Art, particularly in its most spontaneous and uncontrolled form, namely under-ground or street art, reflects the new “worldly” ethnic trend down to a T. One ex-ample of this plurality of global influences we find today is a quirky form of graffiti that started in the US and has spread a sense of belonging and community throughout the world, bringing a ray of sunshine to many places around the world thanks to its brightly coloured hand-knitted yarns. “Yarn bombing”, or “guerrilla knitting” is the art of decorating trees, sculptures and other inanimate objects in cities with knitted or crocheted yarn. This new ecological, pacific and feminine art form is unexpected, transferring the concept of knitting from pullovers, cushions and covers for household objects to the cityscape.
Examples of this urban art first appeared in the early years of the new millennium, when the owner of a clothing store, Magda Sayeg, decided to cover the door handles of her boutique in Texas with custom-made cozies. She took her intuition and ran with it, completely covering a disused bus that is now displayed in Mexico City. Since then, styles and different techniques have evolved and this new art form has become a global phenomenon. Some of the most famous creations include Raging Bull in Wall Street by Arturo Di Modica which was yarn bombed by Agata Olek and a Fiat 500 entitled “Mi ritorni in mente” (You come back to my mind) by Giusi Mar-chetti, displayed at the annual contemporary art festival, Miniartextil. Women’s groups have sprung up throughout Europe, not only in Italy, which use yarn bomb-ing as a way of adding a splash of character to urban locations and, in some cases, supporting social projects. Like “Mettiamoci una Pezza”, launched in collaboration with the cultural association from l’Aquila, Animammersa, in the areas hit by the earthquake in 2009. “Mettiamoci una Pezza” is an urban knitting project that re-jects the dreariness and apathy of the institutions when faced with destruction and incompetence, literally covering the city with brightly coloured pieces of fabric sent from all over the world. After all, the real purpose of knitted objects is to create warmth and comfort and when this is transferred to the city, it connects people.
We met Licia Santuz, an Italian-born artist who has spent most of her life in other parts of the world, from Africa to Chile, but mainly in Argentina. She shared her experience as the first yarn bomber in the country with us and her personal pur-suit of beauty. She makes creations out of coloured yarns which light up the objects she covers and the faces of those who see them. A positive message that comes from an open-minded view of life.
– How did you get into yarn bombing?
I had been living in Buenos Aires for several years, we’re talking pre-2010, and I remem-ber seeing a programme on the television about a girl who was knitting and covering trees. It was a revelation for me and I remembered my mother had taught me to knit. It was love at first sight. At the time I was painting a lot but I was fed up with spending so much time on my own and it was tough selling my paintings. I had to pay to get them ex-hibited and I felt they were ending up in a corner. Painting was my first love – I graduat-ed in Fine Arts in Santiago, Chile – and I still paint, as well as teaching drawing. Howev-er, I stopped then and started crocheting, I couldn’t stop; if I didn’t know how to do some-thing, I would learn it on YouTube. I started dressing trees with my creations, first in a friend’s garden and then for a shop and, finally, in the park in the Palermo district of the city. It was an extremely beautiful and gratifying experience, people did yoga under “my” tree. It was chosen as a location for fashion photo shoots. Then I started working in other parts of the city. It’s hard not to be blown away by something that is so out of place but that looks so right and so natural. I immediately realised that what I was doing gave joy to people.
– What was it like coming back to Italy? Did people react differently to your work?
I came back to Treviso about three years ago after more than thirty-five years abroad. My life hasn’t always been easy, you often don’t know where you belong. Some people see a South American influence in my works, unconsciously it’s there. The colours I choose re-flect my mood and I love the feeling of lightness, the freedom to express myself. I’ve had some very positive reaction in Italy, but more resistance. I remember I went to cover a sphere outside a train station with a friend and the police turned up. After I’d explained what I was doing, the officer didn’t really say much, except that his mother knitted as well. Other installations, however, have been torn or removed.
– How do you choose the places and objects you cover?
I love trees. I like covering them because they are alive, they communicate with people more than inanimate objects, like benches for instance, do. Trees talk to people, just as art does. It’s as if I have an open-air art gallery. In Treviso, for example, I had great satis-faction decorating the path along the Sile River, the Restera, a place that is close to the hearts of its residents and full of trees. I also “did” lots of trees for a film starring Will Smith, Focus, and lots in orange and white for a video of a famous aperitif. But what is really gratifying is when people exclaim “this is art!” in front of a tree you have covered in the city. The most important thing for me is to make things that people wouldn’t oth-erwise notice stand out, and create beauty. I’d also love to do a large installation, bigger than anything I’ve ever done before. In the street of course, because that’s how you really get to people.