Interview #67

Lisa Rampilli

Lisa Rampilli (Milan,1982) studied at Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera (Milan) and ENSCI (Paris). Her work has been exhibited at Lucie Fontaine, Ubud, Bali and Studio Medico (Milan), Museo Civico (Castelbuono) and she collaborated with several brand such as Cabana, Vertu, Frette, Gucci, Pomellato Boodles.

You’ve always draw, but in the last few years you’ve focused your practice on fabrics. How did you developed this interest?

When I lived in Paris I lived on Avenue de Gobelins, near the royal carpet and tapestry factory that supplied the court of the French monarchs. La Galerie des Gobelins is dedicated to temporary exhibitions of worked fabrics. When I “met” the cycle of Flemish tapestries of the lady and the unicorn I was looking for something that would combine the functional element, the decoration, the allegory: I had found it. Then I went to Belgium in Courtrai, in the Flanders, to understand the origin of some specific symbols; Today I consider this interest something that allows me to satisfy the need for manual work by working on an object, keeping myself away from sculpture and close to the two-dimensional nature of graphics, drawing and painting.

What makes you distance yourself from the sculpture?

I consider sculpture a real presence. In fact it exists. It is the object, or replaces a subject, and occupies a space. It’s a strong stance. I feel less direct, I’m up for something that’s more or less openly a simulation, and for being able to imagine a story through it.

A big part of your work focuses on the foulard: what interests you most about this support?

It all started with a feeling of precariousness: I needed to work and my artistic experience could not find a clear direction. I used my creative power in the accessory industry. I am not interested in fashion by itself and to those rhythms that do not belong to me, but I like inventiveness, technique, imagination; I like it when fashion is essential and functional, where every pocket, every zipper, every elastic has a reason for being and nothing more; I like it when fashion becomes theater, mask, decoration and set design, when it’s like birds in the mating season, a staging of what we would like to be. The foulard for me is a painting, a story to wear. I know there are very strict rules about its composition, but I always try to avoid them in my projects. It’s a light and functional fabric to knot and repair from the cold, but it communicates through graphics, which does not hang on a wall but where one can wrap up. I wish we were all dressed like this, with these huge squares of fabric full of images.

You have traveled a lot in Asia, exploring countries where illustration and printing on fabric are the result of ancient and peculiar traditions. What did these experiences leave you?

The Eastern visual tradition is vast and very complex, yet essential at the same time. I’d like to be a part of this story in which there is no romance. Let me explain: as soon as I get off the plane after landing, for example, in Indonesia, I immediately feel lightened by the drama of our culture. Evil and good are present, but those dramatic, passionate colors of the world that feels like a great carnage are watered down and diluted as in paintings and prints. If I may have learned anything from Oriental visual culture it’s a kind of graphic rigor, of imperceptible irony, of lightness and above all the love for stories in which women, flowers, dragons, dogs, fruits and snakes coexist and communicate.

When I came to your studio you showed me a burnt spot on the ceiling, the result of an unsuccessful solution. Your parents are biologists and you grew up in an experimental environment; how do you relate to the materials you use?

That burning on the ceiling is my pride. I was dealing with an experiment in which I had to heat a substance in a pot; Everything caught fire, luckily not me. My face was covered with black smoke and my hair was a little charred, and this is my photograph. Since I was a child I found myself in the middle of flasks and test tubes; The laboratory glassware is beautiful, the magnets used to mix compounds look like white peppermint candies and the fridge at home was full of aluminum packets with “don’t eat” written on it or plastic bottles felt-tip pen marked “don’t drink” . Once I saved a trout from a laboratory experiment by putting it in a pressure cooker, not to cook it, but to carry it home, put it in the bathtub and beg my mom to take it back to the river and set it free. Materials are always a wild card, in my opinion they’re living things that react according to how they’re treated. Probably that time the materials got angry with me because I did something wrong, but the experimentation for me is irresistible. I will continue to make mistake after mistake, I’m sure.

You told me that lately you’re concentrating your research on marbled printing…

I’m working on a large marbled fabric for an exhibition at the MRAC of Serignan; Here empiricism is my best friend too. I could have had the technique well explained to me, but I wanted to learn by myself by experimenting. The result is always something that is not exactly as it should be, but that’s perhaps more interesting as it is. Mistakes are a fundamental part of the job.

In the past you’ve also experimented with the batik technique, which in addition to requiring great manuality implies, like marbling, the acceptance of the unexpected.

Yes and no, because it has essential passages on which one cannot improvise; It’s a repetition, a technique handed down from generation to generation, and the use of each color has its history and symbolism. Having said that, it cannot be completely distorted. Can we write forgetting syntax and grammar? It would be better not to forget it and change the language where certain passages have become rigid and dull, and this usually happens by itself, is a physiological change. The batik technique is also a language: better not to forget the grammar, but to accept that the technical unexpected leads to that physiological change. Once a person told me “it’s a technique that makes me think of hippie world, it should be revisited”. It’s impossible for me to revisit something, it happens by itself, through the culture that changes around that thing.

Your favorite subjects are flora and fauna, is there a particular connection with your background?

It’s a rather unusual issue: when I was little I used to do lots of very colorful drawings of animals and I had a collection of small elephants that I found or were given to me, I was always in the midst of nature, I spent long periods in Tuscany in the family farm, I was among the animals all over day, I played and watched them. I also had a house on the lake, in the middle of the woods but sheer on the water. There I saw water snakes, dormice, two hunters passing by carrying a dead deer by the four legs, I saw pheasants and owls, buzzards and cormorants. When I grew up I was interested in human beings, history, psychology, introspection, literature instead. Then one day I left for a trip to Salzburg and I chose to bring with me very few things, the most essential, a backpack and drawings of animals made in kindergarten, and I said to myself: I start over from here. And since then I’ve found a happiness in my work that I cannot describe.