The yard was looking very metaphysical with its dusty stools and large wooden benches.
After placing the maquette on a table, I grabbed a sheet of paper and sat staring at the sunset, totally empty. Some dark red apples were hanging from a young tree in front of me.
Almost automatically, I found a pencil, and while I sat drawing it, I had with the apple tree the following imaginary dialogue:

APPLE TREE – Isn’t it nice, up here, in the sculpture yard, when the sun goes down?

VIVIANA ROSSI-CAFFELL – Oh yes. The wind seems to have calmed down a bit.

A.T. – Still, I wouldn’t trust it, with your delicate sculptures. Look at what it’s done to my apples, here on the ground!
Are you… are you drawing me? I didn’t know you could draw. Isn’t your work abstract?

V.R.C. – You can say that, yes. My thing with abstraction must relate to the way I absorb information and I store it in my memory. Apart from some rare occasions, most of the experience that I’m exposed to only leaves a very abstract imprint on me, as if, in order to be assimilated, it had to be translated with the help of a code.
It’s a sort of simplification, a distortion, although very precise, into a language that is acceptable for me to retain. It may sound very clever, if it wasn’t for the fact that, when I am wanting to convert those imprints back into practical terms, or when I need to retrieve a memory, the code doesn’t work, and there is no way to revert to the original.

A.T. – Oh dear. Never had such a problem.
By the way, don’t mind me asking, but why are you so late?

V.R.C. – Late? Well, I’ve spent the week in the metal workshop, making my pieces, I’ve run what’s called a Masterclass for the students, I’ve been through the archives and the collection…

A.T. – No, no, I didn’t mean that. I meant in your life. How come you only got to call yourself a sculptor at nearly forty?

V.R.C – (with a pause, to recompose after the surprise of such bluntness coming from an apple tree) Well, tree… I guess I’ve spent a long time busy with my own windmills, to use an image from Don Quixote. Have you read Cervantes?

A.T. – (rather annoyed) No.

V.R.C. – What I mean is that we all get to ripen our fruits in different ways.
Think of the agave. All those years preparing, preparing, only to flower once, and then die. When you compare it to the woodland strawberry that doesn’t even need a seed to be born – it just hops to the ground and sets roots from one of its mum’s runners – and bears fruit in a matter of months, really, they couldn’t be more different, and yet they are both plants.
I’m going to tell you something very personal now, that I’ve never shared with anyone else.
This isn’t the first time that I’ve spoken to an apple tree.
When I was living in my parents’ home, in Italy, there was this apple tree that we used to call “duo melo”, because it had been grafted in order to produce two varieties of fruits. It had been a very productive tree from the day we got it, rather young, just like you are, and its apples had the sweetest and juiciest crunch I’ve ever found. It was planted right by the steps that led to my home, so I would walk through it every day. And every day it grew, and prepared for more and more fruit.
I remember once, it was this time of year, and it was raining.
The leaves had mostly all gone and the red apples were shimmering heavily – where I come from, when it rains, it really rains – glowing in the dark grey sky. I rushed with my camera to capture this image of bountiful burden, that related so closely to how I felt: the strenuous effort of this small tree to keep hold of all his fruits, each one so round and beautiful, each one carrying the sweetest promise, the promise of creation, of pleasure and, through their seeds, the promise of eternal life.
That’s exactly how I felt. I was cultivating most arts then, to various degrees: from ballet to calligraphy, without neglecting archery, rock music, martial arts and screenwriting… pretty much every single one of them. I felt just like that “duo melo”. And that’s when I realised that I was going to need to cut a few branches if I wanted any of my fruit to get to maturity.
That’s what I’ve been doing in these years, tree. Pruning, basically.
So, don’t be cross with the wind, because it’s actually helping you to lighten your load.

By that time, it was dark, and the pencil was just following the memory of the tree’s outline on the paper.

From “A dance for Edward James”, December 2021

Danse Macabre, 2021

Viviana Rossi-Caffell (1982, Torino) lives and works between England and Italy.

Selected Exhibitions
2024 • Creating Spaces, Miserden – group show
2023 • Daybreak, Camilla Grimaldi Gallery, Roma – solo show
2023 • Show of Hands, Sacred Thing, Stroud – group show
2023 • Sortilège, SVA Site Festival, The Nutshell Studios, Nailsworth – group show
2023 • Creating Spaces, Miserden – group show
2023 • My Body in my Hands, Bricks Bristol, Bristol – group show
2023 • Arresti domiciliari, Two Bedford Street, Stroud – solo show
2022 • Parrots: A Flagrant Exhibition of Mimicry, SVA Collective, Stroud – group show
2022 • Small Frames, RO Frames, Stroud – group show
2022 • Midnight Spelunking, The Nutshell Studios, Nailsworth – joint with Nick Phillips
2021 • A Dance for Edward James, West Dean Gardens, Chichester – solo show
2021 • Loose Cannons and Spider Webs, The Nutshell Studios, Nailsworth – solo show
2019 • Mobiles – Stabiles, Camilla Grimaldi Salon, London – solo show
2017 • Fresh Air Sculpture, Quenington – group show
2016 • SVA Open Studios, Horsley – group show
2015 • Mobiles, Lost & Found Gallery, Torino, IT – solo show
2010 • Immersione-Emersione, Lost & Found Gallery, Torino – joint with Fulvio Rossi
2005 • Postcards, Machè, Torino – joint show with Irene Pittatore
2004 • Il Percorso o la Meta, Il Borgo Gallery, Torino – solo show

Residencies, Grants & Awards
2023 • Body as a tool for Visual Art research, Residency at Bricks Bristol
2021 • Maker in Residence at West Dean College of Arts
2017 • Recipient of H. & M. Kent Memorial Bursary Prize at Fresh Air Sculpture
2007 • Performer in Residence at IFA Inteatro Festival Accademy, Polverigi, IT

Talks, Interviews & Publications
2023 • Catalogue Daybreak, by Tiziana Conti, Camilla Grimaldi, Paul Harper
2022 • Article Midnight Spelunking by Paul Harper for Good on Paper
2022 • Public talk for Small Talks, The Hide Artist Retreat
2021 • Article A Dance for Edward James, published on West Dean College Blog
2017 • Interview for BBC Radio Gloucestershire, Fresh Air Sculpture

Viviana Rossi-Caffell

Studio visits by appointment:


Image credits Max Caffell, Simon d’Exéa, Carmel King, Sarah Maingot and Viviana Rossi-Caffell