Greeting visitors in GALLERIA CONTINUA’s exhibiting space at Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, famous for it’s boat sail -inspired shape, Cecchini’s iconic Waterbones structure is made up of thousands of steel modules. Like an organic growth, it pervades the architecture. Also on display are a series of new works titled Aeolian Landforms, whose monochromatic surfaces, inspired by the erosion of air and water on natural surfaces, recall the sand dunes shaped by the wind.
At the opening of a personal show that was titled The Ineffable Gardener at Galleria Continua in San Gimignano in 2018, Loris Cecchini told ArTalkers about his nature-inspired practice that touches upon the poetics of space stretching sculptural language to metaphysical ends.
Are you an ‘ineffable gardener’?
Loris Cecchini: May be, that’s what I’d like to do when I grow up! Actually, the title of the exhibition is a metaphor for the artworks on display, that, large or small, are all connected by the memory of nature. The term ‘Ineffable’ recalls something arcane and introduces the direction of the work, a form of metaphysical empiricism.
A gardener understands the structure of the plant, but he also has a sense of the divine, and I am very keen to introduce a metaphysical end in my manual skills. In my work, structure, construction and elaboration with different materials touch upon issues relating to the poetics of space and to sculptural language, and formulate different hypotheses, ranging from phenomenology to diagrams, from the solid consistency of colour to the deflagration of the sculptural mass.
Which materials do you feel more attuned to?
Loris Cecchini: There are two relatively new materials in my production, marble and watercolour. I have always used watercolour, but I have reformulated it here in a new series that integrates with the installations, offering a more intimate and private dimension. In the past, I have used drawing in various forms and on many levels, from sketches to 3D drawing, but I believe that watercolour has a fabulous dimension linked to painting and a sense of antiquity. I reread it by making it float inside transparent casings modelled with concave and convex shapes that cast shadows over the underlying drawing and painting.
If I’m not mistaken, you started working with painting.
Loris Cecchini: I attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence for two years, and I also practiced in a famous school of engraving. In 1991, I moved to Milan and attended the Brera Academy of Fine Arts for three years. I was enrolled in the professorship of painting, but, as a matter of fact, I started practicing sculpture almost immediately.
Much of your work is based on the dialectic between opposites. Would you say that paradox is an integral part of your poetics?
Loris Cecchini: The paradox has been part of my linguistic strategy since the very beginning, because it allows a polysemic reading. For example, in the rubber sculptures and in the series of photographs from the mid-nineties to 2005, I decontextualized images and objects by translating them into a paradoxical form: it was a shortcut to revisit a real datum and take its meaning elsewhere. The wall bookcases and the beam here on display are clearly surreal: the surreal aspect is part of my imagination.
In your work, biological metaphors coexist with references to architecture, industrial production and technology. In your opinion, are technology and nature today increasingly incompatible or complementary?
Loris Cecchini: I don’t think they are going in the opposite direction. Historically, nature and technology have been stratified, giving rise to an overall landscape. Alongside natural data, there is our cultural approach which is translated into technology, and it is the knowledge of an historical moment. Today, research in the field of parametric architecture and design increasingly draws from natural processes to elaborate form and function, also thanks to the fact that in the last twenty years the level of environmental awareness has grown.
Do you believe that technology will be our future landscape?
Loris Cecchini: Technology is already a landscape. In younger generations, it is necessarily a filter. These generations are losing the sense of the intimate nature of things, not just of their structure. Above all, the ability to discern between real and virtual is lost. Watching a video and imagining oneself elsewhere is common practice today.
Then you agree with philosopher Jean Baudrillard who said, some thirty years ago, that contemporary society is immersed in hyperreality.
Loris Cecchini: Absolutely. Baudrillard spoke of simulacrum in the 90s, the years of my education, and my first work quoted him. Both Baudrillard and Paul Virilio spoke of a loss of consciousness and sense of reality. Twenty years later, all of this had already been reached to the greatest extent.
Does the idea of a world where artificial intelligence is increasingly taking control worry you or reassure you?
Loris Cecchini: I would say it worries me. I’m not a conservative, but I’m not an enthusiast of technology at all costs either. Artificial intelligence is a destination we cannot escape, which will create further paradoxes in our elaboration of reality. For some time now, cinema has given us a broad vision of a possible drift in this sense. Just to give you an example, think of Hal 9000, the super computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick. With the use of robotics, at home or in the medical field, we are already there, with artificial intelligence that replaces man in making choices: this scares me a little.
When you create a work are you more interested in highlighting the phenomenological dimension of the work, or the psychological experience of it?
Loris Cecchini: Both. The psychological aspect becomes manifest in the space in between the work and the viewer. There, the possible sense of the work is generated by the spectator’s cultural background and interpretative capacity, which is necessary for completing my language. For the phenomenological aspect, the body moves in an organic space that leads back to the idea of nature, because the Euclidean structure is lost: in nature, the right angle is practically non-existent.
You have linked your propensity for non-Euclidean geometry and architecture with Italianness. Could you explain why?
Loris Cecchini: I lived in Berlin for almost six years, and being outside Italy you inevitably relate to the place where you are, and the idea of Italianness becomes more present. For example, German architecture is more based on the orthogonal grid, while in Italy architecture is typically curvy: the arch is an integral part of our culture; the Baroque is another example of curvilinear architecture. Even our food speaks through shapes: in Italy, there are more than 250 shapes of pasta. We eat forms.
You also stated that poetic distance is at the foundation of art, and that you feel closer to art’s metaphysic aspects than to its socio-political dimension. But to think that art can be a ‘laboratory’ – in a broad sense – for the future of architecture, means having society in mind.
Loris Cecchini: By socio-political aspect I meant the propensity to take a position and communicate information, while art must be formative, not informative. However, the social dimension exists in art because artists have a critical attitude towards reality. I still believe in the experiential value of art: art is matter, experience must be physical, not an image on a mobile phone. In this sense, poetic and metaphysical drifts are the peculiarity of our work. If we remove this, what is left is a form of ‘creativity’, very widespread today, which is not really an artistic language.
Speaking of creativity, you’ve often made forays into the world of design. How do you see the relationship between art and design? Do you find a difference in how collaborations are viewed in Italy and other countries?
Loris Cecchini: In my opinion, the collaboration between art and design in Italy is welcome, indeed it would be good to create more opportunities for encounters. In Italy, there is a long tradition, mainly linked to the fifties and sixties, of brilliant collaborations between business, production and artists.
Working, for example, for the Chaumet jewelers in France, for Miroglio Textiles in Piemonte, and on other occasions, I was able to see that both myself and my interlocutors were forced to revise our work in the light of cooperation. I learned things about other areas and sectors, from marketing to industrial production, and looked for interactions with my specific practice. This is good. Art introduces a slower dimension compared to that of the industrial or design-related production systems, and a pause in the idea of consumption that now pervades everything.
Returning to your formative years, art critic Nicolas Bourriauld described the aesthetics of precariousness as typical of the new millennium, and a new form of sculpture defined by ‘transitory forms, dynamics in potential movement’. Do you recognise your work in this description?
Loris Cecchini: I remember that there was also an exhibition at the New Museum in New York, titled Unmonumental in 2007, inspired by this thesis. I do not believe at all that my sculpture gives a sense of precariousness, on the contrary, I believe that it gives a sense of flux, of an open but solid and structured form. If there is a sense of precariousness, only poetic, it can perhaps be found in the watercolours, in the flaking of the sheet, of the colour.
In my opinion, the attitude described by Bourriaud was a normal reaction to the monumentality of the 2000s, to the works of Anish Kapoor or Olafur Eliasson, for example. Artists have to distinguish themselves from other artists’ languages. In younger generations today, attitudes have changed, precariousness has given way to the knowledge of how to perfectly ‘package’ an artwork, an attitude linked to a profoundly changed world and art market. Many galleries are multinational brands, the artist himself has become a brand. There is a strong aesthetic sense, but going back to the idea of a social dimension, I wouldn’t be able to tell how young artists position themselves.
Finally, how has your way of ‘inhabiting space’ changed over time?
Loris Cecchini: Perhaps today the primitive dimension of the sense of living and protection, which was present in the cocoon shapes, my caravans for example, is lost. The work also changes by virtue of the time in which it is practiced, and today the intrinsic nature of the materials, the nano and macro-spatial dimensions, intrigue me even more than architecture. I return to architectural dynamics thanks to modules. The explosion of the work gives me the opportunity to build organisms, to design a type of sculpture that expands and contracts in space, which loses mass to become cosmogony and to say that all matter is intrinsically particle.
Sources and insights: Artist's website GALLERIA CONTINUA