For women "on paper", Caterina Crepax creates... paper dresses

When paper becomes contemporary art

Lucia Maffei Photos by Giuliano Sargentini

"My father draws very beautiful women on paper... naked. And I create paper clothes... to dress them". With this witty remark Caterina Crepax, daughter of Guido Crepax, the creator of the famous cartoon character Valentina, gives us her welcome in Florence, in a fairytale atelier with a view on the Ponte Vecchio, while putting the finishing touches on the preparations for an exhibition of her magic creations. Caterina Crepax is thus a second generation artist and her relationship with paper has constituted a bonding thread which since her childhood induces her, today, to approach the composite and surprising panorama of contemporary art. "The girl with the scissors and the glue tucked inside in her pinafore dress that my father drew, well, that was me. As a little girl I always took with me those things which today are the instruments of my work". Caterina takes a pair of scissors and a little bottle of glue out of her bag, laughing at the same time.

IN FACT, THE TECHNIQUE WITH WHICH THESE PAPER CREATIONS ARE MADE IS INCREDIBLY "EASY": no sewing machine, no particular hot glue system and, obviously, no classic tailoring instruments, needle and thread. "I must confess that I absolutely cannot sew", continues Caterina while she's retouching the leaves on Dafne, a evanescent and sinuous feminine figure, composed of tiny leaflets made from extremely light paper, all cut into very slim threads by hand. We ask her what is her relationship to the world of fashion. "The truth is that I have never taken part in that world. I'm an architect and I cater to the scenarios for show fairs or furnishings. Now the opposite is happening: the world of fashion has begun to be interested in me.

The number of requests for making scenarios for fashion shows or for interpreting and revising their creations through paper is increasing." In fact, in August Caterina will be in Brazil, in San Paolo; she has been invited at the Show Fashion 2002, a show held every two years, where she will "interpret" through paper the trends and styles of Brazilian fashion designers.

CREATIVITY AND GAME, IMAGINATION AND MINIMALISM SEEK INSPIRATION IN ALL WHICH IS UNUSUAL, SMALL, FORGOTTEN OR LOST: flowers, leaves, small plants, but also fish, animals, shells, insects, stones or micro-organisms are sources for inspiration for Caterina, who has always loved scientific and naturalistic literature. Scissors, vinyl glue and, only in exceptional cases, an iron thread, are the materials and the instruments by which these bizarre and fantastic creations are born. Technique? No, only very good hand workmanship and the desire to succeed in giving "three-dimensionality to the paper sheet". She considers herself an artisan of the imagination more than an artist, and she has always chosen and used ironically very poor materials for her work: cash receipts, pastry doilies, manifold paper, paper strips, computer printout paper, typography scraps and cuttings, labels, oven pan liner paper, calculator rolls. The continuous research for new materials with a very strong fondness for recycled material, accompanies her tireless search for new ways of communicating. The attention towards humble, small things, the "eliminated" objects of our everyday lives also means trying to reanimate these objects, recompose their identity, redefine their sense and value and give a "new" dignity to the small things of everyday life. In this element of research, very strong in the world of contemporary art, the "dresses" and the creations of Caterina Crepax find their place between sculpture and the ephemeral. Impalpable and very delicate works have also been defined "paper armature" and thanks to an extraordinary capacity to interpret, manipulate, move, model the paper, they become alive in surprising "paper dreams" and continue to astonish us and to grant us moments of poetry.


Born in Milan in 1933, Guido Crepax lives and works there. He graduated in architecture at the "Politecnico", and began his activity as advertisement designer which soon became his profession. In 1957 he Wins the "Golden Palm" with the Shell publicity campaign. In '65 Crepax writes and draws the first story of Valentina, Which will be published by the second Linus edition, the smogs magazine of Giovanni Gandini and Ranieri Carano thus initiating the history of "cartoons for adults" in Italy.

These first scandalized readers of the magazine, but soon he becomes one of the most beloved and appreciated authors, enjoying personal success which is determining also for the magazine. The "Saga of Valentina" is born, which still continues today. Till today 15 books have been published with the protagonist Valentina, including the publication "Valentina story of a story", which is inspired with the famous Histoire de l'Oeil by Georges Bataille and the book "Apropos of Valentina" dedicated to Louise Brooks. The stories of Valentina have been object of a series of 13 episodes for television, broadcast several times in Germany, Switzerland, the United States and Italy. Within the incredible production of Crepax, we should not forget his activity in advertising, still intense, his activity as graphic designer for a wide product range, from textiles to tiles, as inventor of entertaining table games and finally his graphic activity.

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