Modern & Contemporary Art

specialises in framed modern and contemporary art by 20th century artists


ELENA SAMPERI was born in Genoa, Italy, in 1951. Between 1972 and 1978 she worked with other painters and attended several part-time courses in art and graphic design in Italy, France and England, but she was never a full-time art student. She graduated in Foreign Languages and History of Art fron Genoa University in 1974 and moved to London at the beginning of 1975. She was a member of Women’s Images, taking part in the travelling exhibitions ‘Women’s Images of Men’ 1980, and ‘Pandora’s Box’ 1984-85. She exhibited in Brazil, Italy and Great Britain.

Elena sadly died in a bus accident in October 1987 near Sao Paulo, Brazil, where she lived the last two years. In this article Marisa Rueda and Jacquline Morreau, friends and colleagues speak about her. An exhibition by Elena Samperi and Marisa Rueda called ‘Tropical Forests for Sale’ will open at Art Space Gallery, 84 St Peter’s St, London N1, 16 March-6 April.

IN 1980 I met Elena Samperi at an artists’ meeting at Jacqueline Morreau’s house. We saw slides of each other’s work and we both liked them. Since then we have been friends and we worked in the same studio. It is very difficult to speak of Elena when I am all the time speaking to her.

le opere

I think I will speak to you, Elena, for a long time to come. It is very difficult, suddenly, not to share with you the feelings and thoughts we used to spend hours speaking of.

I loved it when you, seated in your high chair, in front of your painting used to talk to me and make me know your ideas. We used to speak about the world: the likelihood of a nuclear war, the last horrors of the military coup in Argentina, the possibilities of women artists in becoming part of the establishment, your perception of your past lives. We spoke of the value of art, of the possibilities of art as a force for change, about selling art and the commercialisation of it. One has to thank the artist when one buys one of her works because one always buys much more than just an object. Elena was a very successful woman in money terms, she was a very good organiser and she knew how to make her work pay, but not her paintings. We used to speak of this duality and how much our romantic/Bohemian upbringing in the way we were looking at artists and work was stopping us from selling.

Elena was a person of contrasts. Very sure of herself, an aggressive security in some moments and at the same time a capacity to doubt nearly to disintegration. We used to share this last area a lot, we used to think about a subject to its final disintegration, or to its final ambiguity or to the final relativity of it. We used to laugh at all this dramatic panorama and Elena always used a Tango phrase: Life is an absurd wound (La vida es una herida absurda). Absurd, absent of planning, grotesque like life was your death. I would like to speak with you about your death, make some history around it, laugh at some of our presumptions, and maybe finish with our favourite phrase: La vida es una herida absurda.

It was Parati. It was raining … raining … always, with the same rhythm day and night. The pension was old, dusty with brown baroque furniture. We, Elena, Cristina my daughter, and I walked on the stone paved streets in summer clothes with black umbrellas, Japanese figures in a tropical landscape. The river grew, the sea was grey, the vegetation got dull and exuberant at the same time. We began to feel strange, timeless, as in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ fictional City of Macondo. Serpents, insects, moving reptiles began to be felt more than to be seen, everywhere. The rain continued.

Elena was walking with these old shoes, flat shoes, the striped suit, green and black that I bought for her and she used continuously. Her relation with objects–paints, brushes, clothes, furnitures, cars–was of a tiring use, neglecting how much they could last. There was no thought about durability.

The visual aspect of everything was important, beautiful, aesthetic, baroque, happy, full of meaning, exuberant; from her house to her looks. So in that line fame was also unimportant: I prefer Brazil to Europe, they do not have to carry such a heavy history.


She was one of those persons whose presence was always noticed, she was brilliant, exigent, a woman of real courage in her conversations, always making some interesting point, nearly always a sore point, stirring and shaking formal positions. She used to speak quite openly about her relations, her lovers. She was also daily worried about her health.

I inherited a lot from you, I am more active in the evenings, each time when I feel low I remember your energy and your decision to finish situations and have done with them. I want to inherit that. I also want to be able to seek and face truth, and have the will to grow that you had in the last years. When you moved to Brazil, you went towards the sun, the light, towards the continent I love so much.

In those four long years away, Elena retrained in alternative medicine, and her interest in esoteric life increased. She learnt massage, reflexology, aromatherapy, rebirthing. Her sensitivity as a tarot reader and a medium brought around her a lot of people in Brazil, where Elena was going to build her holistic centre. Your capacity to create new situations, new models of life and work, new ways of integrating the two countries–in spite of distance — was prodigious.

Everything was possible, I dreamt with your dreams. We began to do workshops together: we will have a place in Parati, one in London. We created workshops, organised an installation and an exhibition in Art Space. You made the pictures for the show, I did some hands in clay. We were in a hurry but we managed everything: catalogue design, statement, photos, we did it. I needed more time with my work. In fact I finished my involvement in our exhibition just now.

If one believes in destiny, predestiny, reincarnation or life after death a lot of details are beginning to be in place in this puzzle. For me, Elena: La vida es una herida absurda.


Published by Delores Jackson, on September 10th, 2014 at 7:21 am. Filled under: artistsNo Comments

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply