mixed media on paper
15×21 cm, 2014
Briefly describe the work you do.
My work is often project-based. An idea comes and linger at the back of my mind and slowly take the shape that best suits it. I work in a variety of media, depending on what project I am developing. I also write, and sometimes collaborate with writers and other creatives, so at times text can accompany or be integrated into my work.At present I am working on a body of small oil paintings based on film stills, as well as continuing developing an ongoing, composite and multi-layered project, ‘Tabula Impressa’. This started in 2011 and was partly developed in collaboration with writer Kiril Bozhinov; it is based on signs found on London’s pavements and broadly inspired by the Jungian concept of the collective unconscious. With Kiril, I am also collecting into a graphic novel-style book, an earlier joint project, ‘I Beg You to Hear Me!’ (2011), based on the life of works of Russian writers active in the 1920s and 1930s.
Finally, I am also completing an experimental videoclip for the song ‘Colores’ by Uruguayan musician Gaston Gorga, to be released in the forthcoming months.
At what point I your life did you want to become an artist?
I have always been interested in all aspects of creativity, and have been both drawing and writing, but I could properly engage with art only after high school. I enrolled in a Set Design course at the Academy of Arts in Florence, moved to London after graduation and started pursuing my own writing as well collaborating with several fringe theatre companies. However I felt that set design in itself was not my call. Between 2004-2009 I co-funded and co-edited two independent publications for writing, visual art and multidisciplinary projects,Interlude and 20×20 magazine. This experience allowed me to experiment with ideas, and helped me in finding my way again into producing visual work and developing my own language as an artist. It was around 2008 that I felt ready and focussed to start pouring back all I had learned and dealt with ’til that moment into my very own artistic path.
Pessoa High Street
digital drawing, then transposed into a wall stencil, 2010
Tell us a little about your background and how that influences you as an artist.
Taking a long time and tortuous road towards being a visual artist has let me integrate the acquired experiences in my practise. I often relate to other fields of expression and disciplines that I have encountered either in my studies or during my early adult years.
Going to the Academy of Arts opened a whole new world of discoveries that overlapped onto my more classical and literary formation. Stage design encouraged a wide and multi-directional approach both on a theoretical and technical level – pushing me to find inspiration anywhere and to use whichever media to develop a visual interpretation of a piece of writing for a live performance. This cross-contamination between disciplines and techniques is a constant feature of my work: literature, poetry, photography, the cinematic image, music, psychology, and the esoteric are all either an inspiration or a presence.
For this reason, each series of work has a genesis and a concept of its own, which is never fully pre-constructed, but develops organically as the work progresses.
Recently I am revisiting my stage design formation, which is inspiring a new branch of the ‘Tabula Impressa’ project: a series of works called ‘Fondali’, which in Italian means at the same time, ‘Sea-beds’ and ‘Backdrops’.
What types of conceptual concerns are present in your work? How do those relate to the specific process(es) or media you use?
I very much see the artist as a seeker and the making of art a sort of alchemical operation. I do not try to make a statement with my work, I see it more as an investigation, a question, an interpretation, a reflection, a comparison, a contamination or an homage – each body of work, for its specific nature, deals with one of those aspects.
For example, in ‘Life Stills’, my current series of small oil painting based on film scenes, I want to both pay a tribute to those film masters that could ‘paint’ with the camera; but I am also trying to crystallise in a captured still that inner experience of cinema, the moment in which the image strikes a deep chord inside of us, whatever that is. Something that appears on a big screen for a fraction of a second is reproduced with the lengthy process of oil paint into a small format; I guess this process in a way mirrors the film experience, through which we are exposed to fleeting images that nevertheless may leave a long-lasting effect within us.
Another example of contamination of genres was the Pessoa High Street work (2010) Here I took a sentence from Fernando Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet and re-wrote it using logos of high street brands. The digital drawing was then turned back into a wall stencil frieze, in the attempt to give back to it its halo of poetry.
The composite project ‘Tabula Impressa’ has been also an interesting platform to explore exactly this relation between conceptuality, medium and process. In this case, the collection of signs at the origin of the project has transmuted from subject of exploration into part of the process of investigation. The signs were firstly appreciated for their more direct visual qualities, then for their symbolic echoes; then they were catalogued and re-arranged into a new, subjective alphabet and system of interpretation; this was applied to either ‘interpret’ existing compositions of those signs as photographed on the pavement, or to ‘translate’ visually a piece of literary writing. Each of these sections was developed with a different method/technique, and the project keeps branching off in exciting, different directions…
LS#12-PP1968 from the ‘Life Stills’ series
oil paint on canvas board
12×17.5 cm, 2014
We once heard Chuck Close say he did not believe in being inspired, rather in working hard everyday. What motivates you in your studio practice?
Inspiration and hard work go hand in hand for me, and one is virtually useless without the other. An intuition appears – usually that’s how it happens for me – and it brews in a cocoon for a while. But then it can only materialise by trial and error, so the more I work, the quicker the solution will come and the final shape of a work will materialise. Sometimes it can be an easy process, some other times it can detour thanks to a ‘happy accident’, or it can be a rocky, endless path of which I may doubt the destination. But I would not enjoy applying myself to hard-working in something that does not come out of a strong inspiration. This is one of the reasons why I didn’t pursue stage design as a professional career.I also believe in deadlines, whether external or self imposed; I do not see them as a constrain, but as the best way to keep my drifting mind in focus and pin down those floating ideas.
What artists living or non-living influence your work?
Dipping into my Tuscan origins, the Florentine Mannerism of Pontormo, Rosso Fiorentino and Andrea del Sarto are endless sources of inspiration in their non-conformist and dramatic use of colour, composition and depiction of human traits; as much as the timeless Renaissance of Leonardo and Piero della Francesca.
I like to explore again and again some aspects of the 19th century Avant-garde, never short of surprises. And a big influence has been also the cinematography of Andrei Tarkovsky, Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni, to name a few.
Amongst more contemporary names, I privilege the work of those artists that manage to combine an idea with poetic imagery, producing works that are both visually and conceptually strong. Giuseppe Penone from the Arte Povera movement, Iranian/Australian artist Hossein Valamanesh, and British artist, marbling master and friend, Graham Day. All of them have in common the capacity of revealing the magic in the simplest and most ordinary things – whether elements of the natural world, geometric shapes or manmade trivial, daily objects. Their work is both truly contemporary and timeless.
When you are not making art what types of activities and interests do you engage in?
I have a alternating phases of predilection for the following activities: writing and reading; listening to music; watching films, mostly World and European cinema; going to hand-picked exhibitions and for long walks in London’s neighbourhoods which I still haven’t explored; or escape to the Mediterranean sea when possible; going to milongas –either to dance, or to watch others dance tango; and conversing about matters of life and art with a few, very close friends.
Francesca Ricci was born in Florence, Italy, and has been living in London since 1998, after graduating in Stage Design at the Academy of Art in Florence. She has been involved in several independent projects, collaborating with theatre companies in fringe shows, writing on art and cinema for magazines and publishing a collection of short stories in Italian in 2003. In 2005 she co-founded and co-edited the independent art magazines Interlude and 20×20 magazine.
Forthcoming exhibitions include ‘OFF THE WALL’, The 9th Terrace Annual, London (2014) and a group show at dalla Rosa Gallery (Nov/Dec 2014); other recent exhibitions at dalla Rosa Gallery include ‘Tabula Impressa‘ (Bozhinov/Ricci, 2013); ‘Celestial Bodies’, dalla Rosa Gallery at the London Art Fair (2013), ‘Cross Sections/01′ (2012); ‘I Beg You to Hear Me!’, (Bozhinov/Ricci, 2011); other group shows include ‘20×20 magazine: collected visions’, Madame Lillie’s, London (2010); ‘agency@theAgency’, The Agency Gallery, London (2010); and ‘Art/Value/Currency’, The Pigeon Wing, London (2009).
Her work is in the collection of the Museum of Tarot (Museo dei Tarocchi) in Riola (Bologna), Italy and in several private collections in UK, Italy and Sweden. It has also been featured or mentioned in several magazines, including Dazed and Confused (November 2013) and Abraxas Journal (September 2013).
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.