Guest Interview n°59: Umberto Chiodi

How and when did you decide to become an artist? What did you aim for when you start this career and which were the most significant moments (or people) that shaped your path?
After the compulsory education I chose an art high school and afterwards I attended the Fine Art Academy in Bologna. I just followed a passion, which unfortunately entailed leaving other interests aside, such as my passion for music. I had a couple of stimulating teachers, despite a general penury of Masters. I remember with great affection the artist Gabriele Partisani, professor of “Anatomia del segno” (a course on the analysis of trace marks) at the academy, who passed away recently. In Milan, the city where I’ve been living since 2007, I met some fundamental people, among which the gallerist Enzo Cannaviello.

Your work developed year after year, allowing you to experiment with different techniques and media, but the illustration has always had a key role in your artistic production, would you like to tell me something more about this intimate relationship?
Maybe we should first define what the word “illustration” means. In ancient times it was a religious practice, then it became a suggestive adornment for the publishing industry, till it found application in the field of commercial advertising. Moreover much painting, above all the one from the past, could be regarded as illustrative, comparable to a window to the world that has its own internal laws of representation, narration of a text or a fact. The illustration, which my imagination refers to, is the one that was used in Europe for scientific, didactic and satirical purposes, from the end of the 18th century to the early 19th century. These images retrace, in a unique way, the spirit of the period when they were created. Looking at them today is as if they become bearers of short circuits, documents of the human beings’ modern neurosis. They can be scientific as well as grotesque, educative as well as misleading, influential as well as naïve. They are examples of illusions that only history and time can unmask. These images can be defined as popular and in these cases the fence of a page could become a very desirable place.

Which are the links between your work from the beginning of your career and the most recent ones?
The connections are, for example, the references to the collective imaginary and the unconscious, along with the attempt to fix the chaos. Other links are the manual labour, the crossbreeding of different traditional languages, materials and heterogeneous marks, the recycling of what is out of practice, things that had lost their original function.
There are continuous references to the childhood as a lost world or a possibility of change. In my latest series “Crossage”, as well as in the assemblages and in the collages, created in 2009, I gave the illusion of perspective up with the idea that the work could be read as a whole, as a play with different, conflicting levels and elements, which live in our physical environment in the form of objects.

Which are your main inspiration sources – in art, literature, theatre, cinema etc. both from the past as in the present? And what is your mood when you realize that you have had a good ‘eureka moment’?
Everything that surrounds me could be an incitement: the discovery of an object, a poetic dimension, but also daily news or a critic essay. The artistic intuitions are often the effect of a syntony, the proof of the idea of “Correspondences” proposed by Baudelaire.

For some time, there has been an on-going debate (with opposing points of view) about the modernity of painting as an artistic media; do you think that painting is really a dead language?
The main problem in art today, in my opinion, is the relationship of slavery and bulimia that we have with the Unconscious and the Messages. That said, there are still good illustrations and good “exercises in painting”, which depict the awkwardness of the contemporaneity or draw the attention to the time of Nature.

What turns an artist into a truly contemporary author (besides the civil registry) and what turns his/her work into something significant for a wider audience?
A contemporary artist must have the ability to create tension with his/her time, to call it into question and again to give signs that survive the trends. We should say that the more an artist is able to follow his/her goals, the more his/her work become significant for the audience, but it is hard to fulfil. Then dramatically it is the economic aspect that gives the final word in establishing the value of things.

What do you think about the blend among different professions that ever more often deconstruct established roles (artists/curators, auction houses that become galleries etc.)?
In the “flow” we are living in, everything is blended. Close to the issue of specialisation of knowledge, the problem seems to be in the annulment of variety and the flattening of everything into a big net. But the unstoppable catastrophe we are going for is due to the confusion between culture and marketing, between the idea of progress and the quantitative development. Could we trust in the fact that the artist will work for a curatorial project with the same responsibility with which he creates an artwork? I hope so.

Nietzsche defines nihilism as “the most disturbing of all guests”, do you agree or did it happen to you to have more unsettling “guests”?
I would judge other “guests” equally thorny, especially because of my nihilistic view or because of my idealism.

Are there any ideas or unfulfilled projects that you want to take on in the future?
Well, to say thank you to Prof. Schneitzhoeffer (junior).

The latest works of Umberto Chiodi are currently exhibited in a solo show entitled “Crossage” on view at Studio D’Arte Cannaviello in Milan until 10th January 2015.

Interview by Monica Lombardi 
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ALTEWAISAOME has, during its five years of existence, become one of Sweden’s most celebrated fashion brands, counting among its many successes the “Designer Of The Year” award for 2014. Natalia Altewai and Randa Saome, the two designers behind the brand, founded ALTEWAISAOME after spending several years in Italy where they studied and worked. In just five years their brand has grown from an up-coming independent endeavour to one of Scandinavia’s most appreciated and internationally recognised brands. Their real breakthrough came in 2011 when, for the first time, they showcased their AW11 collection during Mercedes Benz Fashion Week in Stockholm.

With clean lines and monochrome colours, they combine unique details and mixed fabrics that bring about a style that feels relevant and modern. Their design approach expanded with their Summer 2015 collection by celebrating working women, therefore, adding more office-adapted pieces including suits, dresses and slimmed jackets, all with a typical ALTEWAISAOME aesthetic with sporty influences and unique details. Natalia Altewai and Randa Saome have taken the fashion world by storm, and proven they are here to stay. They create prices that have been missing in both Scandinavia and internationally, having in a very short period of time established their brand on the global fashion scene and won fans all over the world with their sporty, clean and sophisticated style.

Hanna Cronsjö 
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Daily Tips: Hidden Crafts Revealed

Ever wondered where you could buy a Japanese broom, a cherry bark tea spoon, a designer stool and a beautifully cut tunic, all in the same place? Well, two stores might offer exactly this sort of experience: an eclectic selection of typologically different yet meticulously crafted objects, brought together by the shop owners’ impeccably attentive eye. Momosan Shop in London and iKO iKO Space in Los Angeles both present a distinctive mix of Japanese utilitarian objects, small furniture, home accessories and clothes that bring together local designers, small businesses and traditional craftsmen, that you might not otherwise have known of. What might be a more adequate place for that perfect last minute holiday gift?

The Blogazine 
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Trend Watch: Leather Gloves for Men

What could be more ordinary, useful and, if we dare say, trivial than simple leather gloves? Yet this beautifully practical and wonderfully stylish accessory secretly hides and ambiguous past as gloves were worn not only for protection, but played a central part in different customs and rituals. In fact, for centuries, leather gloves were worn by those who needed to protect their hands in special conditions, such as heavy workers or, slightly far away in history, knights in battles. The upper classes wore more fashionable gloves which were crafted in finer leathers, beautifully fringed and elaborately embroidered with decorative elements such as gold threads. As far as symbolism goes, gloves were used both to issue a challenge between knights by a simple throw of a gauntlet, or, for the monarchy, to relegate power to others, done by simply delivering a glove. Gloves were also given as signs of friendship. Due to their high symbolic and decorative power, gloves have always been used by fashion houses to advance specific trends and develop the quality of their collections. In the 1930s, Hermès presented leather gloves with matching handbags. In the 1950s, Coco Chanel was known for her short gloves worn with day suits.

Gloves have a broad range of use such as keeping the hands warm and protecting them from harm. While they have lost, to a certain extent, their particular role in everyday etiquette, gloves still form a fashion signature and are able to pull together a look, whether it is by adding an edge with driving gloves or a touch of Dandy with a more tailored, refined feel. Even though the early significance linked to gloves have lost much of its relevance, they are still entrenched in our social conventions: a pair of leather gloves represents a social history of both the society we live in, as well as our person. With a wider range of options we have to choose from today, leather gloves add a touch of history bringing forth the reminder of gentlemen, knights and everyday hard work, right at the tip of our fingers.

Victoria Edman 
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Nicolò Degiorgis: Hidden Islam

In the introduction to the book “Hidden Islam”, Martin Paar writes: “Consider these facts: in Italy the right to worship, without discrimination, is enshrined within the constitution. There are 1.35 million Muslims in Italy and yet, officially, only eight mosques in the whole country. One consequence is that the Muslim population have accumulated a huge number of makeshift and temporary places of worship. These are housed in a variety of buildings including lock ups, garages, shops, warehouses and old factories. This shortage of places to worship is particularly acute in north east Italy – where the photographer Nicolò Degiorgis lives – home to many anti-Islamic campaigns headed by the right wing party Lega Nord. The dull images of the many and diverse buildings that house the makeshift mosques are printed on folded pages. You open up the gatefold to reveal the scenes inside the mosques, shot in full colour. The size of the gatherings varies, from large crowds who sometimes pray outside to a small room full to bursting, or to intimate groups of two or three Muslims. Degiorgis provides a fascinating glimpse of hidden world and leaves the conclusions about this project entirely in our own hands.” Neither a critique nor a call to action, Nicolò Degiorgis’ “Hidden Islam” reveals the precarious lives that often lie beneath the surface of contemporary societies. In fact, Degiorgis speaks specifically about the human condition of Muslims in Italy, and yet what his photographs reveal the most is the contradictory, regressive and cynic condition of the Italian society as a whole.

Rujana Rebernjak 
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Daily Tips: The Gourmand Magazine

Among the avalanche of contemporary food magazines taking over the shelves of independent bookstores in the past couple of year, The Gourmand stands as a particularly compelling example of eloquent use of food as an excuse to speak about ‘culture, design, politics, society and even food itself’. Founded in 2012, The Gourmand serves as “a testament to the communicative power of food, and its inherent relationship with the arts”, as its editors Marina Tweed and David Lane justify the magazine’s wide range of topics that cover everything, even remotely food related: from overheard restaurant conversations to hippophagy (the practice of eating horsemeat), from an interview with Milton Glaser, the grand master of graphic design, to a day in the life of Massimo Bottura. The latest issue of The Gourmand, published last week, might just be the perfect treat for this food-centric month.

The Blogazine 
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Anna Franceschini | Laws Of Attraction

Spike Island, a Bristol based international centre devoted to the development of contemporary art and design, hosts “Laws of attraction”, the first solo exhibition in the UK of Anna Franceschini (b. Pavia, 1979; living and working in Amsterdam and Milan), one of Italy’s most talented artists and filmmakers. Following her personal research path that focuses on cinema and exploits both analogue film and innovative techniques, Franceschini presents her work from the past five years to the UK public, including HD videos and silent and audio 16mm short films, some of them transferred to digital media and arranged in multi-channel projections.

Shooting places – workshops, factories, funfairs etc. –, objects, devices and methods of humans’ everyday life, the artist lingers on small details, isolating them from their contexts to bring out a new dignity and a unique poetic dimension. Anna Franceschini’s works are close ups of different worlds made of evidences of people’s existence, but without their clear presence, shot to return fragments of the forgotten or hidden to the viewer. In “The player may not change his position” (2009) the artist films an almost deserted amusement park where carousels start working with round and hypnotic lights, sounds and movements. Parts of light up chairoplanes, bumper cars and roller coasters are depicted in a melancholic, still bewitched, place that reminds of “a rec room, which comes alive soon after the children go to sleep.” But the contexts never disappear completely and keep on reminding us of cinematographic trickeries that turn reality into something more suggestive as in “The Stuffed Shirt” (2012) where clothes of a dry-cleaning factory are pumped up with air that pushes them to the limit of explosion and give them the look of a machine-like puppet, recalling the myth of Golem. Continuously paying tribute to the history of filmmaking through a wisely use of substance and fiction, Anna Franceschini gifts us exercises in participant observation, hanging instants where the human being is both missing and leading.

The exhibition will run until December 14th 2014.

Monica Lombardi 
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Style Suggestions: Winter Accessories

Wondering which winter styles will not only keep you warm but also leave you looking fabulous? Here are our top picks, so bundle up in style with the hottest winter accessories of the season.

Hat: Rag&Bone, Gloves: Bottega Veneta, Bag: Valentino, Earrings: Saint Laurent

Styling by Vanessa Cocchiaro 

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Factory as Home: Ricardo Bofill’s Urban Fairy Tale

Originally an industrial complex dating from the turn of the century, with over 30 silos, subterranean galleries and huge machine rooms, the Factory by Ricardo Bofill turned an old cement production plant into the headquarters of his firm, Taller de Arquitectura. “The factory, abandoned and partially in ruins, was a compendium of surrealist elements: stairs that climbed up to nowhere, mighty reinforced concrete structures that sustained nothing, pieces of iron hanging in the air, huge empty spaces filled nonetheless with magic.” In fact, the story of Bofill’s factory is an incredible tale of a magnificent home that lies north west of Barcelona, Spain’s cultural and artistic capital.

Turrets, archways and a wild, rampant garden: when Ricardo Bofill installed his living and working spaces amidst an abandoned cement factory in 1973, instead of restoring the industrial turn of the century monument in an overly clean manner, he turned it into a urban fairy tale castle. He left eight silos, which became offices, a models laboratory, archives, a library, a projections room and a gigantic space known as “The Cathedral”, used for exhibitions, concerts and a whole range of cultural functions linked to the professional activities of the architect. The complex stands in the midst of gardens with eucalyptus, palms, olive trees and cypresses, standing as evidence of the fact that an imaginative architect may adapt any space to a new function, no matter how different from its original use.

Draped in lush vegetation and offering an abundance of open spaces, this building is impressive not only in size but also in style. However, this was not always a scene of domestic bliss and creative outlet. This towering building once housed the industry that produces the material we use to create most modern structures – cement. Expansive ceilings and crawling green plants, make this restored factory building an architectural masterpiece with a great deal of charm, showing how a visionary architect might turn a long forgotten and disregarded space into a modern dream.

Giulio Ghirardi 
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Design that Matters: New Materials Award

If every design era has its own chair, it shares at the same time its own elective material. Curved wood, tubular steel, plastics, have all represented the symbol of a transformation that first touched the world of industry and then affected the aesthetics and habits of the great majority of society. But what about our uncertain time? Is there a privileged material that best embodies the spirit of our age? The DOEN Foundation and the Materiaalfonds are two Dutch institutions that have, since 2009, been promoting an annual contest – New Material Award – seeking to scout the research of designers, artists and architects who are involved in the applicative studies in the domain of new material. The type of work they try to support has not necessarily been developed in a big R&D corporation department, but favours an “out of the box” research that has its focus in the intersect of geopolitical, anthropological, and scientific issues. The 2014 nominees are a faithful indicator of our “liquid” time: there’s no univocal trend that is able to speak for all, to summarize a specific aesthetics (just in case: DIY?), or to physically transform a domestic landscape. Nevertheless, a few emerging patterns are very representative of the ideas that shape our plural and atomized society.

Sustainable projects win it all. Atelier NL choses to use local, non-pure types of sand to produce new typologies of glass which are characterized by new, attractive colours and textures. Young designer Aagje Hoekstra explores they way we can reuse the cases of mealworm beetle, normally grown for the food industry, to produce a new type of bio-plastics. Tjeera Veenhoven gives a new purpose to residual tulip heads: his new compostable PLA film embodies the petals, extending their life-cycle with an unpredicted decorative function. At the same time, 3d printing remains one of the undisputed protagonists. With his “Mycelioum” project, Eric Klarenbeek has printed a chair melting vegetable waste with mycelium, which works as a living glue; the product is not finalized when it gets out of the 3D printer, but when the fungus fully grows in the designer’s laboratory. Then, DUS Architects use a portable 3D printer to build a canal house, a representative case study to deepen the sustainable applications of 3D printing to the world of self-made architecture. However, the biggest potential can be seen in the most unusual and un-politically correct proposal. “Black Gold” collection by Quintus Kropholler choses asphalt as the inedited material to realize geometrical items. Its value is above all aesthetic and questions the perceptive expectations we usually associate with this “blacklisted”, petroleum-derivative material.

Giulia Zappa 
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