instead, painting found new paths through photography. I believe 3D printing provides new potential but what is certain is that the concept, sensitivity, idea, imagination and calligraphy in artworks can’t be reproduced by a computer. A handmade sculpture lives longer and has its own energy, contrary to 3D prints.
Is there an heir to your technique?
Like I mentioned before, Val Gardena has been the cradle of wood carving. Strangely, very few young people are learning the trade. As for me, I have two sons, Christian and Matthias, who are also sculptors, our studios are next to one another. We give each other advice and it is a very beneficial exchange.
Our magazine’s motto is “Look inside you”, what is yours?
I don’t know who said it but it is something I’ve heard from my grandmother: “Trust is earned in drops, but lost in buckets”.