Since 2018, Teresa Lancetta has lived in Mutxamel – “I fell in love with the name” – a city in the interior of Alicante, where she arrived for the generosity of the old town of the beleaguered Levantine capital. “I felt expelled, there were no more citizens. In this small home studio, she creates her artworks, or textiles, on simple shutters made from rollers from industrial sheds that were destroyed during the EU-mandated re-conversion of Terrace.
Born in Barcelona in 1951 to a middle-class family – father an insurance inspector, mother a housewife – with six siblings, Lancetta is an artist who knits, embroiders, sews, draws, paints, writes and makes videos. Since his inception in the 70s, his work has explored the relationship between material and territory, individual and collective memory – the cigar makers of Alicante, the gypsy community of El Raval – and language. Already in 2000, he exhibited at the Reina Sofía, but his works did not gain full national and international recognition until recent years, especially thanks to the large retrospective produced by MACBA in Barcelona and IVAM, in Valencia in 2022, curated. Nuria Engita and Laura Valles. A leap in prices, institutionalization and media attention, which is now supported by the National Prize for Plastic Arts, awarded by the Ministry of Culture and Sports and awarded with 30,000 euros. “I’ve always believed that awards are an old-fashioned way to help an artist,” Lancetta admits, “but I can’t deny that when they were given to me, I was very happy. In fact, it’s five minutes of Warhol stretched over a year, that is, until the next one is called.
Lancetta’s humility is not a pose for a photo of the day. “I never wanted to be an artist. I never painted and never thought about it. I studied modern and contemporary history in Barcelona, but I graduated with inertia. At that moment, Bambi’s skeleton fell into my hand. I wanted to do something that meant something, language development, until the little tapestry slipped out of my hands. I learned to sew by myself. There is nothing simpler, now children learn it in kindergarten, because it is like a binary code: you take one string and then pass another. Art for me was what Velasquez or Picasso did, mine was more of a journey. That’s why I was so excited that the Berber women’s carpets and tapestries that accompanied me to the Reina Sofia exhibition were there, in dialogue with Guernica and sharing space as equals. Also, to say that a person is an artist does not necessarily mean that the person is good, only that the person thinks they are making art. How many artists are there that are terrible and ubiquitous or highly sought after? No, no, that’s something that never bothers me. In the West, we wanted to separate utility from pleasure, but craftsmanship does not need anyone to elevate it, it is already art.”
Lancetta’s art, which includes printmaking, sewing, embroidery, hand or machine sewing, and even quilting, is closely related to love, dialogue, and memory. In fact, without his narrative art, his experience is recorded in each of his textile expressions. It happened to him on the weekly train journey from Alicante to Barcelona, where he taught for seven years at the Escola Massana of Applied Arts. Every time he crossed the Ebro, he remembered the stories he had heard as a child in his grandmother’s town, Horta de San Juan, where his family was punished for being anarchists. “The battle of the Ebro went through 15 places to mislead the enemy, but just where my train passed, a very high hill, was the only place where they were discovered and killed. With each trip, I became more and more nervous because I thought about all the bones that are under this beauty of the rice fields…” And from these sensations, added to the ethnographic research, arose a work called “Crossing the Ebro”, where, in addition to the five tapestries depicting the five months of struggle, he paid tribute to the cloth – which he still has – with which his grandmother covered the bread dough.
The second trip, which was actually multiple, the highlight of his work was the one he made in the 1980s in the Middle Atlas villages of Morocco, where he accompanied the art historian Bert Flint, who was his guide to this world. The village was so inaccessible then: “He invited me by telegram, and when I went to Marrakesh, I slept in the tent displayed in his museum,” says the artist with a laugh. “Flint is the man who has. He was the biggest influence on me that I knew, because he made me understand what collective creation and popular art is. We would go into villages and get tapestries, but he would say, ‘I don’t want to talk to men, I want to meet those to the women who made them”. That is what is important. Every object, even industrial, is made by someone and that is a fact that we must respect. Behind every object there are people, there is work, there are stories, there are needs, and there is also violence against nature. And we can’t forget that.”
Teresa Lancetta has built a bridge between the different traditions of this collective art and contemporary art, and her works are increasingly valued in the market. Today, one of his tapestries can fetch up to €30,000, but he admits he only gets 20% of that. “The gallery owner gets 50% and then between the treasury and the materials, the rest varies. “If I’m honest, I’m finally fine now, but I’m 72 years old and I can’t retire yet because I have years left,” adds the artist.
When he arrived in Moncloa in 2018, Pedro Sánchez asked Heritage for paintings of women and works by Teresa Lancetta, Menchu Galli, Juana Français and Soledad Sevilla to be transferred from the Reina Sofia to the seat of government. A textile artist was called by a conservator to ask if his canvas should be hung horizontally or vertically. He said he was indifferent. And from that moment on, in photo sessions with white sofas in Tapie’s room, where the president receives his guests, be they allies or adversaries, in the background can be seen the untitled, calm abstraction of Lancet, formed by some. Green, ocher and brown squares and some overlapping circles. “This is one of the first fabrics I sewed. He bought it for me [el fallecido exministro] José Guirao at ARCO with very little money, I didn’t have enough for that month’s rent, and until he was taken to Moncloa, he was in the warehouses of the Reina Sofía.
When Michel Barceló protested angrily that his painting was hanging in the cabinet room, Lancetta came out and said that there are no noble or ignoble places for works of art, and that he didn’t mind at all that his canvas was a canvas. The background to the meeting between Sánchez and former PP leader Pablo Casado: “Of course, I’d rather be in the Louvre museum than in Moncloa,” he admits with a laugh, “but what more could I want? Every time a fabric appears on TV, all my brothers and my friends call me excitedly to let me know. So getting more visibility for one of my works would be difficult. Moreover, when you sell a work, you have to separate yourself from it, because its owner will do what he wants, and I know that. And Barceló knows it.” Even if you step on it? “Even if you step on it.”
Source: El Diario