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a glossary of
Pietro Gaglianò

Laura Pugno - a parole -

2021, published in the catalogue L'attesa

Water is present in many of Laura Pugno's projects, in all its states of matter and transformations, associated with the names it has been given (snow, ice, rain, steam, etc.). The artist has a feeling for water, including both anxiety about the climatic and environmental crises of which its movements are often evidence and unemotional scientific observation, up to the joy of discovery for plasticity, transformations and unforeseen architectures that this element reveals.

Pugno's research has a center of gravity, a strong core that informs and structures the declinations of her paths and the formal results of her research. This barycenter is her body - the body as a terminal of perceptions, information, feelings. All of Laura's investigations and artworks start from the relationship between her physical existence and the world around her. The body moves (while walking, drawing or photographing, the center of gravity must be held firmly), the body imagines telling and shaping without seeing, the body invents stages of memory through what it knows, the body shapes matter and alters the landscape by its own mute presence, by its biological weight and movement. This is the starting point of understanding the art of Laura Pugno, even if at first glance we are led to the other extreme of this relationship, that is the landscape.

Laura Pugno walks through places into that same mindset of those who write or draw them. Walking through the landscape, along the profiles of the architecture, allows to get to know it deeply and directly, it is a cognitive act that takes place without mediation. Walking with this attitude is a totally aesthetic experience; interpreting the term etymologically, where it translates literally the Greek 'aisthanomai': 'I perceive through the senses'. Contemporary Art has a long genealogy of walkers : the most radical, and close to Pugno's immersive experience, is Hamish Fulton, his Walk challenges both the appropriation of the landscape and its conceptualisation. Walking therefore transforms the idea of landscape and can synthesize it, or not, in an artwork that has a different format.

For Laura Pugno cancellation expresses the human and cultural voluntary version of what happens in nature with erosion. The artist practices it on various materials with different tools. It can be a razor blade that subtly removes the film of photographic inks, or when she uses photographs of landscapes printed on aluminum as unusual sleds, and she causes the cancellation of some printed areas by sliding and rubbing with them on portions of that same real landscape. In any case, the cancellation does not imply a negation but a generative act that turns to the expectation of what remains at the end of the action: another landscape, a new vision of reality born as a recurring gesture.

Drawing is a medium for observing: to portray the surrounding world, or its possible representations, is equivalent to study and acquire its inner workings. Each artist should draw whatever medium he/she has chosen for his/her formal outcomes, or how successful his/her drawings are. Drawing is the microscope or the still of the artist. For Laura Pugno, it is also a language that describes and influences even those artworks that are apparently remote from drawing.

It's all there. Finding the right distance to observe things in their interlinked production, but not so far as to lose the details.

Time becomes visible on the solid part of the planet through the continuous abrasive action of natural agents. Erosion, therefore, depicts the age of the world and it accelerates with increasing aging speed. Unlike cancellation, it is not a voluntary act but the consequence of the anthropic impact – one of its many manifestations.

The ice was there to define itself and the architecture that contained it, the rules of geometry and the laws of physics. It also evoked ecological disasters (such as the melting of the polar pack ice and glaciers) but also sublime scenarios (ah, the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich) or heroic explorers (oh, Ernest Shackleton! Oh, Umberto Nobile). Above all, the ice was there to measure time and to reaffirm the centrality of the observer: human beings, who are the only ones to have an intellectual measure of time.

Habitat is a more inclusive term for environment, and more apt to capture a central aspect in Pugno's work, because it includes the interpretation of artificial dimensions, altered and imaginary. As we know, it comes from Latin’s third singular person 'habitare', therefore it simplifies the concept of mutual belonging, temporary or permanent, between a subject and the system that welcomes it. That is what Laura does in every system she enters: she inhabits them deeply.

It is this glossary, because completeness doesn't allow hopes.

Each of her journeys always goes there, to wander around the limit of things: a limit felt and explored as an access, as a border that can be crossed and as a possibility of knowledge.

Laura was born in Biella and has been living and working in Turin for several years, so mountains have always belonged to the artist's sensorial and cultural horizon. The iconic mountain, sanctuary of unspoiled nature, ecological warning light, place of identity and where the border is lost. The mountain is the supreme symbol of the relationship between humanity and environment, between frontal challenge and rapt contemplation. The mountain is still there, in the center or in the background of each artwork by Laura Pugno.

With its ambiguous texture, with its deceptive plasticity, with the multiplication of meanings that develop around its perception, descriptions and scientific analysis, snow has an attractive power for Pugno, to the point of setting up a consultancy relationship (a unique case in the Italian art scene, and probably not only) with a snow specialist.

It is when the experience of art happens. Always now. And that's where it happens too. Here and now.

The artist sees it on all surfaces and in the perspective of each material and each assembly: in the random combination of  elements, in the sedimentation of scraps, in the changing of matter, as when the ice melts, as when the rain and the wind bleach a PVC banner, in what remains after cancellations, abrasions, erosions, and the landscape may be visible, audible, multisensory. It could be said that Laura Pugno is a landscape artist. A landscape also understood as the result of the plurality of pressures, convergences and interpretations that transforms it into a cultural product, therefore into a social construction. So the cancellations made by the artist are an attempt of emancipation from cultural superstructures.

Dust is almost everywhere, but especially in an artwork by Laura from 2017, after being abraded from the plaster of the wall it settles on a motionless inner landscape. The dust flies from the walls onto some plants and on the floor, revealing a different architecture and new landscapes, this time in motion: the snowy one, that covers the leaves of the houseplants, and that is altered by the passage of human presence, and also that of a geography born on the wall where erosion (or erasing) was practiced.


Useless to try to deny the evidence of this correlation between the artist and his hair.

The summary always comes. Even when the artist's creative process and the perceptive and emotional one of those who experience the artwork take long and bumpy paths. At the end, the summary is always there: between form and thinking, between everything we thought and the way in which the artist was able to express it.

In Italian, as in other Romance languages, the term time has both a chronological and an atmospheric meaning (it happens for the French temps or the Spanish tiempo, unlike what happens for English, with time and weather, or for German, with zeit and wetter, or for Icelandic veður and tíma). Maybe it can be explained by the special connection that Mediterranean culture has always done between labor time and its measurement to the weather. In Pugno's research, this overlap of lexicon and concept is manifested in many artworks, where time is used to observe what time does, the changing of time.


It is what you feel when, in the experience of Laura Pugno's works, you approach the limit. Sometimes the leap is so daring, for the mind and the senses, to produce a certain vertigo, as when things are reflected in each other, like two mirrors multiplying reality. In this vertigo, however, mimesis is absent and there is no fiction. It is the vertigo of the possible.

From the overwriting of landscape photos with Braille to shape visualisation experiments through touch, passing through the optical distortions of the plexiglass resting on a moist lawn dew. The visible or its negation will have as terms of reference for a poetic language that runs alongside the experimental method of science. On the other hand, candid and sudden, the cancellation of the visible (or its double antinomian, the vertigo of the invisible), puts all this into question and places Pugno's art in an interrogative dimension.