The first Lauren Godfrey work I saw, Spaghetti alla Vongole (2011), had the title words chipped carefully out of clamshells, laid on a strip of angled steel reminiscent of an elongated Scrabble tile-holder, lying on top of a tea towel. The second, Ravioli Blank (2012), was a screenprint: a line of yellow, uncooked ravioli squares along the bottom of a large black rectangle, held up on the wall with the metal tip trays you get in restaurants. Both had a formal delicacy and pared-down aesthetic – very ordered and serious about their status as art despite their materials. Along with her use of pasta, Godfrey references other markers of Italian taste and design, such as a Memphis bookcase copied in strips of sponge, dipped in paint and used to print its image directly onto the wall; and a long, narrow rectangle of white silk printed with blue dashes and stretched between two art deco-like stands, far apart, looking like a tennis net crossed with a deckchair from the beach at the Venetian Lido in 1910.
Various yet precise – pasta shapes function as writing and drawing at the same time. Consisting of flour, water and egg, a supermalleable form, pasta also has a limited vocabulary of properly named varieties, which, in Italy, must go with certain sauces – there are rules. This could be why pasta comes so close to language in Godfrey’s work, which is clever, but funny too, because these remain pasta shapes. The British aspiration to Italian taste and elegance is ‘got’, subtly and surprisingly in her work – the confidence and luxury of Italian design; what the highly expressive Italian language means to our British literary imagination; and how we can play with those graphic pasta squiggles, squares and signs – from a safe distance, because their rules don’t reach this far.