Artist Graziella Malagoni: Between Lightness and the Weight of the Past

A visual artist transcribes unifying symbols of life, death, and transcendence onto dreamlike panels of silk.

Written by Sarah Bilson

Following a fruitful career in fashion design, directing her atelier under the “Graziella” label, Graziella Malagoni has dedicated over twenty years to the creation of bright, visionary artworks. The Italian born artist moved to Montreal in 1967, where she studied fashion design at l’Ecole des Metiers d’art and painting at the Museum of Fine arts, and where she now lives and works.

Throughout her life Graziella Malagoni has experimented with a wide range of mediums and techniques, including charcoal, acrylic and oil. By 1972 her large-format drawings were acquired in the Canada Art Bank. Since then, Malagoni has exhibited her work at numerous art spaces such as the MAI, the Bain Mathieu and Salon Laurette. Espace Cascade, Regina Assunpta.

Malagoni’s pre-existing passion for textiles instinctively drew her towards silk as the primary material in her studio practice. Her work explores the chromatic nuances of light, the diaphanous qualities of silk, and the playful, unpredictable interactions between colour, light, movement and material.

“Every silk thread is so delicate and so strong, so traditional and yet invites new forms and uses, it is the holder of 5000 years old memories and it enhances every space with its light: a very appropriate metaphor of the human spirit.”

– Graziella Malagoni

Inspired by memories of her youth in Italy, the artist transmits through her art a personal perspective on history, heritage, and the passing of time. Her work takes on a quasi-archaeological function: iconic symbols, civilizations, gods, the mystery of human consciousness transposed onto silk, a material as ephemeral and light as time.

Deeply saddened by the geopolitical conflicts in the Middle East, and the senseless destruction of human lives, communities, and historical artifacts, Malagoni recently faced a turning point in her creative work. With humanity’s tendency towards destruction as a conceptual starting point, she painted emblems on organza marked with symbols representing cultural archetypes (war, life, fire, man and woman, nature…). Malagoni then went on to develop these ideas into a visual language, a codex of sorts, containing a series of unique hieroglyphics within which complex socio-historical notions could be codified. From this practice emerged two series; “The Quest for the Mystery”, exhibited at Bain Mathieu in 2014, and “Totem” exhibited at the MAI in April 2018.

“Totem,” like many Malagoni’s other work, centers around the existential preoccupation with meaning, death, and the search for transcendence. These universal ideas lie at the core of the human experience, uniting narratives and mythologies across time and space.

In my work I interweave all iconic symbols and I appreciate their common spirit; I marvel at how similar they are even when the cultures, of which they are signatures, have existed at the opposite end of the globe.

Graziella Malagoni

A bright and joyful personality, beloved in Montreal’s Pointe St Charles neighborhood, Graziella Malagoni is also known for her tongue-in-cheek performance pieces. In 2009 she staged her own metaphorical funeral during a parade on the banks of the Lachine Canal, “La parade des amis”, a celebratory event in which she commemorated life, colour and art.

A philosophical artist whose mysterious works represent ephemerality and the passing of time, Malagoni wishes to create light spaces which viewers can move through, reflecting on their own perceptions of the past. She works on creating visual documents that are representative of our civilizations and that maintain transparency and optimism, while offering us a realistic vision of our impact as human beings on future generations.

Graziella Malagoni hopes to put together a retrospective on her years of practice. In the meantime, you can find a selection from her surrealist “Doodles” series (concept sketches on paper) at Archive Contemporary until January 5, as part of the “Small Formats” exhibition.