Erminio Tansini, “No Title”, 2010, oil on canvas, 80x100 cm (reworked detail)

Elusive Shapes

The Project

Elusive Shapes” [“Forme sfuggenti”] is a travelling art project dedicated to Erminio Tansini’s sculptures.

The project is accomplished through photographic sets, using Tansinian works in places that are not normally used for expository and cultural events (in Austria, France, Italy, Monaco, and Switzerland).

Thanks to their architectural and landscape characteristics, these locations manage to exult and transform the sculptures themselves.

The camera has the task to succeed in obtaining the material for the procedure: capturing images, that define the visual interaction among the works of art, architecture, and landscapes, which remains usable even after the set has been dismantled.

The project is directed by Davide, the artist’s son.

The Artist

With his works, Erminio Tansini has taken part in exhibitions and art events in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Monaco, and Switzerland since the last decade of the 20th Century. As painter and sculptor, he has been associated of the Società per le Belle Arti ed Esposizione Permanente of Milan since 2007. The artist participated at the Venice Biennale in 2017.

In sculpture, Erminio Tansini has been dedicated to Informalism since the mid 1990s.

The artist creates his works by using bronze or wood (the latter, sometimes, with stone inserts).

Differently from his paintings and bronze sculptures, Erminio Tansini had for many years considered the production of wood sculptures as something intimate, and avoided exposing them at exhibitions and other cultural events.

But, presenting a collection of four wooden artworks, the artist was invited to participate at the 57th Venice Biennale.

The Sculptures

Erminio Tansini has been doing wooden sculptures since the beginnings of the 1990s.

The greater part of the wood that he uses, comes from the Northern Apennines (above all from the Eastern Riviera, from the Trebbia Valley, and from the Taro Valley; a minor part from the Nure Valley, from Lunigiana, and from the Tidone Valley).

The wood does not come from sawmills or lumber-yards. It is recouped from beaches and pebbly riverbeds, and the creation of the artwork actually begins when the artist identifies and retrieves the pieces of wood.

When the material is collected, it is usually found hollowed, corroded, smoothed, or bleached by nature.

Wanting to respect and enhance these inimitable natural qualities, Erminio Tansini creates his sculptures by limiting any mechanical intervention.

Each sculpture is generally made, by using two or more wooden pieces.

Tansini’s sculptures display sinuous, jagged, and knotted features; light bodies, or on the contrary – massive, majestic ones. However, they are always depicted with a very noticeable tension and dynamism.

The apparently rough and casual development of silhouettes and masses thus obtained, offers numerous, pareidolic starting points (i.e. the ability to recognize shapes or forms in apparently casual profiles).

The recognition of these shapes and silhouettes is forever-changing, and depends on the point of view and perception of each single observer.


For the “Elusive Shapes” project, Tansinian sculptures are set in places like castles, cliffs, archaeological sites, watercourses, or similar, wood and forest clearings, and rocky land sites.

The search and choice of the location is based on numerous elements: light, vegetation, water, terrain, altitude, and landscape.

Each event in the programme is conceived, according to the architectural and landscape elements of the place where the event is being set up.

The scenery becomes part of the photographed image, not just as a simple backdrop, but as a unique distinguishing elementinteracting visually with the sculpture to the point of executing a reciprocal transformation, thus creating surreal, dreamlike, fantastic scenes.

Material used for settings is reduced to an absolute minimum, in order to facilitate adaptation to situations and reduce surrounding environmental impact.

Recycling and Regeneration

The theme of recycling and regeneration is one of the peculiar aspects characterizing both Erminio Tansini’s sculptures and the travelling art project “Elusive Shapes”.

Let us begin with the wood used for the sculptures. The artist does not obtain the material before the tree is knocked down, or while it is still standing: instead he chooses it from among roots, trunks, branches, and stumps, found on the ground.

Apparently useless and non-recyclable pieces: carried naturally along watercourses, beached by waves, or crumbling in mountain crags, often heaped in places that are difficult to access.

It is about recycling material and settings. Beaches, pebbly riverbeds and mountainous slopes are reconquered for their artistic value, so that they can become the basis for the creation: right at this point and thanks to a meticulous research, does the artist identify the elements that he considers more meaningful.

After that, Erminio Tansini regenerates the wooden pieces in his workshops: he works to slow down the deterioration and assembles them, giving them a sort of new artistic existence.

A new existence including even the regeneration into new visual perception. By uniting the various elements, the artist accurately studies the succession of lines, masses, outlines, and chiaroscuro to create mutating elusive scenes.

Just like the places the wood comes from, so are the settings for the “Elusive Shapes”. They are often set outside urban areas or even in places that are difficult to access: consequently, little suited or used for traditional exhibitions. The photographic sets of the series regain or even restore the artistic space.

Regeneration also involves the perception of space. Photographs that are taken during set-ups, each propose a different point of view about the architectural and landscape elements that make up the surrounding environment: in the images, each thing is reinterpreted dimensionally and perspectively until its transformation.


As of February 2023, the “Elusive Shapes” project has had 102 stopovers in Austria, France, Italy, Principality of Monaco, and Switzerland.

Places where photographic sets have been organized, include Ciani Park in Lugano, the Sforza Castle in Milan, Bologna Fair, the Old Bridge (or Devil’s Bridge) of Bobbio (Piacenza), the Dunes near Forte dei Marmi in Versilia (Lucca), Brescia Castle in Lombardy and Rovigo Castle in Venetia, Tabiano Castle near Salsomaggiore Terme (Parma), Cape Mesco between Monterosso al Mare and Levanto (La Spezia), Cremona Bridge, the Maison Penchée near Modane (Savoy), Saint Vigilius’s Castle in Bergamo, Carnolès Beach near Roquebrune-Cap-Martin (Alpes-Maritimes), the Visconti Sforza Castle in Novara, the Agnel Pass [col Agnel/Colle dell’Agnello] in Queyras (Hautes-Alpes), the Exilles Fort in the Susa Valley, Lake Inferiore and the Ducal Palace in Mantua, the Sarzanello Fortress near Sarzana (La Spezia), the San Marco Pass in the Bergamasque Alps, Desenzano del Garda Castle, the Penser Pass [Penser Joch/Passo di Pennes] in the Rhaetian Alps, the Doria Castle in Porto Venere (La Spezia), the Covered Bridge in Pavia, the Varisello Fort [Fort de Variselle/Forte Varisello] at Val-Cenis (Savoy), Mount Brugiana near Massa (Massa and Carrara), Saint George’s Castle in La Spezia, the Timmel Pass [Timmelsjoch/Passo del Rombo] between the Ötztal and the Passeier/Val Passiria, the fortifications of the Esseillon in the Maurienne between Aussois and Avrieux (Savoy), Riomaggiore Beach (La Spezia), Fort Bard (Aosta), Lodi Bridge, the Citadel of Alessandria, Prince’s Palace in Monaco, the Rocca of Manerba del Garda in front of Lake Garda, Parco dell’Acqua in Reggio nell’Emilia, Lerici Castle (La Spezia), Saint Michael’s Abbey [Sacra di San Michele Arcangelo] in the Susa Valley, the Saint-Ours-Bas Fort [Ouvrage de Saint-Ours-Bas] in the Ubaye Valley near Val-d’Oronaye (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence), the Pontoon Bridge [Ponte delle Barche/Ponte di Barche] near Bereguardo (Pavia), Torrechiara Castle near Langhirano (Parma), Suzey Castle near Pont-Saint-Martin (Aosta), the Fortress of Villafranca in Moneglia (Genoa), Piz da las Trais Linguas/Dreisprachenspitze/Cima Garibaldi and the Stelvio Pass [Stilfser Joch/Passo dello Stelvio] among the Val Müstair/Münstertal/Val Monastero, the Valtelline, and the Venosta Valley [Vinschgau/Val Venosta], the Rocca Borromea of Arona (Novara), the Castle of Matilda of Tuscany in Canossa in the Enza Valley, Mount Orfano [Mont’Orfano/Montorfano] in Franciacorta, the Italian fortifications at the Lombarda Pass [Fort de la Lombarde/Forte della Lombarda) near Isola (Alpes-Maritimes), the beach near the Grotta del Diavolo in front of Vernazza (La Spezia), the Rocca Sforzesca in Soncino (Cremona), Mount Prinzera in the Taro Valley, the Central Fort [Fort Central/Forte Centrale] near the Tenda Pass [col de Tende/Colle di Tenda] in the Ligurian Alps, the Saint-Gobain Fort in Villarodin-Bourget (Savoy), the Baia delle Favole in front of Sestri Levante (Genoa), Padenghe sul Garda Castle (Brescia), the Bramafam Fort near Bardonecchia (Turin), Castelfeder in the Adige Valley [Entschtal/Val d’Adige], Piacenza Cable-Stayed Bridge [Ponte Strallato/Ponte TAV], and the Brown Castle in Portofino (Genoa).

The expositions

Photographs taken at “Elusive Shapes” sets, have been exhibited at some exhibitions, these belonging to the series “Chimeras” [“Chimere”] and “Shapes, Material, Colour” [“Forme, materia, colore”] which have taken place since July 2018. Both of these have been dedicated to Erminio Tansini’s artistic work.

Being thought of specifically, to present “Elusive Shapes” images to the public, the “Chimeras” series has, up to now, been carried out seven times: Itineraries of Impressions [Percorsi d’impressioni] (July-August 2018), Unexpected Perceptions [Percezioni inattese] (September 2018), Concrete Illusions [Concrete illusioni] (May-June 2019), Changing Appearances [Mutevoli apparenze] (July 2019), Visual Sensations [Sensazioni visive] (September 2019), The Real Imaginary [Immaginario reale] (June-September 2020), and Unusual Places [Luoghi insoliti] (August-September 2021).

“Shapes, Material, Colour” has the intention of proposing the entire variety of Tansini’s artistic production (painting, sculpture, and photography). Regarding this, it must be noted that the “Elusive Shapes” photographs have already been exhibited within the Mirages [Miraggi] (August 2019), Memories [Memorie] (October 2020-January 2021), Itineraries [Itinerari] (September-December 2021), and Weaves [Intrecci] (June 2022) exhibitions.


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the “Elusive Shapes” travelling series is taking place in the following cantons/regions: Aosta Valley [Valle d’Aosta/Vallée d’Aoste], Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Emilia-Romagna, Grisons [Grigioni/Graubünden/Grischun], Liguria, Lombardy [Lombardia], Piedmont [Piemonte], Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, Tessin [Ticino], Tyrol [Tirol], Tuscany [Toscana], Trentino-South Tyrol [Trentino-Alto Adige/SüdtirolTrentin-Südtirol], and Venetia [Veneto]. Also, in the Municipality of Monaco [Commune de Monaco]. The departments/districts/provinces concerned are: Alessandria, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Alpes-Maritimes, Aosta/Aoste, Bergamo, Bologna, Bolzano-South Tyrol [Bolzano-Alto Adige/Bozen-Südtirol/Balsan/Bulsan-Südtirol], Brescia, Cremona, Genoa [Genova], Hautes-Alpes, Imst, La Spezia, Lodi, Lower Engadine-Monastery Valley [Bassa Engadina/Val Monastero/Engiadina Bassa/Val Müstair/Unterengadin-Münstertal], Lucca, Mantua [Mantova], Massa and Carrara [Massa e Carrara/Massa-Carrara], Milan [Milano], Novara, Parma, Pavia, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia, Rovigo, Savoy [Savoie], Sondrio, and Turin [Torino].

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© «In arce». All rights reserved – Published on September 27th, 2019 – Updated on February 6th, 2022

Erminio Tansini, “No Title”, 2010, oil on canvas, 80x100 cm (reworked detail)