The Joy of Creation

I’ve known Cristina Lastrego since the mid 1970’s, when she (architect) and Francesco Testa (philosopher) a rock-solid couple in life and work, introduced themselves rather shyly and respectfully in Via Biancamano 1,  at Torino, in the head-office of Einaudi, with a huge folder containing what would become their first book Giovanna; a comic book story. The idea that such a “committed” and ideologically glittering  publisher such as Einaudi should endorse a cartoon story book was dubious, in fact the support of an almost mythical and much missed editor-in-chief, Daniele Ponchiroli, was to prove pivotal. The smiling, little, chubby-cheeked tomboy Giovanna, dressed simply in a pair of dungarees, was fortunately a sort of “anti-Barbie”, and therefore deemed politically correct: basically she’s a normal girl with an aptitude for reading, and gifted with a lively imagination. Since then, I’ve kept a close eye on the work of Lastrego & Testa, from my privileged viewpoint of a growing friendship. I’ve observed the numerous books tested in primary schools, their publication, and subsequent translation and distribution throughout the world, of the adventures of Giovanna with Tommasone (a friendly, overweight dragon) and Ciccio (Giovanna’s ever-present dog).  I’ve witnessed Lastrego & Testa’s cross-over to using new digital technology, and finally their debut in the world of cartoon animation. In the meantime Cristina and Francesco have also become my neighbours, so I feel I know them reasonably well, however Cristina’s nocturnal metamorphosis was a genuine surprise for me too. With her working day over, Cristina began to set aside a few hours to dedicate herself to a developing passion:

the joy of collage! Which she abandoned herself to, with an ever-growing fervour. At first she dedicated her attention to huge fabled animals, with the appearance of dinosaurs, crocodiles, deep-water fish, all rolled into one, created with all kinds of materials and trinkets: velvet, lace, embroidery, trimmings, bindings, buttons, ribbons, and coloured cottons, which seem to have reappeared from a long forgotten trunk in the attic.
These creatures were closely followed by tense, bewildered, sneering cats; flaming dragons, plump, sly marine beasts, who looked very satisfied indeed with their gaudy livery, and dazed birds with big eyes and imperious beaks. Cristina also created a rather simple, unpretentious display of hypothetical ancestors: warriors, leaders, frivolous ladies, ballerinas, philosophers, judges, even a “sex slave”, a “gnat tamer”, and an inhabitant of Navarra; every one of them owner of an amazing autobiography.  Each collage was also a sort of miniature story, in which fantasy and history intertwined together with the grotesque, yet sophisticated, naïve, heraldic and circus-like quality of the figures. All these creatures of the night compose a resplendent fauna with oriental-like elements, as if they had appeared out of a story of the “Arabian Nights”, colourful and tasty as the most imaginative Sicilian pastries. They have the masterful colours of ancient Persian ceramics, and seem as if they are about to transmute their animal nature into vegetable, and vice versa. So we witness the birth of a new creation, governed by a demiurgic that delights in transforming recognisable shapes into wonderful, indefinable, magical creatures.


Modest materials destined to oblivion, if not the rubbish heap, are miraculously born again, flaunting their ancient nobility, intertwining and interbreeding in a sort of  cheerful voluptuousness of personal delight, with decorative lavishness. Intensely metamorphic figures are born, surprised in their “becoming” from hidden secret origins: vividly consistent, totally stylised and geometric, as within primitive art, which follows an interior order when it abandons itself to the pleasures of physicality, as it extracts the creational spirit of wood and stone. Not by chance, these collages proved to be perfect to illustrate, or rather integrate, the nursery rhyme with which Carlo Fruttero recounted his version of Genesis “Sotto l’Alto Patrocinio dell’Onnipotente”  (La Creazione, Gallucci, 2010)

Computer Lace.

Cristina then went on to explore the three-dimensional world, adding volume to her assemblage. Whilst her nocturnal creatures filled more and more wall-space, she discovered technological materials which we use rather distractedly everyday. Objects that would otherwise undergo a rapid, fatal decline towards obsolescence, pursued relentlessly as they are by new and more sophisticated products.
Full of wondrous surprise, we discover  the expressive capacity locked within the rubbish heaps of the digital age: CD’s, a computer mouse, mobile phone covers, SCART or USB plugs, SCSI doors, headphones, switches, ear-pieces, audio cards, silicon chips, rheostats, processors, connectors, jacks, power packs, keyboards, floppy discs, tuners, coils, cooling fans, razor heads, remote controls, watch casings, lights, sat-navs, lighting material and irons, even heavy printer casings. A bric-a-brac of metal and plastic that rather surprisingly blends with the old repertoire of lace, embroidery, and buttons. Just as in the genre of fantasy, where the Middle-ages and science-fiction match perfectly, as the genial film director Steven Spielberg has widely demonstrated.
The future is sucked in, recycled from tradition, and reinvented in new combinations. So-called “cold” materials, inert or insignificant, are invited to reveal the diverse levels of human and animal psychology. Through a wise use of combination art, the magnanimous shadows of Enrico Baj and Lele Luzzati are to be seen. They tell the story of a frank unpredictable autobiography, often exhilarating, sometimes even disquieting: a Technological Granny with a lace collar and big wide eyes made out of CD’s, a Crazy Scientist with a dazed expression, the Bald Singer (a tribute to Ionesco), the Lecherous Accountant and voyeur, a sadomasochist Dominatrix Computer, legless dancers, kamikazes, girls cut in half and put in the freezer, the entire crew of a Russian submarine, including the Captain’s lover. But also historical characters: Cleopatra, Garibaldi, Bach with his flowing baroque tresses and lacey finery, together with his consort.

Copyright © 2005 Làstrego e Testa Multimedia. All rights reserved. Riproduzione vietata. Tutti i diritti riservati -- Copyright © 2011 Joomla 1.7 templates - Joomla template maker.