In very recent years, my “en plein air” work, coincidences and emotions have converged in Diluvium, a project that has to do with the memory of the Earth and with family memory.

Diluvium is a series of graphite frottages on semi-transparent paper, mainly made on fascinating green stones that I rediscovered while exploring the woods of the Viana torrent basin in Forno Canavese, my mother’s family home village, where I lived for some years of my childhood and spent long hours with my grandmother and my great-aunt.

The drawings take shape through physical contact with the rocks. Paper is an interface between the stones and me, it detects the mineral surface but it also shows something of its internal structure, as well as my inner structure, my emotions. As Piero Gilardi said about my Inframondo project, here too we can talk about a process of hybridisation with nature, in which accidental and subjective aspects converge.

I am comforted by this direct and corporeal relationship with the planet. Just as I am comforted by the different temporal measure of “mineral life”, whose much longer history than that of our human species will probably continue far beyond ours; finally, by the feeling that this planet that hosts us – the Earth – is itself a dot in an unimaginably larger and ultimately elusive universe.

The intimate dimension of this project found a further and unexpected declination searching for information on the rocks mentioned above, that is on the geology of the Graian Alps, when I often came across the name of Martino Baretti.

I had heard about him as a child from my great-aunt Olga, as Baretti was my great-grandmother’s uncle. Later, I heard about him again from my aunt Anna, whose meticulous research and writings on our ancestor I recently found. A talented mountaineer, Baretti explored many regions of the Western Alps, producing about forty scientific publications. He died in 1905 in my maternal great-grandparents' house in Forno Canavese, curiously in the very room that I now use as a studio when I am there.

In the Geology of the Province of Turin (1893), Baretti devotes some pages to the Viana torrent and its «diluvium», a nowadays obsolete term for the fluvial and glacial deposits of the Pleistocene. He notes plentiful «serpentine pebbles», popularly referred to as “green stones”. Serpentinite is among the metamorphic rocks today interpreted as the remains of a Jurassic Ocean that disappeared due to the convergent movements between the European and African plates, which led to the birth of the Alps.

Memories of the Earth, family memories.

Laura Viale, Fall 2023