Interview #67

Riccardo Sala

* The following text is an excerpt from an interview made in 2016. The original version is published in PANORAMA (DIORAMA editions).
* Riccardo Sala is currently based in Lausanne.

Riccardo Sala (Milan,1989) studied at Accademia di Belle Arti di Brera (Milan) and is currently attending a MA in Visual Arts at ECAL (Lausanne). His work has been exhibited at St.James (Como), Residenza La Fornace (Cremona), Chavannes 45 (Lausanne), TILE Project Space and Spazio Maiocchi (Milan), ADA Project (Rome), and Gattacornia (Varese). In 2017 he co-founded Altalena, a cross disciplinary project dedicated to the organization of residencies and the publication of artist books.

Let’s start from the most recent things: tell me about your last work.

It’s called The Sweetest Thing; it is a clay and metal sculpture. A plate fixed to the wall by a bent metal rod. In the plate there are a few mixed berries in painted clay.

You talked about it as a votive offering, right?

It can be seen in many different ways! I would like to let the work speak for itself.

So you do not prefigure an ideal spectator, with an ideal reaction, for your work?

No, I would like the fruition to be free.

Can you predict the directions that it will take already at the research stage? And when you let yourself go to the suggestion of material you encounter, are you able to identify the reasons?

I cannot entirely predict the direction that a work will take. As to the last two, The Sweetest Thing and Duck Cult (both 2015), everything happened in a rather fast and instinctive way. It was one of the first times I used clay and I really like it. I try to keep alive a deep need before I start to work, but I am not able to fully define the reasons that make me start.

In Miti emblemi spie. Morfologia e storia (Myths emblems spies. Morphology and History) Carlo Ginzburg outlines an historiographical method based on the recurrence of formal motifs in his case studies. We thus see symbols appear in very different eras and cultures. Do you feel this thought is close?

I have not read that book, but from what you mentioned I can tell you that I’m certainly interested in the ways in which certain images continue to manifest themselves.

In a conversation between you and me, you made me notice that Ginzburg’s method is not so far from Warburg’s, perhaps a more relevant example in the context of your work as it is iconographic rather than historiographical. Both methods are based on formal recurrences, and their results are extremely evocative, not least because of their speculative strength. You are interested in this need to create order, to draw a logical thread between the chaos of the images?

Well… yes! Some things remain just pure potential, unless you set them in order. As far as work is concerned, and I’m speaking from a practical point of view, at some point you have to make choices, pathways.

What is your relationship with the seduction value that attracts you in the image? ‘Homeopathic’ (are you under the spell of the charm of their power and this is why you’re interested in them), or colder, rather distant and speculative?

If I see something that leaves me the possibility of being cold and aloof, I do not care much about it. I always try to be in some way involved in what I do.

And if an image interests you, which characteristics does it usually have?

I have no schemes to define when an image interests me. It also depends on how I am and what I’m experiencing. The last time I found myself speechless in front of two paintings by Balthus at the Stables of the Quirinal Palace. For a long time I sought a look that would render the things around me unknown. Now I simply cultivate the moments when a new image comes up in my mind, I work this way.

The research that runs below the surface and precedes the work – to which extent has it to be considered part of it?

This is a good question. To continue the search one needs to be patient and sensitive. But I think that the work is fully autonomous, it is something new and alive compared to the research that precedes it.

What needs or preferences do you have as to the environment that surrounds you while you are working? And how do these demands collide with the reality of Milan?

I like Milan, I was born and raised here and there are many places I am fond of. Maybe I’ll move somewhere else, but I have not yet decided anything in this regard. I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but when I work I need to be alone. At times I have to control my desire for seclusion. Years ago a friend and I had a drone-ambient duo and we made these withdrawals to the lake or in the mountains in order to produce; we took a small home studio with us and we were alone for days, even ten to twelve hours a day, among electrical buzzes and ambient sound samples. He was the musician and I knew nothing about harmony and so on, I think for me it was more of a way to stay away from the city, in a suspended environment. I really suffer the lack of a fixed and stable studio and I find it hard to focus without a proper place, I get distracted all the time.