This spring Italian artist Antonio Riello opens the exhibition Confined Objects at the Danielle Arnaud Gallery in London. The new solo show focuses on Riello’s creations during lockdown, with a series of evocative blue ball-point pen drawings of everyday objects. The time indoors, isolated from society allowed the artist time to reassess his approach to mundane household items and begin to find new ways of looking at them and recording them through his art. Alongside this new collection of sketches, the audience will find Riello’s iconic sculptural series Ashes to Ashes, made in glass at Berengo Studio.
The installation features a series of commemorative glass urns that were crafted to house the ashes of the artist’s favourite books. “I’m a bibliomaniac” the artist once confessed in an interview with the Wall Street Journal. “The books I love the most I have read and reread and at some point, I wondered what will become of them when I am gone? Will they end up on a second-hand stall? In a damp cellar? In a dusty attic eaten by woodworms? Inglorious ends. How to save their physical bodies from decay?” These questions sparked the artist’s project to find a way to conserve and honour his library back in 2009, and it’s been an ongoing project ever since, with the artist immortalising his favourite books in individual glass urns, each with their own unique shape.
Ritually burning his books Riello set about collecting the ashes and housing them in these specially designed glass forms. In his own words: “the soul is saved and the body becomes a work of art, entrusted to a sort of ‘pocket Eternity.’” Interestingly the artist has also revealed how the glass form is often inspired more by the emotions the book inspires within him, rather than a strict relationship to the contents of the book itself: ”It is a visual story of the intimacy of my intellectual life and of its passions” he once observed, “it is also a meticulous research on Venetian glass and its tradition … I’ve done 430 to date and I don’t intend to stop.”