Arioso Operoso is a continually adapting and updating project that Elena El Asmar has been working on since 2013. Created from the simplest materials – just A4 paper photocopied in black and white – the work nevertheless combines complex narratives that are at once personal and universal. Much of El Asmar’s practice comes back to the idea of a copy of a copy: a familiar theme that is varied in minute details until it is no longer familiar, like legends shared orally that alter slightly with each retelling to reflect something of the storyteller, or like memories of familiar objects that fade and warp over time into new understandings of the present.
The seemingly random patterns of Arioso Operoso are in fact derived from a piece of embroidery that is used as a matrix to produce copies that grow increasingly unrecognizable as they become removed from their origin. This process juxtaposes the meticulous skill of the traditional craft of embroidery (weaving, tapestry, and lacemaking all feature in El Asmar’s work, too) with the mechanical efficiency of the photocopier.
Elena El Asmar (1978) was born to an Italian mother and a Lebanese father in Tuscany, where she still lives. Her work centres on themes of memory and the “mystery of the everyday,” with much of her inspiration coming from childhood trips to Lebanon. Recent exhibitions include Galleria Bianconi (Milan, Italy), 2018; Galleria MOO (Prato, Italy), 2016; and SRISA Gallery (Florence, Italy), 2013.