Graphite shoes, graphite sculptures. Unknown artist at Ostrava-Svinov Karviná Museum Ephemeral drawing with graphite powder Gray point. Sferical block of pure graphite 30cm x 30cm x 30cm Documentation

Description: an experimental procedure about finding pure grey as graphite powder.


The project follow pata-archeology results. It aimed to search for a direct source of the color grey directly from “nature” with a less as possible mediation.Graphite is an astonish material made by tiny molecules of pure grey as the pure iron.

Graphite has its own characteristic. To find it I had to dig into European industrial history that bring me into one of the last area in Europe that still extract coal in massive quantity. Near the border between Poland and Czech Republic, in Ostrava-Svinov Karviná area the cultural tradition connected to industrial coal production and extraction is mainly preserved both economically and in the flesh of the worker. Miners can start to work before16 years old and get retreat today mostly 50 years old. The work conditions are so alienable and stressful for workers that at the age of 50 their bodies are signed by the strenuous work. Most of the workers, in the end of their career, (if they survived) end up with missing several fingers, alcoholism problem, heavy healthy issues linked to the coal dust and a devastated body. A long history of strikes since XIX cen. record the fights to improve security and work conditions. During those long episodes (workers can stay under the ground for months during the strikes) miners started sculpting the only material available: coal and his concentrate pure form graphite. I visited the mines, I met the sculptor Jaroslav Namniestrik and visited his beautiful atelier covered by graphite powder. He generously gave me one of his Saint Barbara sculpture. The work of Susan York, Nancy Rubins, Drawing, João Pinto, Bill Bolling, are just few of the example how contemporary artists used the graphite as matter of creation. After my research trip I end up again with a no-pure-anymore matter. A sculpture appeared to me from the local beautiful museum that preserve those fragile sculptures: a “miner…s shoes”, in pure graphite, they are open like the the one painted by Van Gogh(1886), a painting that open up a long debate beetween an half dozen philosophers and art historians. Martin Heidegger, Meyer Schapiro, and Jacques Derrida have written about Van Gogh’s painting of shoes. This graphite sculpture could add a new layer to the debate.

“In the first half of the nineteenth century saw the rapid spread of industrialisation in Europe, initiating an economic dependence on coal that persists even now. As the nineteenth century progressed, the physically arduous and perilous work of coal miners led to numerous of strikes. Within the challenging but politically significant culture of mining, community solidarity developed. Coal miners produce their own specific traditions, rites, beliefs and, of course, their own art. Wherever subsoil has been exploited, miners have also carved the coal. They make relief sculptures or icons depicting everyday scenes of leisure, harvesters, drill workers, lovers, musicians, children, and Saint Barbara (the patron saint of miners), as well as jewellery. The self-representations at work in these sculptures—shaped from a material that is millions of years old and takes so much trouble to extract—are particularly touching. With the decline of mining in the second part of the twentieth century, this phenomenon has disappeared except in Slilesia (Śląsk in Polish, Schlesien in German), which remains Europe’s largest site for the mining and processing of steam and coking coal, with more than 70,000 workers labouring in mines today. Under Communism, mines in Silesia developed their own amateur art groups, working in close proximity to mining community centres and organising evening classes for various crafts. Artists of great talent have emerged from this situation, even if most of the authors of this vernacular art remain anonymous”.