We meet local artist Marzia Colonna

PUBLISHED: 15:45 21 October 2019

Marzia Colonna in her West Dorset studio, photographed for the book Deepest Dorset

Marzia Colonna in her West Dorset studio, photographed for the book Deepest Dorset


It’s easy to see why the dramatic Dorset coastline has been one of the inspirations behind Marzia Colonna’s latest exhibition at Sladers Yard

You can see the sea from Marzia Colonna's studio at the top of her garden above Chesil Beach. She and her husband Robert Montagu have lived in this beautiful location for 30 years, bringing up their four children, all now married with families of their own. The house is filled with artworks, not only Marzia's collages and sculpture, but also their daughter Fiamma's ceramics and works by friends. I notice especially some drawings by the influential sculptor Elisabeth Frink.

When I visit, the garden is full of flowers and Marzia has picked a bunch of irises which may well appear in a collage later. Whether she is in the garden, on the beach with the dogs, or simply gazing out of the window, Marzia is looking much harder than most of us, and remembering.

'Iris and Peonies' by Marzia featuring flowers from her garden'Iris and Peonies' by Marzia featuring flowers from her garden

Marzia is able to see the patterns in things and paints them in abstract before she starts her collages. The plough-lines in the fields, the textures and colours of the rocks, she observes and then, in a process of cutting, ripping and sticking which she describes as "fast and furious", she starts to build up her collages.

Marzia concentrates on the memory of the experience, whether walking the fields above the sea with birds wheeling above or observing white peonies in a deep turquoise jug. She is trying to convey the feelings she had, which made her want to make the collage, and invariably these are emotions of wonder and love for the place, people and things that surround her.

'Young Venus', one of the sculptures in Marzia's exhibition'Young Venus', one of the sculptures in Marzia's exhibition

The sculpture in her current show is concerned with the human body which Marzia treats in a similar empathetic way. 'Young Venus' and 'Chrysalis' explore emerging womanhood in young figures alive with feeling. Her sculpture is sensuous and, like the best classical work, absolutely fresh and new.

'Chrysalis', a bronze sculpture by Marzia'Chrysalis', a bronze sculpture by Marzia

Marzia trained as a sculptor in Italy, where she grew up, and started going to art school in Pisa when she was 12. She later studied at Academia di Belle Arti in Florence before she met Robert Montagu and they swept each other away to a new life in England, where she continued to work as a professional artist.

Her work has been bought for private houses and gardens all over the world. In Britain she has been commissioned to make sculpture for collections including the Jerwood Foundation. Public art commissions have included Salisbury Cathedral, Sherborne Abbey and Weymouth & Portland National Sailing Academy.

The joy Marzia derives from the Dorset coast and countryside shines through in compositions which celebrate its wild beauty. One does not have to work hard to enjoy her collages or sculpture but, when you do look hard at them, you can see the fearless artistry it takes to make works of such lasting delight.

Golden Cliffs

'Walking at West Bay', one of two large coastal collages in the exhibition'Walking at West Bay', one of two large coastal collages in the exhibition

Not surprisingly for an artist with a keen sense of colour, light and form, the golden cliffs of West Bay and Burton Bradstock have been a great source of inspiration for Marzia Colonna. Two large coastal collages feature in this exhibition. In 'Walking at West Bay' tiny figures cut from dark painted paper deftly portray a running dog and two walkers, while overhead seabirds ride the updrafts. The cliffs rear up in panels of patterned golden colours.

Marzia Colonna: Recent collages, drawings and sculpture is at Sladers Yard, Contemporary Art, Furniture & Craft Gallery, West Bay, DT6 4EL until 10 November. More details at sladersyard.co.uk.

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