The trip to Francesca DiMattio’s newly-finished Hudson Valley studio was completely worth the wait since we had been trying to get together for a few months. And we couldn’t have chosen a more glorious early fall day, where the sun shone brightly and the air felt crisp and clean.
The studio, which is adjacent to both Francesca’s country home and her husband’s own studio, sits in the middle of a large piece of land dense with vegetation. The buildings are simple yet massive, strong and contemporary, creating a powerful contrast with the idyllic landscape. Right outside Francesca’s work space there is a landscaped gravel garden with planters of her very own creation, an area with a kiln where she fires her ceramic pieces, and a beautifully designed pool.
“The space in my studio in Brooklyn, which I still keep for paintings and sometimes finishing the sculptures, isn't big enough for a kiln or compressor ” she said, adding that “I needed to build something from scratch and for example add a ceiling hoist that allows me to make heavy hanging sculptures.” And it is precisely the new sculptures that I noted first, which were in the midst of being shipped to London for her latest solo show at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery.
Part of the reason why I’m so fascinated with Francesca’s work is because of her ability to masterfully work so many different media. Her own distinctive sculptural language has produced stunning sculptures that combine porcelain and stoneware which are then molded, painted and glazed by hand. There are merged aesthetics of chinoiserie, Belgium ceramicists, French renaissance, ancient Greek and Roman - “they all copied one another throughout history,” she said. Never has this connection made more sense than when seen together in Francesca’s pieces, which somehow narrate a story of beauty and chaos seamlessly - almost as if the juxtaposition of styles create a patchwork that makes perfect sense.
The tall sculpture in the middle of the studio combines hundreds of delicate flowers which are then mixed with nails that perforate the porcelain and seem to indicate how a stronger force is either pushing the flowers to grow faster or die sooner. Francesca always emphasizes how the feminine in her work gets confronted with the masculine, the raw and the tough. It’s this dichotomy that she wants to explore the most.
The large paintings, which are truly magnificent, had me completely immersed for what seemed like many hours. The starting point is always the interior, but Francesca masterfully turns each of her rooms in visual feasts of detail, contrast and constant intrigue. In one of the paintings, there’s depth and perspective thanks to a detail of tile floor interrupted by a floral pattern taken from the kitschy and omnipresent Hawaiian hibiscus pattern which then gets broken again by texture plaid.
We also get to look at proofs and galleys of her new book, “Housewares,” a gorgeous tome with lush images that are focused on her recent solo exhibition at Blaffer Art Museum in Houston.
Her most important creation, however, is inside her body. Francesca is also pregnant with her first child due in the winter of 2016. Everything she does, as a true born and raised New Yorker, is radical and extraordinary - motherly and romantic yet virile and uncompromising. Her pieces perhaps indicate how the experience of motherhood will be for her or will open up a whole different chapter that I can’t wait to see.
12 October 2015 – 14 November 2015
Pippy Houldsworth Gallery
6 Heddon Street
London W1B 4BT