|Dimensions||6 × 6 × 6 cm|
Prove di dorodango (frammenti di sfera in bentonite e sfera in limo argilloso)
(Dorodango studies – fragments of a bentonite sphere and of a clay-rich loam sphere)
Raw earth spheres, polished by hand, with no additional materials
Diameter 6 cm (whole sphere) plus fragments
Unique piece, authenticated
The title refers to the Japanese practice of “hikaru dorodango”, which identifies a manual activity, a widespread pastime among children in Japan, consisting in modeling and polishing spheres made of dirt. “Hikaru” means brilliance, “doro” is mud, and “dango” a round dumpling of pressed rice flour. The place and time in which this form of art originated are today unknown, but it is generally thought to have begun as a game among young Japanese students. The practice of shaping clay spheres is also used by artisans and by those working on architectural finishings, to test the characteristics of raw soil.
Beginning with a very simple, apparently homogeneous, material—dirt—the handmodeling starts without operating any screening and adding very little water, with the intention of forming an increasingly perfect sphere. During the handling, polishing and drying of the sphere, which last a few days, discontinuities in color and texture slowly emerge, until the earth globes are fully dried, and transform into what seem precious spheres of stone, with shades that recall the surfaces of unknown planets.
It is a practice of care for the matter, a process that, once begun, has to be followed step by step in all its phases, to guarantee the successful production of the artifact. The
tension guiding each gesture is that of maximum roundness and brightness. A practice of constant presence that requires perseverance, care and attention. Despite their look, the
finished dorodangos remain extremely fragile and must be treated with great care. The origin of this practice is mostly focalized on the meditative benefits deriving from the process itself, rather that on the longevity of the artistic object.
The two spheres presented here were realized with the clay gathered by the artists in the clay loam quarry of the Furnace Carena in Cambiano (To). The fragmented grey sphere was modeled with a particular clay brought to Cambiano from other sites: it is a clay with a high Bentonite content, a very specific clay-based material that, thanks to the chemical and physical properties of its minerals, is capable of absorbing great volumes of water and, when hydrated, can double or triple its volume. During the drying process, its internal tensions were so powerful that they cause its “explosion”. The intact sphere, modeled with clay from the Cambiano quarry, assumed tones varying from brown to light beige, with dark freckles caused by the presence of manganese oxide in the soil; while it was handled, the clay acquired an high degree of brightness and it maintained its spherical shape as it dried.
The artists experimented with clay-based materials within the project IperPianalto (2017/2018), promoted by the Fondazione Spinola-Banna per l’Arte di Poirino and GAM – Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Turin, a project investigating the territory of “Pianalto di Poirino”, a large clay-rich plateau south of the Turin hills, where the artists’ have their studio, and that is, to this day, object of their research and detailed studies.
“Prove di dorodango (frammenti di sfera in bentonite e sfera in limo argilloso)”, is among the studies and tests on materials leading up to the creation of the installation “IperPianalto Planetarium” that the artists plan to realize in 2020.
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