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 statues in places that are not normally used for expository and cultural events.

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

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

The artist creates his statues 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 statues 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 Riviera Spezzina, 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 statues 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 statues. 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 July 2021, the “Elusive Shapes” project has had 78 stopovers in Italy, Switzerland, France and Principality of Monaco.

Places where photographic sets have been organized, include the Ciani Park [Parco Ciani] in Lugano, the Sforza Castle [Castello Sforzesco] in Milan, the Humpback Bridge [Ponte Gobbo] near Bobbio (Piacenza), Brescia and Rovigo castles, Tabiano Castle [Castello di Tabiano Terme] near Salsomaggiore Terme (Parma), Cape Mesco [Punta Mesco] between Monterosso al Mare and Levanto (La Spezia), Cremona Bridge, Saint Vigilius’s Castle [Castello di San Vigilio] in Bergamo, the beaches near Carnolès (Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, Alpes-Maritimes) and Riomaggiore (La Spezia), the Visconti Sforza Castle [Castello Visconteo Sforzesco] in Novara, Lake Inferiore [Lago Inferiore] and the Ducal Palace [Palazzo Ducale] in Mantua, the Penser Pass [Passo di Pennes/Penser Joch] in Alto Adige/Südtirol, the Doria Castle [Castello Doria] in Porto Venere (La Spezia), the Covered Bridge [Ponte Coperto] in Pavia, Varisello Fort [Fort de Variselle/Forte Varisello] at Val-Cenis (Savoy), Mount Brugiana near Massa (Massa and Carrara), Saint George’s Castle [Castello di San Giorgio] in La Spezia, the Charles Felix Fort [Fort Charles-Félix/Forte Carlo Felice] near Aussois (Savoy), Lodi Bridge, the Citadel of Alessandria [Cittadella di Alessandria], Prince’s Palace [Palazzo dei Principi Grimaldi] in Monaco, the Rocca of Manerba del Garda (Brescia), the Water Park [Parco dell’Acqua] in Reggio nell’Emilia, Saint-Ours-Bas Fort [Fort de Saint-Ours-Bas] at Val-d’Oronaye (Alpes-de-Haute-Provence), the Pontoon Bridge [Ponte delle Barche] near Bereguardo (Pavia), Torrechiara Castle [Castello di Torrechiara] near Langhirano (Parma), Suzey Castle [Castello di Suzey/Château de Suzey] near Pont-Saint-Martin (Aosta/Aoste), the Maison Penchée near Modane (Savoy), the Castle of Canossa [Castello di Canossa] (Reggio Emilia), Mount Orfano [Mont’Orfano] in Franciacorta, the Central Fort [Fort Central/Forte Centrale] near Tende/Tenda (Alpes-Maritimes), Devil’s Cave Beach [Spiaggia della Grotta del Diavolo] near Vernazza (La Spezia), Lombarda Fort [Fort de la Lombarde/Forte della Lombarda] near Isola (Alpes-Maritimes), Saint-Gobain’s Fort [Fort de Saint-Gobain] at Villarodin-Bourget (Savoy), Piacenza Cable-Stayed Bridge [Ponte Strallato], the Brown Castle [Castello Brown] 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 six 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) and The Real Imaginary [Immaginario reale] (June-September 2020).

“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) and Memories [Memorie] (October 2020-January 2021) exhibitions.


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© «In arce». All rights reserved – Published on September 27th, 2019 – Updated on July 18th, 2020

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