Fausto Salvi

A brilliant contemporary and itinerant artist, Fausto Salvi specialises in ceramics, in specifically majolica, earthenware historically prized for its plastering and vessel making properties, and for its porous surface, which takes paints and associated pigments well.

Contemporary Projects / Fausto Salvi

Fausto Salvi

Brescia 1965

Having graduated from the National School of Art in Brescia in 1982, Salvi trained as a ceramicist in Faenza, home to the prestigious Faenza International Ceramics Museum, where from 1990 to 1992 he went on to specialise in majolica at the Ceramic Art National School G. Ballardini. Initially attracted to the colour fixing properties of majolica’s white glaze, he was interested primarily in its surfaces, in drawing and painting on the clay, and not so much in its texture and shape: ‘I used to paint on any surface that was covered by this support: plates, cylinders, jugs, vases. Every shape suited the need to express myself through my drawings.’

Inspired by the decorative work of Renaissance masters, who utilised majolica’s properties as ceiling and wall panels, and by early Native American pottery, this first phase – 1989 to 1993 - of Salvi’s work consists largely of a reinterpretation of traditional and well-studied decorated ceramic forms. Beautiful, well executed, and seemingly influenced by a number of 20th century movements and artists, including Henri Matisse’s line drawings, they constitute a playful response to an artistic heritage that Salvi has sometimes described as cumbersome. Artistically, they remain poised half way between utility and art object, between a plate or a vase and a series of stylised biomorphic forms, a sea urchin or a microorganism.

It was a busy time. Prolific, driven, Salvi was relentlessly productive, and while he managed to just about exhaust both theme and the will to draw, the inevitable serialisations engendered by the quantity and micro-directions of the work can be found in many of his later pieces, in for example a piece exhibited in 2006 in Waiting For An Answer, at the Galleria Maurer Zilioli, Desenzano del Garda, in an installation featuring multiple eyes, a series of seemingly endlessly identical bucket-shaped moulds, whose semi-finished sides and bases contrast sharply with the glazed and luminous finish of the eyes themselves. 

Fausto Salvi’s fascination with drawing on largely functional objects gave way in the late 1990s to experimenting with the shape and form of the majolica itself, and particularly with possibilities inherent in its surface textures. It would be wrong to say, however, that he moved away entirely from traditional forms, for he utilises the vase in a series entitled People and Disasters in as late as 1998, but these subsequent pieces are more sculptural than they are decorative, and certainly by 2001 he is making sculptures. In Experimental Vegetables, for example, single colour tubular pieces show Salvi experimenting with primarily with form.

In some ways a social artist, Salvi’s later work, often frescos some two to three metres tall, is a commentary on the link between technology, speed of movement, data and the fulfilment of desire. Almost a personal mapping of his itinerant artist self, it is an examination of the underbelly of a specifically urban desire, a sometimes violent portrayal clothed in the apparently benign motifs of comic book art, Pop art and cubist-like landscapes. ‘I find it rather ironic to put in people's houses and lives my violent and grotesque drawing, often disguised as pretty decorations.’

However, while all this may be true, there is more to the work than meaning. Often highly abstract, many repeat geometric and irregular shapes; and the early tubular forms reoccur throughout. Also, the consistency with which Fausto Salvi has experimented with a material which carries with it a whole history of method and usage has resulted in an oeuvre that at once points to the past and to the future, a tension examined in the very making of the work. Commenting on a recent experiment with aluminium foil pieces, with which he covers the glaze, creating an effect similar to gold leaf, he says that ‘details remain that emerge from the haphazard application of the aluminium, oval and concentric bicoloured patterns that break and interrupt, (reminding) the viewer that under the skin lies the structure and the fired soul of the piece.’

Teacher, lecturer and traveller, Fausto Salvi has exhibited across the world, in Italy, Britain, France, India, America, Argentina, South Korea and New Zealand, has been artist in residence at the likes of New York University, and in 2009 collaborated with the Philippe Starck Network on Venice’s new Palazzina Grassi Hotel, on both Le Meurice Hotel in Paris and Le Meridien Hotel in Los Angeles, and in 2010 on Starck’s Mori Venice Bar in Paris. Most recently, he exhibited at the 2010 Salon de Mobile, at the International Design Fair, in Milan. Indeed, both the tubular and the fresco works have great potential vis-a-vis interior design, the latter, whose pieces are roughly 10 cm thick, easily occupying space as wall art. 

Fausto Salvi lives and works in Brescia and Milan, Italy.