Contributing Editor Vera Falenko
Featured Artist Interview:
“And here is the point in Ricci’s creative spirit: having no baggage to carry she is able to step boldly right up to the blank page and let fly zephyrs of human endeavor the very unleashing of which in unbounded gestures and swirling, speedy motions gather and build into an eventual compilation of some figuration image that feels – no, actually is conjured rather than contrived, and a conjuring that comes from within her own psyche. What I mean by that is this coalescence does not sit outside of her in some landscape that is external to her being, but definitely resides right inside her mind taking on its shape as well as taking up a presence on the page before her eyes and probably surprisingly so.”
Falenko for O:JA&L: First, what can you share with us that we should know to understand your art, your vision? Could you give us a brief biography, one that describes for us something of your training as an artist?
Ricci: After being abroad in 2011 and part of 2016, my artistic research is now moving around vacuum space and the sound of air in a systematic way of working on projects where theoretical architecture triggers synesthesia of the senses; architecture projects and drawings realized through the perception of interdisciplinary skills by listening and touching space. The writings on space and architecture are analyzed through the forms in its design and in its history and connecting them to the man living in them.
Falenko for O:JA&L: What specific role has your formal education played in shaping you as this kind of an artist?
Ricci: My education has allowed me to move through different experiences of study and knowledge. I would like to be defined as a “painter” in its largest meaning possible. I am an artist and my thinking of painting seduces me when my mind is connected with normal life and the idea of artworks construction without any separations between them. The courses on “Monotype, History and Methods” by Michael Mazur, University Professor at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the “Monotype on offset press” by Sarah Amos, Professor at Vermont Studio Centre, gave me the opportunity to reconsider drawing as the shape of working to merge action with painting. During the period of my Master Class in Visual Arts and Design at Venice Biennale, I could see how the experience of building something has helped me to build a mental bridge between the three-dimensional shape and the light minimalism sculptures I made at CCA (Central of Contemporary Art) at Andratx in Majorca (Spain).
Falenko for O:JA&L: When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
Ricci: I think I knew I wanted to be an artist since I was a child, maybe when I was 6 years old. I didn’t want to go to school, and every morning cried very much because I was not happy to leave my parents. I recall clearly that I was able to forget this pain only when at school I can draw and paint on paper and canvas.
My mother wasn’t an empathic woman; she was quite cold and maybe she suffered for this or maybe she wasn’t able to explain what she felt. This created a strong reaction in my body. I started feeling like an animal when I drew and somehow art protected my body and my soul. I realized the magic opportunity art gave me to feel better, especially when I was drawing and painting with my father. It is not possible to fix the moment I realized to be an artist because I tried to do art in each single moment of my life. It was the reason to be a child and to grow up fast.
Falenko for O:JA&L: What is that magic? What more can you tell us about that?
Ricci: Staying in the art– in the creativity process– was the only moment I was able to free my mind. I was free to be all the things I wished and to stay in different places in a unique moment. Then I grew very fast with art, and I understood the importance to look at the world around me and in the specific, I liked observing details in objects and people. I was able to look at these details only when I wasn’t involved with these people because when they somehow absorbed me, I was starting to be confused.
Falenko for O:JA&L: What is that magic? What more can you tell us about that?
Ricci: I could appreciate in many different ways the pleasure of painting’s visual impact and explore the different style or technique, but the best way to do this is to watch art all over the world, in different museums and art galleries, to deepen the artists’ views and prospects. As a child, many times I visited Venice museums, galleries and churches to observe paintings, sculptures and architectures. This disciplined way to observe has been fundamental in my art training.
Falenko for O:JA&L: What can you tell us about the wellsprings of your ideas and techniques? Who are your muses or your professional influences?
Ricci: If you want to know what are the sources of inspiration for my creative work, I can tell you that at first it was color, then landscape, then black and white, and in the end, shape and sign as a gesture or action. It is a process of artist research that starts with something and that I make every day to make the decision to hear myself and choose each instances of reflection to understand what I want and desire to express when I paint.
Muses or influences can change during a lifetime. I don’t want to be obsessed by a unique image which has to be repeated in something different. I like to be influenced by the opportunity to change and feeling in tune with the change. I can name you two great masters that influenced me most– Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin for his loose, almost impressionistic way of capturing textures, colors, depth and volume of each object and add to the feeling of rustic simplicity, anticipating the following century art. J.M.W. Turner for his talent in describing nature and atmospheric elements– wind, rain, snow and storm– into landscapes, which varied from sublime to picturesque, each artworks exploring atmosphere through his careful attention to light and color.
Falenko for O:JA&L: Will you describe for us your creative process and practice, your methods?
Ricci: Imagining depth has become my mental pathway and has accompanied me and marked most of my artistic and personal life. Descending into depth means touching that disturbing universe to whom we inevitably belong to and that sooner or later we have to encounter. Walking there, moving oneself in the “in-itself” leads to living in a FRAGILITY that is outside one’s own self. And what makes it fragile? “It is TENSION that makes fragility, like a string: if we stretch it can break, if left slack it can stay like that for much longer” says Jean-Luc Nancy.
Falenko for O:JA&L: What of your practice, your methods?
Ricci: So the making of the work requires space for action but also, according to Letizia Ragaglia, mental space to “sink one’s own roots in an absorbing and total existentialism.” Twisting and swaying also seem to refer to a difficult and labyrinthine human swagger, but as soon as it becomes an everyday stroll with the observer, it does not present closures, but rather opens up an exit route.
In my sketches, different depths are entangled in the blinding darkness of the blacks illuminating shapes left in ancestral obstructions not even unfolding in my mind. My eye is blinded by these obstructions. In searching for the sketch origin – without revealing all of its entanglement – attempts are made to reveal and conceal themselves in the volume search. The line of the sketch moves through translation of thought and hand movements which on entering the image are inseparable. The search for me to be able to move internally is in the volume.
The line is the thread of writing it and represents humoral crevices of cosmic maps where the infinitely small is a boundless universe. A disturbing desire to be within that brightness where the lines mangle.
White is the natural light of bright sun: one cannot locate the source from which it springs and neither locate its origin other than being above all things; hence the inevitability of it enclosing the existing sun. A real simplicity in itself is not to reach a realistic painting but to make “the infinitely distant and the infinitely close” contemporaneously real which stands out against the sunlight.
Falenko for O:JA&L: What is the consistent message to be understood by those who view your art?
Ricci: What links the two different pictorial moments is the necessity of contemplation in a suspended time: what one sees in this instant will no longer exist or ever be the same because the angle of light will have changed the painter’s view in the continuing flow of time. Then the line strength unfolds into shapes that push against the walls of paper that pushes back, bends and curls the movements that ask for space. A space waving between the two-dimensional motionlessness of paper and the sound of wave drawing the way forth. At that moment the hand moves in the sketch searching for the line volume in the air and the sketch turns into wire that moves in memory of gestures. This will allow them another life and the gestures of the past are the image of knotted wire, wrapped, entangled in the soft dense pliable shape left on the surface that welcomes the shadow of natural light like an echo of line masses.
Falenko for O:JA&L: Where can our audience find more of your work?
Ricci: My work can be found featured in international art publications and is available for viewing and purchase on my professional website, on several commercial websites, and on my social media platforms. Interested persons may also subscribe to my weblog (in Italian) or to my Youtube channel.
Image 1: Paola Ricci. Courtesy of Paola Ricci.
Image 2: “Paola Ricci in studio.” Photograph by Samuele Galeotti. Photo provided courtesy of Paola Ricci.
Image 3: “Untitled” by Paola Ricci. Oil on canvas. 59 x 59 inches. 2018. By permission.
Image 4: “Untitled” by Paola Ricci. Oil on canvas. 59 x 59 inches. 2018. By permission.
Image 5: “Untitled” by Paola Ricci. Oil on canvas. 59 x 59 inches. 2018. By permission.
Image 6: “Cave 1” by Paola Ricci. Architecture concept drawing. Watercolor on paper. 8 x 11 inches. 2010. By permission.
Image 7: “Cave 1” by Paola Ricci. Architecture concept drawing. Watercolor on paper. 8 x 11 inches. 2010. By permission.
Image 8: Untitled drawing by Paola Ricci. Pencil on paper. 8 x 11 inches. 2018. By permission.
Image 9: Untitled drawing by Paola Ricci. Pencil on paper. 8 x 11 inches. 2018. By permission.
Image 10: Untitled drawing by Paola Ricci. Pencil on paper. 8 x 11 inches. 2018. By permission.
Image 11: “Arboreal Wire in Tralee” (drawing) by Paola Ricci. Pencil on paper. 8 x 11 inches. 2005. By permission.
Image 12: “Arboreal Wire in Tralee” sculpture/installation by Paola Ricci. Steel wire. 275 x 98 x 98 inches. 2006. (Photograph by Domnick Walsh / Eye Focus LTD ©.) Photo provided courtesy of Paola Ricci.
About the interviewer:
Vera Falenko is a 2017 graduate of the Moscow Aviation Institute, a State University. She is a native Russian speaker and a language specialist with fluency in English (English level C2, according to the European frame) and Spanish (Spanish level C1). She is a senior teacher of foreign languages at Alibra School, a private institution in Moscow. Falenko is an O:JA&L Contributing Editor for Arts & Letters of Moscow. She also provides selected Russian and Spanish translations for our readers in the Eurozone and in eastern Europe. She maintains an independent book review site offering book reviews in three languages.