Tabula Impressa (2013-present)

Tabula Impressa is an installation of mixed media works on paper, board, canvas and textile, and a video-work by artist Francesca Ricci. All the pieces are part of a composite visual project started in 2011 as an ongoing joint venture with writer Kiril Bozhinov.

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The artworks, realised in different techniques, have as a base a collection of signs, photographed on the streets and pavements of London. These marks, pointing to impending maintenance works, are deprived of their functional meaning and become the source of a new code and system of interpretation.

Composed by several bodies of works, Tabula Impressa is inspired by what Jung described as ‘collective unconscious’: a concept that sees man not born as a blank canvas (tabula rasa) but carrying in his subconscious elements from a communal, ancestral background. A panorama of archetypes is layered upon personal and collective history and generates a universe of signs and symbols that can overlap across centuries, cultures and fields of human knowledge.

The signs are at first appreciated for their visual qualities, transcending their functionality and accidentality to become inner landscapes. The first two series of works, ‘Things shouldn’t be useful, they should just be’ and ‘The present is enclosed within the ribcage’, are the artist’s response to the visual and contemplative qualities of the signs, according to personal sensitivity, experience, knowledge – the personal unconscious.

The collected specimens are then organised by shape and intensity: 242 signs are divided into ten categories according to their level of development from nascence to completeness, from a single dot to a full shape. They are assigned a fresh set of values to form an inventory to offer a new possibility of interpretation of reality. The work Cache represents a static inventory of the signs, while Rosa is instead a dynamic diagram where the signs are arranged over concentric circles to suggest the possibility of their interaction through the spinning of the wheel.

In the series Apocriphisms, a set of small size egg-tempera icons accompanied by a description, this new alphabet is implemented to decipher some visual compositions as encountered and photographed on the pavement. The result is a constellation of intimate, enigmatic objects for personal mediation.

In Will and Wish the signs are instead used to compose visual arrangements inspired by other spheres of human knowledge, for example literature. Key words and moods from two short stories by the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges, ‘The Waiting’ and ‘The Circular Ruins’, are translated into compositions where the signs map the unfolding of the story.

In the series Anarca, the signs are the base to design a set of Major Arcana referencing the traditional Marseille tarot deck. Each card from the Marseille deck is matched to a found sign. Interested in the Tarot as a symbolic universe, the artist attempts to enliven the signs in the context of an existing divinatory system, creating a personalised tool of meditation.

As well as featuring seminal works from the original project exhibited in London in 2013, the exhibition showcases a selection of more recent works by the artist, from the series Fondali and Annuari, which display more personal tones and underline the evolving nature of the project.

Fondali, in Italian means at the same time, ‘sea-beds’ and ‘backdrops’, and the images can be read both horizontally (as a sort of ‘underwater landscape’), or vertically (as ‘backdrops’ of a scene).
This series includes works on paper and works on voile, similar to tulle, a traditional material used in set design backdrops. Here the colour leaks through the fabric to leave an imprint on the background surface, creating a double image. Amongst the Fondali, is a set of Annuari/Yearbooks, personal visual summaries of the artist’s experiences within a given period.

Part of the show is also the abstract video-piece Glossary of Implications (2019-21), a visual poem that questions the ever-changing meaning of words and images in regard to their belonging to a specific narrative or visual vocabulary. It features works from Tabula Impressa, from the series Apocriphisms and the section Harmos of the work Cache. Using three keywords as a cue, it is a reflection upon man’s eternal quest to make sense of the outside world and inner reality, and his effort to describe life objectively but, at the same time, assert his own perception of it.

All artworks are by Francesca Ricci based on photographs by Kiril Bozhinov, who is also the author of the project’s nomenclature and texts.