The curatorial and editorial project for systems, non-objective and reductive artists working in the UK

Website: Chestnuts Design

Patrick Morrissey interviewed Giulia Ricci

May 2014

PM     Recently you’ve been working on a project for a public and permanent environment as part of a commission; has that affected your intention when considering the piece, or do you simply stick to your own aesthetic intention? Is there a clear division between the work you are commissioned to do and a distinctly separate area of autonomous practice?

GR     The distinction is just the one I have outlined above, regarding the generative process of a piece. For the commission I am working on I am making something which is in dialogue with the building it’s created for and the location it’s set in, and this requires it to be permanent, therefore the concept of the artwork and the materials employed are all functional to asserting this sense of durability.

This piece is also partly the development of The Grammar of Order, a previous body of work, which was a work in progress I had developed during a residency at the Museum of Domestic Design and Architecture (MoDA) at Middlesex University between 2011-12.

The Grammar of Order was developed as a sort of vocabulary (or catalogue) of patterns generated by variations in the orientation of its primary unit (the triangle). When I first made The Grammar of Order I wasn’t sure how it was going to progress into a finished piece of work, until a suitable project and context came along and I turned it into a new concept specifically related to the building I am working on.

I like working with constraints, because they catalyse my creative process; in my studio work these constrains are set by me, while in a piece created for a place, the limitations come from the place itself, and I really enjoy that.

PM        Thank you, Giulia, for participating in this interview.

PM       How do you see the role of the applied arts in relation to fine art? Is there a distinction or is this becoming blurred, with the onset of digital media and other contemporary phenomena?

SH        I don’t really question much this relationship; I think that each artwork or artefacts (whose boundaries are blurred between fine art and applied arts) eventually ends up in a context that defines it a bit more specifically; I assume that the author/maker/artist who’s created the piece knows where they want it to sit. I don’t have any issues with borrowing techniques and materials from the applied arts, because I know I will end up producing something that sits within the fine arts, because that’s my mindset and I don’t have any ambition to be a designer or to create mass-produced objects.

PM        At first sight, your work seems to be concerned with a generative, systems, and/or geometric dynamic. To what extent would you situate your work within the traditions of abstraction and systems art?

SH        Systems have been a massive influence for me; both in terms of historical art movements, as well as in relation to more contemporary concerns about information and data visualisation. My earliest exposure to this approach dates back to my days as a student in Italy; in my tutor group, at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Bologna in the mid ‘90s, there was a lot of gestural painting of German influence going on, and I just didn’t feel any connection to that, so I went in search for references that were more suitable for me. I was interested in a more impersonal, rational and restrained approach to generating the artwork; the nearest influences came first from literature, Italo Calvino e Primo Levi above all.

Then I looked at what had happened in the ‘50s and ‘60s in Milan, in particular, where a scientific approach to art had been pioneered by various artists developing within optical, kinetic and concrete art languages, such as, to name a few, Grazia Varisco, Dadamaino, Getulio Alviani. Incidentally, these writers and artists were working in the same years and areas (Milan and Turin) where design and industry were developing and reaching really amazing outcomes.

PM      Giulia, what is your starting point for a piece of work?

GR       I normally work in series and each series of artworks is connected to the ones I have done before, so the starting point is the result of an ongoing research into some specific concerns. But if I am commissioned to do a piece for a specific context, then the starting point is the context itself, such as the history of the place, its physical features (shapes, materials, colours, scale) and its more immaterial ones, such as the atmosphere or its identity; I normally gather all these information first and then I generate my piece of work, marrying my own language to these elements from the context.


PM     What are your influences, if any, and how have they translated into your current practice?

GR     There are a lot of influences from quite a varied range of art forms and historical periods, including optical and kinetic art, minimalism, quilting, textiles, Portuguese azulejos, Islamic art, maps and diagrams, just to name a few; it’s a very long list, which includes artists I feel really connected to, such as Alighiero Boetti and Anni Albers. Whenever possible, I like buying books related to my influences, so that I am able to periodically look at the pictures and read about them; my understanding of other artists’ work and other artefacts develops and sometimes changes over time, as does my awareness about my work. I think that these influences translate into my current practice through my exploration of abstraction, alongside with my interest in the physicality of drawing and patterns.  

Order, disorder and symmetry, 2009, pen on paper, 50x70cm.

Image of the solo show Order / Disruption held at Ring Here (London) from 23 Sept to 28 Oct 2011.

Order/Disruption no.24 2011. pen on paper, 20x30cm

Order / Disruption no.21, 2011 hand made drawing, pen on paper, 33x34cm

Orientation / Disorientation no.6. 2013.

Archival oil-based ink on paper, hand-made unique print made with rubber stamps, 100x140cm

©Copyright Patrick Morrissey and Clive Hancock  All rights reserved.

These were all quite dated references for a young artist growing up in the ‘90s, but I needed to find my roots in order to anchor myself to the tradition that felt really relevant to me, before I could progress and add more layers to it; I should add to this that, prior to doing my BA in fine art, at school I studied Classics so I had a very historical and academic mind-set, and an approach to art which was mostly self-taught, if we exclude what I had learnt about art in primary school!

On the other hand, at the same time there were a number of women artists, just a decade older than me, who were coming to the forefront of the Italian art scene and whose use of materials and time consuming processes had a great influence on me; these artists were also engaging the viewer on a level that was different from that of the artists of the ‘60s and I was intrigued, although somewhat confused and uncertain, about their use of relational aesthetics.