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Not Vital's Private Island

Posted: Jul 25 2016

Call him a materialist. An impressionist. An objectifier. Swiss sculptor and painter Not Vital (b. 1948) is a culture collaborator, a sensual symbolist, and an expert experiencer whose surreal work forms a curious play between a subject and its surroundings. Maddeningly nomadic, he creates locally, learning from folk artisans in Italy, China, Laos, the Phillipines, Brazil, Chile, and the US. His installations are interruptions, fascinating and complex processes that simply celebrate world geography and the marriage of organic and inorganic matter.

Not Vital nurtures nature; he respects the regions where he builds, their resources and traditions. In Beijing, the city he feels most mirrors New York in the 1980s, Not Vital has found a creative haven where massive metalwork and epic concrete walls hide and hold his home and studio.

Black, white and silver is his palette; gold, stainless steel and marble, his mediums of choice. The artist embraces each earthly encounter, making spiritual his visionary design: tongue totems, a camel head cast in bronze, cow dung constructed out of aluminum, 21 tons of salt, the pyramid-shaped structure in Niger where children don’t go to school they go on school, and his own home in Africa (The House To Watch The Sunset) with three flights of exterior stairs. He’s coined it Scart - “sculptural architecture that also has a social aspect.”

Recently, Not Vital has erected another resting place: the minimalist, demiurgic NotOna, situated on one of the 13 islands near Patagonia where craggy tree-lined topography is flower flecked and cavernous. NotOna is a marble isle carved into a 50-meter alabaster tunnel with a boxy concrete entrance on the edge of Lago General Carrera lake. Here the house joins the outside world and the artist lives inside, on a sleeping bag, on a small mattress.

It’s when indoor goes outdoor NotVital superbly shines, much like the light reflecting and absorbing off the giant ceramic heads set in landscapes that still dwarf and diminish their imposing stature. His practice is diverse and prolific, his metals molded into even more precious stones. Iconic and conceptual pieces that mesh memories with dreams.

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