Remo Giatti’s prints in the Cambridge Diane française, “Musée de Poche” collection

Giatti’s original print for Le livre et sa matière (2018)

In an earlier blog post, I talked about the artist books donation of the Diane française publisher “Musée de Poche” collection to Cambridge University Library. One of the works I discovered in this series is that of Remo Giatti, an artist form Northern Italy who uses a variety of techniques (engraving, lithography, drawing and collage…), and whose prints often include elements in “relief”. His work featured on the cover of the catalogue (F201.a.4.1), accompanied in the numbered Cambridge copy by an original print. Giatti also contributed to four “Musée de Poche” books (three of them are double volumes containing up to eight prints).

Le plus beau poème du monde est un poème d’amour (2014) by the Italian poet Arturo Schwarz, translated into French by Raphael Monticelli and inspired by Lucretius is a tribute to the beloved woman and her body through the elements. In this context, Giatti’s first and last prints evoke the stains of biological elements enlarged through a microscope, and the cracks forming on an arid soil in shades of grey. In the central double print, a grey shape with lines, strokes and cracks, pops up dramatically towards the viewer. It is set on top of another print which acts as a colourful brown and green background for the other one, reusing patterns of bubbles, stains and lines, and creating a strange effect of alignment and perspective from the top to the bottom print.

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Le plus beau poème du monde est un poème d’amour (2014)

In the trilingual Mémoires (2015), poems by Franco Loi in Italian and Milanese, translated into French by Franc Ducros, show the work of memory. They conjure literary works (Moby Dick, Shakespeare), people and places (Ireland, Friuli in North-Eastern Italy, Milan), love and decay. These poems often verse into irony, and a prosaic or profane language: “ces trois casse-couille de gamins qui grandissent”… “prendre un train et mettre loin de moi cette saloperie”. In one instance, the beloved woman is praised and addressed as a female monkey: “Oh ! ma jolie guenon aux beau yeux d’amour…”. Later poems associate memory with pain and shame but don’t lose this humoristic and reflexive (dis)stance: “Qu’elle est amère, mes amis, la vieille chanson: aboyer, espérer, oublier!”. Giatti’s prints alternate between rectangular and oval stains- or stone-like contours, evoking the shape of stones and butterflies covered with figurative (limbs, plants) or abstract shapes and patterns, in shades of grey, brown, ochre and green. They can be interpreted by the viewer and deciphered like hieroglyphs, including the central print, which is somehow reminiscent of the Rorschach psychological test.

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Mémoires (2015)

Jouer Iqbal by Philippe Chartron, illustrated by Giatti (2017), is inspired by and a tribute to the piece dedicated by jazz musician Yusel Lateef (1920-2013) to his daughter. It is accompanied by a CD of jazz music by the saxophonist Jean-Marc Baccarini. Both the artistic and poetical work can be characterised as “improvisation” and “variation”. Chartron reflects on the city of New York, multi-culturalism and ethnicity, and the diversity of creative material, instruments and sounds.  Giatti’s prints are in tones of grey, yellow and red, moving on to brown and green, bearing familiar circular shapes, as well as cut out angular metal plates supporting a variety of strokes and traces. The last of the eight prints, the only one in dark blue, with actual notes on what looks like the fragment of a torn piece of sheet music, contains two metal pieces which are part of the matrix used by Giatti in the creative process.

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Jouer Iqbal (2017)

Finally, Sur la philosophie de Newton (2018), with a preface by Jean Khalfa, is a love poem written by Voltaire for his lover, the exceptional woman of science Madame du Châtelet (1706-1749), who wrote a key French translation and commentary of Newton’s Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica published in 1759. The four prints by Giatti, whose format increases arithmetically, are inspired by philosophy, mathematics and physics. Some of the lists of numbers and formulae in the largest plate are actually reproductions of  original Newton manuscripts kept in Cambridge University Library. The prints rely on geometrical shapes and drawings, playing with a profusion of colours and textures reminiscent of the elements, the world and the cosmos.

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Sur la philosophie de Newton (2018)

These books are available for consultation in Cambridge University Library Rare Books Reading Room, along with all the other items of the donated “Musée de Poche” collection.

Irène Fabry-Tehranchi

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