In conversation with Berlin-based artist Giuditta R.
19 may 2016 by Despoina Tzanou
We met with the Italian artist Giuditta R. in Berlin to learn more about her latest work and collaborations. We talked about the concept of the paradox, darkness and the notion of identity.
Giuditta's practice revolves around exploring the meaning of identity and self-awareness. By employing graphite and mixed techniques on cardboard, Giuditta develops her artistic practice with a curiosity towards the paradox and the dark side that defines human existence and the way these elements are captured in human expressions.
Giuditta R. in her Berlin studio.
D.T. Where do you draw inspiration from?
G.R. I started being interested in this specific style when I was still in high school. My first inspiration came from the German expressionism. More inspiration came later from contemporary photography, new figuration and some artists, such as Ensor.
In the past, I also used to watch a lot of horror films. Now I mostly like psychological thrillers. No particular film inspired me, but it's about the atmosphere, scenes, light, or twisted characters. I am mostly interested in creating this atmosphere of mystery that makes people wonder about things and themselves, rather than scaring them.
Also, I am inspired by crime archives and even spooky video games. In general, I like to explore the dark side of humanity because I want to figure out who we really are as human beings and attempt to answer some essential questions, like what is identity, feelings, self-awareness etc.
D.T. Your work deals with the dark side and enigma of human existence; Is this a research on the subconscious or an interest in the notion of identity?
G.R. Both! I am interested in the identity of human beings, their experience, memories and everything concerning feelings that are difficult to express especially in public. This, of course, turns into a personal research; if we only accept what is given in the external world, we will never explore the inner sides. My work expresses those feelings that sometimes people don't like to be confronted with.
I don’t consider identity as something that is given, even the gender identity is not something defined in my work. I like to play with the notion of undefined identity.
D.T. How important is audience perception of your drawings? Does it change depending on the space and viewer?
G.R. The perception of the audience is important. It is always interesting to know what they think when viewing my work. They teach me something about my work that I might not have thought of and also, it is them that I am studying. I like to see their approach to "themselves".
There is a dynamism in my work and depending on the space, its perception might change. Also, it depends on which artworks I choose to combine together. Each piece placed alone or along another can tell a different story.
The colour details in my work are three-dimensional so this also interacts with the light of the space, whether that be natural or artificial. Following this, even the viewer’s path might change the artwork. The paper is not flat and some details can become shiny objects when you move around the drawings.
Giuditta R., Shame, 2011, graphite on paper, 50 x 70 cm.
D.T. Your artistic practice is developed by using the medium of graphite and pencils, are you open to any other techniques?
G.R. I tried to work a bit with photography. It is a medium I take inspiration from, but I find it doesn't allow me to express emotions and feelings, at least not as much as drawing does. I used to work with oil painting, have also been involved with sculpture and installation. In my next exhibitions, I am thinking of including sound effects to stimulate more of the human senses. I already did this once in Copenhagen. Also, I have recently introduced the sense of smell in the space; it's important for the notion of memory and it is something I want to further explore.
For now, my main tool is graphite and cardboard, that I combine with mixed media. I am attracted to these because of its black/grey colour and because of the fact that it is easily transportable and eventually people who purchase the work find choosing a frame a flexible process. Even the frame selection can change the effect of the work.
D.T. What is your relationship with colour?
G.R. Even though the colour can often embellish an artwork, I never particularly liked using strong colours. I tried painting and acrylics but would anyway mix only a few colours. I actually don't exclude the possibility of including oil painting in my practice in the future.
Giuditta R., Brothers XVII, 2013, graphite on paper, 35 x 50 cm.
D.T. How is it different being an artist in Berlin and in Copenhagen?
G.R. I used to live mostly in Copenhagen; I really like the city but yet somehow it became a bit small, I like that is a place that chooses the beautiful in life. And Danes really appreciate my work!
I am now based in Berlin. There is a lot to do and to see here. Also, apart from art, it is easy to get inspired. There are a lot of strange characters and even a walk in the city can be interesting and might inspire me to create.
It is difficult to say if I prefer one city because they are both so different yet beautiful. I have thought about returning to Copenhagen but for the moment, I will probably stay in Berlin. Somehow I guess there must be a reason if I find myself here.
Anyways, when producing art it doesn't really matter where I am, I can close myself in the studio without worrying about the surroundings. It's my own world.
D.T. You have founded a residency project called Villa R. in Messina Italy, could you tell us a little bit more about it?
G.R. I am the director of the residency programme. I came across this idea 3 years ago. I am personally related to this space since my childhood. As a kid, when my parents were creating this place I felt quite bored and isolated. But when the house was completed I was bit older and I could finally see the beauty of the place and its amazing surroundings!
The fact that my parents -both artists- don't travel a lot made me think to bring the world to them! So, I thought about having a cultural exchange with other artists, including poets, musicians etc. I like also the idea of meeting international creative people and showing them what we do directly at our place. It is an exclusive location in the mountains, yet close to the seaside, where people can join to get inspiration, create new ideas, artworks and so on. Our residency is only for a short period of time, max. 2 weeks, since the space is also residential. We get many applications but we choose a few who can better fit with the concept of the place: people who want to produce something new and do some personal research in contact with nature, far from the city life.
It has been interesting so far and every year is different. We have had international artists until now, coming not only from Europe but also from the States and Australia. It is possible to apply for a residency in April, May, June, September or October.
Giuditta R., Our Shadows will Dance book cover, 2016.
D.T. You recently published a new catalogue Our shadows will dance. Can you tell us a little bit about this project?
G.R. It is a book of 80 pages and one of the reasons it happened is because almost all the artworks that was featured in my previous book and e-book, 'Drops of Madness' have been sold. 'Our Shadows will Dance' is a continuation of my ongoing research, from the dark side to the light of the consciousness.
In this catalogue, I have also included some of the new artworks of 'Vanessa's Room' series. Vanessa is a species of butterfly. Taking the symbolic meaning of the butterfly as spiritual transformation, 'Vanessa's Room' represents a dimension inside of the human consciousness, a space where deep psychological features are in a phase of development. In few of the new works, there is a lack of characters, only butterflies in a dark space. They remind us of their silent reflection before flying into the light, possibly.
Also, I try to practice my own spiritual development, especially through meditation. The message that I want to leave from this project is that at some point, in a good atmosphere and positive light, our own shadows will dance.
D.T. Currently, are you working on any new projects?
G.R. Right now I am collaborating with Keisuke Hirose, a Japanese fashion designer who, inspired by my project, used some of my works printed on his garments. I thought about a professional cooperation with a fashion designer for many years, then I was contacted by Keisuke. He is now working on a new brand in partnership with Kohei Lino. We want to collaborate more and are trying to do an event besides the art exhibition where, through some installations, the catwalk will turn into a performance. Also, I am opening new contacts and am working on new artworks to propose in different international contexts. This year I will have another solo exhibition in a public space in my hometown in Italy.
Collaboration with fashion designer Keisuke Hirose.
Collaboration with fashion designer Keisuke Hirose.
Giuditta R. is based in Berlin. She holds a BA and a MA with First Class Honours from the Academy of Fine Art, Catania (2008). She is the founder of "Villa R.", a new residency project for artists in Messina, Italy. She published her first artist book "Drops of Madness" from the homonymous series of drawings in collaboration with M-House Editrice, Milan (2013). She has exhibited in solo and group shows including 'Psychogram', Oxholm Gallery (Copenhagen, 2014); 'Eye can Draw', Tijana Miskovic show room (Copenhagen, 2013); 'UAMO Festival 2013' (Munich, 2013); 'Spejlinger', Museum Lolland Falster (Nykobing Falster, 2012); 'Drops of Madness', Sala Dogana, Palazzo Ducale - Institute of Contemporary Art (Genoa, 2011).
Images courtesy of the artist.