Mirella Saluzzo was born in Alassio, Liguria, in 1943.
After her high school studies, she enrolled at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, where she came into contact with the protagonists of the Milanese art scene, in particular Luigi Veronesi, whose Chromatology course she followed passionately, and Guido Ballo. One of his teachers was Luciano Caramel, who more than anyone else was to follow the stages of his artistic career with constancy.
After obtaining a diploma in Painting in 1979/80 with a thesis on 'The mosaics of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna', Mirella Saluzzo began her activity as an artist, dividing her interests between painting and ceramics. The diversity of materials finds its trait d'union in a free and unrestrained use of colour tinged with a light sentimentalism. The dynamic chasing after each other of irregular shapes, now fluid, now angular, creates wavy surfaces that first entwine, then decompose, in a chromatic whirlwind of lyrical ascendancy.
His first solo exhibition was in 1983 at the Galleria Il Patio in Ravenna, with a presentation in the catalogue by Luciano Caramel, who noted the "fairytale-like variation of forms", the "iridescent metamorphism" and the "kaleidoscopic succession of images" in the brushstrokes with their rapid and blurred strokes. The point of reference is the early 20th century research carried out by a handful of visionary artists belonging to the avant-garde movements, such as the Brücke, the Blaue Reiter, but also Fauvism and Divisionism, mixed with the last remnants of the informal climate with which all post-war artists had to deal in one way or another. From these suggestions derives a narrative trait in substance, even if gracefully abstract. Dream and reality merge to give substance to stories out of time, which tell of a mythical world relived through the ancestral and legendary memories handed down by oral tradition.
The overall vision of the works of the early 1980s, on the whole unified, conceals an internal fragmentation with a marked destructive power. Much more exhibited in the pictorial compositions, formed by the juxtaposition of several canvases of different formats, more creeping and ultimately more disruptive in the ceramics, which conceal the internal contradiction, still latent, with a soft and sensual treatment of the material and a bright polychromy. A clear example of this is Mokele Mbembe (1985), the fulcrum of Mirella Saluzzo's second solo exhibition at Spazio G in Ravenna (1986), with its delicate tongues stretched upwards, traversed by deep lacerations that go to corrode, still without crossing it, the core of the material.
A slow process of despoliation and synthesis led her, towards the end of the 1980s, to privilege plastic research more and more, using a material that was new to her, sheet aluminium, and reducing the colours used to an austere monochrome presented in its basic shades. The dimensions grow and the game of construction based on the assembly of several pieces increases, generating multiform structures, constantly mutating as the point of view changes (Al volo incline, 1988), with an insistent use of the diagonal and the cut.
The two-dimensionality of the work is only partly masked by the introduction of tree trunks, which lead Elena Pontiggia to speak of a vegetable and celestial world, of intuitive nature, where 'the object is only evoked' and where 'more important than reality is the dream of reality'. It is 1989 and Mirella Saluzzo presents her new research at the Galleria Il Patio in Ravenna.
Her pictorial work proceeds in parallel, but is increasingly contaminated by her sculptural experience: rods and aluminium beams appear in relief on the canvas, giving an idea of the stylistic mutation underway. The painting is no longer the table of the sign and chromatic exercise, but a plastic wall structure, polymateric, uniformed in its optical perception by the spreading of pigment that indiscriminately covers the different supports.
1991 and even more so 1992 saw a further step forward in the sculptor's research. The line of the cut closes, leading to the incorporation of portions of void within the work (Volo legato, 1991) until the complete abandonment of naturalistic elements, for a series of sculptures classified generically as Untitled, in which precarious balances are staged thanks to the folds of an aluminium foil, which occupies an allusively three-dimensional physical space.
The colour choices are reduced to the essential: one two three colours depending on the structure, the depth of the body and the action of light.
Starting in the second half of the 1990s, the insistent verticality is also joined by constructions that expand horizontally from the ground, beginning to suggest the idea of a step that will later be fully reflected in the later Staircases. The sharp edges suggest thrusts outwards and then inwards again, in a dynamic alternation of planes. The Isole series has a true architectural structure modulated on the surface processing of the material which, although monochrome, is presented in a wide range of greys, luminous and leaden at the same time, with the introduction of a new expressive code, the arabesque, which etches the support as if it were a graphic character.
The first Scales date from 2004, summarising the stylistic research of the last two decades, and which Mirella Saluzzo presented the following year at the 14th Quadriennale in Rome with Uscita di insicurezza (Exit of Insecurity). These are structures capable of integrating with the buildings with which they share space. The chosen titles, evocative and intimist, once again confirm that poetic lightness that has never been abandoned and deliberately contrasts with the icy sensations suggested by the material and the veiledly harsh and disharmonious forms. The relationship with atmospheric refraction on the one hand, and with the dense immateriality of the void on the other, demands a complex management of form and control of the fragmentation of the segments. Control that, paradoxically, plays precisely on distortion and disequilibrium for the perfection of the overall view. Evasions, Collector of Sounds are an example of this. The folding, the cut enclosing the void, the irregular geometric shape, the graphic sign, the colour are the hallmarks of the early 2000s.
The production that marks the new decade is under the banner of the metaphor of the sea and the wind. What is striking, Patrizia Serra observes, is the "fluidity of the movement of the curves, filled with a dense void like a liquid, which almost conditions the volumes". The titles reflect this research by recalling wave motion, the mutability of water and air, breezes. The plastic masses are traversed by deep fissures that cut the planes vertically (Into the wave, Respiri) or horizontally (Scirocco avvolgente, Colpo di vento. rischio caduta) allowing glimmers of light between one side and the other of the sculptural body. The blatantly declared void of a few years earlier is reabsorbed inside the bodies. Not enclosed, but only partially concealed. More intuitable than visible.
The outer layer is finely etched, scratched, almost tortured by small marks. A skin that seems to retain the sounds picked up, and to release them slowly as if they were a subdued murmur, an overlapping of voices and words brought in from afar, making the intricate tangles of shimmering shadows very sonorous.
Claudio Cerritelli notes that "the relationship between colour and plastic form grows and floods with luminous reverberations and cadenced spatial movements", and is a privileged means "to develop connections between painting and sculpture through continuous analogies between art and the flow of life, a state of uncertainty, a situation of precarious equilibrium, the multidirectional movement of form that rises and wraps itself".
The exhibition opportunities, in public spaces and private galleries, favour a direct comparison between the solutions experimented in the aluminium structures and the paper reliefs. In both cases, Mirella Saluzzo does not renounce the idea of transience suggested by apparently unstable assemblages, at the limits of the laws of physics. Ruffles, gashes, extroversions creep in, breaking the planes into soft or fragmented trails. Onda anomala (2011) first, Percorsi (2014) later, flank their metal counterparts linked to water and air, giving a lighter, more whispered vision, but for this very reason, perhaps, even more synthetic.
Since 2013, the sculpture Into the wave has been on permanent display at the Ravenna Port Authority headquarters.
Anna Comino, 2014