Born in Corato (Bari) on 13 August 1952, Nicola Strippoli received his bachelor’s degree in 1979 from the Faculty of Architecture at the University of Florence with a dissertation on street theatre (supervised by Gianni Pettena, a member of the Radical Architecture Movement). Immediately afterwards he began traveling in India, a journey that he experienced like a second birth. In India he met his teacher, Osho Rajneesh, who named him TARSHITO, meaning thirst for inner knowledge. In the early 1980s, he founded the Speciale Gallery in Bari alongside Shama – his partner at the time – who was also an artist and a designer. This experience continued until 1987, and involved famous designers and artists (Alessandro Mendini, Mario Merz, Nanda Vigo) as well as unknown ones, provided that they were all interested in the experience/design of moments and objects representing a ‘new rituality’. Examples of this work include the beautiful series of Carpets and Tapestries for meditation.
In 1990, the experience of Speciale was documented through a large exhibition at the Groninger Museum in Groningen (Netherlands), the final chapter of a trilogy that the director at that time, Frans Hacks, chose to dedicate to 1980s Italian design (the other experiences documented in the same trilogy were Ettore Sottsass’s Memphis and Alessandro Mendini’s Alchimia). The 1990s saw Tarshito as the protagonist of both collaborative and personal exhibitions, and as increasingly involved with the archetype of the Warrior of Love.
He went on to teach at Futurarium, the experimental school founded by Alessandro Guerriero and at the Bari Arts Academy, fostering meditation as a method for research and project design. In 1998, Tarshito opened Speciale Terra in Milan, a space-gallery conceived as a way of sharing life and work at the same time. The collaboration with Geologika (Andrea Facchi and Barbara Narici) was fundamental for the realization of clay works, as was the collaboration with Clara Mantica for the capillary and in-depth work of reading and systematizing his creative and spiritual path. Thus, the volume Tarshito Meditation and Design was published in 2001 by Electa, designed in collaboration with Alessandro Mendini’s Studio. The book and exhibition Indian Ocean, about the excellence of Indian craftwork, in its value and world heritage (curated by Clara Mantica and Daniela Bezzi), created the opportunity for more in-depth exploration of the Indian world of crafts. Daniela Bezzi, who at that time was living as resident in India and was deeply involved in Indian contemporary culture, assisted Tarshito along this path, in particular in the role of co-curator with Jyotindra Jain of the exhibition The Gold and the Clay (2001) at the Crafts Museum of New Delhi. From that moment Tarshito’s artistic journey both expanded and focused through the exciting practice of collaborating with India’s traditions of craft.
From terracotta to iron works, from tribal paintings to Warli or Sohrai traditions, to embroideries from Gujarath and Rajasthan, from the delicate miniatures of Bikaner to the flamboyant devotional paintings of Orissa: the thirst for experimentation in ever-new relations of “creative sharing” knew no limits, whilst at the same time his desire grew for painting on his own, another way of testing himself onto the canvas as a gestural event. The result is the endless series of vases, whether big, huge or small, on paper, cloth or in large-scale sculptures, that are the most eloquent manifestation of his poetics: the work of Tarshito expresses itself in the act of welcoming and filling, to the point of overflowing. This is a conceptual and emotional sort of pouring off that occurs through the relation with the form/matter of the artisan, or through guiding very specific meditative sessions, or through designing works that can be considered as monuments to a completely new and yet ancient, unadulterated sacred Art: an Art in which the artist puts himself forth as a humble medium for the transmission of a creativity that, being already in itself a ‘gift’, could only be joyfully shared, even at the level of authorship, with others. All this while remaining always and unmistakably by Tarshito, with the same lightness with which everything is performed and celebrated, each time.