Federico Patellani

Federico Patellani

The Alluvional Turtle Goes on a Journey

  1. La Famiglia Orsi a Calde’, Provini
    Federico Patellani © Studio Federico Patellani
  2. La Famiglia Orsi a Calde’, Provini
    Federico Patellani © Studio Federico Patellani
  3. 1953 Scultura Alluvionale, Tartaruga, Provino
    Federico Patellani © Studio Federico Patellani

Milanese painter Dadi Orsi has discovered alluvial sculpture, and the tortoise, quite rightly, is one of the painter-sculptor’s works about to leave for Zurich and New York.

Every artistic or spiritual movement has its homeland. Alluvial sculpture was born in Caldé, on Lake Maggiore, and in a very familiar setting. Dadi Orsi spent his summer holidays on the shores of the lake in question with his family, consisting of his wife Gabriella and his two sons Titta and Andrea. If we insist on the composition of the Orsi family, it is because all the members contributed to the foundation of the alluvial sculpture. The summer was one of the rainiest, violent storms swelled the rivers and on the banks, once the fury of the elements had subsided, fragments of wood worked by the waters could be found. There was nothing very special about this wood: gnarled branches and roots, such as one could pick up among the pebbles on any river.

But in Caldè there were bears. Dadi, the father, noticed the bizarre shapes of the fragments, and discovered which could be a heron, a fish, a dog, a woodpecker or other animals. He began to collect them and the whole family took part in this exciting search. Not only that, but the little bears were joined by the eight children of a neighbouring toll collector (customs officer). Nine-year-old Titta suggested to his father that he colour these animals found in the pebbles. The research became systematic, and so, less than eighteen months later, Dadi Orsi exhibited his new wooden bestiary at the Holler Gallery in Zurich. After the Zurich stay, the animals are expected to be exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

These sculptures, which Dadi Orsi calls “alluvial” because they were rightly formed by nature in flooded ground, are something absolutely truthful. The artist applies colour to one side but leaves the opposite side of his animals in their natural state, so that it can be seen that the forms are original and the work of man is limited merely to interpreting them, to giving them a classification and a resemblance. For this, the animal does not necessarily have to be composed of a single piece of wood. Sometimes two or three fragments contribute to its formation, as for example in the case of the ‘running ostrich’ or the ‘golden tortoise’.

Even before he became the creator of the flood sculpture, Dadi Orsi was very popular with children. But now he has become the object of genuine veneration. So much so that, a few days ago, having succeeded in an operation in which their mother had to declare defeat (it involved cutting up a particularly tough roast), little Andrea declared to his father: ‘there’s nothing you can’t do, Dad. You are Leonardo da Vinci!

1953, Traduzione dall’originale francese