Whenever I land on an artist working in a minimal style, I feel like I’m going back to the root of what interested me in contemporary art to begin with. As an art history student in university, I was over the moon to discover the Bauhaus and its artist-designers for the first time, and midcentury minimalism in painting and sculpture. Even though my interest in contemporary art encompasses numerous styles, minimal, installation-based sculpture still resonates because the ideas and the research that informs this work is often worth discussing just as much as (if not more than) the work itself, which I always think presents a really interesting theoretical quandary when it comes to artwork. But I digress!
Giulia Cacciuttolo recently graduated from University of Arts London (she and recently featured artist Sebastiao Castelo Lopes are current collaborators) where her research emphasized study into moulds or impressions, memory and its relationship to space and time. I’m interested in her use of paraffin wax often mixed with some hard material like wood or concrete. Wax is a generally fragile thing, always at risk of being bumped, chipped, or melted, and it’s a unique choice related to the fragility and impressionable nature of memory.
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You’re from Rome originally and have just wrapped up an MA in London at UAL. What’s next? Do you plan to stay in London for a while?
For the time being, I am planning to stay in London. I like a lot to live in this city… I like the sensation that you could do everything you want, in any moment.
Moreover last year has been for me great, but incredibly tiring. I think that I need some time to let all the things that happened settle down. So, I am planning to have some months of hard work in the studio, maybe some exhibitions, and to focus my attention on some projects that I am working on at the moment.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself? What first interested you in art?
I frankly would not be able to say how everything started; I feel that it is something that has always been there, surely even before I knew that it was called “art”. My mom always tells me that when I was really, really young the only way to make me stay quiet was to give me a pencil and piece of paper.
Then, it was something that I kept doing – silently, ‘on the side’ most of the time – even when my life was taking me somewhere else. It took me a while to realise and to find the strength to accept that I couldn’t do anything else – I even studied Economics before starting the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome.
Have you always been interested in sculpture?
I have always drawn and painted, so when I started the Academy in Rome, painting seemed the more logic path to follow. I will always be grateful for some of the teachers that I have met in those three years and for all the exceptional technical skills that I’ve gained there, but at the same time it is a really close-minded environment. Almost no one teaches you to develop your own research; if you’re painting, you are supposed to put paint on a canvas, nothing more than that.
I think that in this kind of situations, it is a matter of finding the right place, the right environment in which you can grow, and that of course is not the same for everyone. That is why I moved… I needed to find mine.
Who or what are some of your biggest influences?
This is a hard question… I like to think that we always take something from everything we cross, things that we like and things that we don’t like. So I would say that my work today is a mix of things, people, places, artists, artworks that I’ve loved and hated. Moreover, my research starts from the intersection between memory, space, and time… so a part of it is based on memories and on the study of them. My work and the world, the people, the places that are surrounding me are strongly related, that is probably why the context in which I am is so important for me.
You use often a combination of wood and paraffin wax. Can you tell me a bit about these mediums and why you’ve chosen them?
As I said, this is year has been a year of great changes for me, and one of them was the complete freedom to experiment. From the paint on the canvas, I started to work on glass applying layers of materials and paint on it. I didn’t know back then, but I was already looking for more materiality. When I started to study here in London, I had been given the complete freedom to lead my research wherever I wanted to. I always worked with wood – I was used to make my own stretchers for my canvases. So, it just ‘moved’ from stretchers to moulds in which I cast wax.
I actually don’t know exactly why I started to work with wax… it was something that always fascinated me and here I finally had the chance to start to work with it. Moreover, it is also connected with my research as wax was anciently used to preserve things from the passing of time. It also has some pictorial qualities that have always interested me.
Your work also utilizes moulds; what is the significance there?
I started to work with moulds this year, always to cast wax. For example for the series of works “The places you left behind” I’ve made moulds of ancient frames and of half a door.
But then one day I was in my studio looking at the mould of the door and I realised that it could have been much more interesting for me to work directly with moulds, that they were strongly connected with my actual research, and that they had a potential on their own.
From there was born my work “Apophenia”, a series of seven moulds of pillows made in plaster. It is a work in which there is a strong contrast between a more ‘poetic’ part – the front – and the actual marks of the making – the back.
The mould itself in this case gains a double meaning: on one side it is a part of the making of the artist; on the other side it conceptually represents the proof that something was there. In a way it works exactly like our memory: as a mould, every time we remember there will always be something slightly different from reality. Moreover, they are fragments of the actual objects: just halves of the pillows themselves, as our memories are just fragments of reality.
What is your studio like? How much time do you try to spend working on your art every day?
My studio’s a disaster! It is really small and it is full of so many things: materials, tools, moulds, old works… and a lot strange things that I like to pick up around the city and keep for future works.
I always try to work a little bit everyday, even if it’s not easy to combine everything.
But one thing that I am sure about it is that artists are always working. Even if we are not practically working on something, we are always thinking, making projects, registering details of the world that we will use after to work in the studio. This has its bad sides and its good sides… one of the bad sides is that it becomes a 24/7 job. We never stop, we are never really disconnected.
Personally, I have some periods in which I produce a lot of works and some others in which I absolutely need to stop to actually do things and I just need to write down ideas, see exhibitions, read books.
What do you feel has been the most challenging aspect of being an artist so far? What do you feel you need most to be successful?
Anyone who is doing this knows that is incredibly hard to not give up. Beside the poetic side of our job we have to face a lot of technical and practical issues in our everyday life. I think that the most difficult thing in the first place is to not give up… to have the strength to keep going even when everything seems to lead you anywhere.
The context is also really important… this is one of the reason why I decided to move to London. I lived in Paris and it was a great experience, but there I always had the impression of a small and closed environment. London is bigger in every sense, so more competitive… but here you can find a place to belong to.
I think that the interesting thing to think about is what to be successful means to each artist. For some of them it means to be well-known and rich, for others it can mean to just be able to challenge the public in any way.
What do you consider to be your biggest accomplishment so far, or feeling of success?
The feeling of having accomplished something is for me always very volatile… I am always looking at the next challenge and this is exciting. But until now I would consider a good achievement to have been able to say something to the public with my works, to be able to interact with them somehow; and also to have built a strong net of relations with other artists. For me and my work the chance to confront myself with other creatives is absolutely fundamental… Isolation doesn’t really work for me, work wise .
Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects?
I am working with other six artists – Sebastiao Castelo Lopes, Giulia Lanza, Mattia Cleri Polidori, Frederic Anderson and Caragh Savage – on a group show that will open on December 15th in Peckham – 137 Copeland Road SE15 3SN. We will exhibit in an old Victorian house (link here)… I am really excited!!
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