* The following text is an excerpt from an interview made in 2016. The original version is published in PANORAMA (DIORAMA editions).
Giada Montomoli (Massa Marittima, 1986) studied at lED (Milan). Her works were featured at: Liling Ceramic Valley Museum (Hunan); View Gallery (Jingdezhen); Northeners (Los Angeles); 5 vie Design Week, Marsèll Paradise, Adidas Store (Milan); China International Gallery Exposition (Beijing); Design week (Stockholm).
Your training begins at the IED, specialization interior design. This path is not so far from some aspects of your current work, it’s no coincidence that you call yourself a surface designer: what does this definition exactly mean?
Surface design is about surfaces. I have always felt tight or misplaced in many definitions: I wanted something that had a more extensive concept and that was how I found surface design. I like the idea of designing surfaces, they can be made of a different material each time. But I admit that this definition does not convince me at all times, perhaps what doesn’t suit me is giving a label to what I am.
For a period you dedicated yourself regularly to the design of modular patterns, developing them analogically with a folding technique. Was that the point when you got interested in the idea of expanding your designs on a surface?
The order was definitely inverse: I wanted to work with patterns, but I never liked to draw on computers, so I looked for an approach that would suit me. I must say that working with Lotta Jansdotter was somehow a help for me.
I also know that you have made graffiti for years. Has this practice affected your imagination, or your method of creation?
Graffiti have definitely given me a lot: friends, life experiences, to feel part of a special club. But I’ve never been very good, I think found my way only when I walked away from those paraments and the supposed rules for making a good graffiti. This has definitely contaminated my approach to design and illustration, making it less academic.
Then you also have made Buildings, a series of very minimal designs depicting famous buildings, such as the Torre Velasca. In a way one could say that you’ve turned over your past as a writer: you designed palaces instead of drawing on them, and you passed from macro to micro, as you now design on a tiny scale…
Surely it is an evolution of the fascination the road has for me, it’s just that I metabolize it in a different way.
You told me to be very fascinated by symbolism in all its forms. Which are your major influences?
It all started at school during art lessons, I have always been hopeless, but that subject fascinated me, not for the painting or the techniques, but for the messages. It was wonderful to know what an object or a composition concealed. Then, growing up, and with making graffiti, I read many books on various subcultures and on the symbols disguised by clothing and accessories that people use to identify themselves with a group and to talk about themselves. I just saw a photo shoot by Stefan Ruiz on the Cholombianos; Mexican kids who by means of clothing, accessories and cumbia have created their own way of being Colombians without actually being it, very nice. So I think that, in my own way, I draw what I see, I simplify the elements and make them symbols of our generation.
You are of Colombian origin yourself. Do you think that this culture has influenced you in some way?
Undoubtedly. The South American culture is made of indigenous, African, Catholic, European, mestizo and pagan elements. One of my favourites is the mask of La Marimonda of the Barranquilla Carnival, symbolizing the festive and burlesque attitude of the people of this town.
You recently made Boobs, a neon designed for the new WOVO store in Milan; it is not the first time that you work on erotic subjects. What drives you to work on the topics eroticism and sexuality?
As I said before, it’s always about my problem that I need to identify myself with something and my passion for symbols. I am attracted by the queer culture and I would like the world to have a freer concept of sexuality – and by free I mean conscious, mature and informed. So I try to explore this world using the same approach.
Speaking of queer, you said that in time it was difficult for you to present some rather commercial works, as they were considered ‘too feminine’. How do you live this kind of dynamics in the creative sphere, and how did you manage to find a balance in relation to this issue?
My works have definitely a feminine soul, but I’m sure not to be part of that world made of ‘cute’ things. So I choose to work with people that go beyond the definition of things ‘for men’ and things ‘for women’.
You opened a studio with Luca Font, artist, tattoo artist and your partner.
The last years have been full of journeys, we saw so many beautiful things and met people full of talent: we wanted in some way to have a place where to keep and show this experience, and wanted it to become a creative showcase, as well as being a place where we design and work.