Giacomo Ravagli interview by Andrew Trotter
in january i was in milan, and i had long heard about the nilufar gallery. it was way at the top of my long list of places to visit. started at the end of the 90’s, nilufar has become one of the top galleries of furniture and design in the world, why? because it is a reference point of the best design in the world, past and present.
it is not often i fall in love. design and architecture is my passion, and there are projects and pieces that i find beautiful, but in the second i saw the table “home around a void” by giacomo ravagli, i was mesmerised. marble has always struck me as a magnificent part of nature. a material that in its simplest form has so many qualities of life, movement, weight and elegance. “home around a void” is cut from a single piece, simple, with perfect proportions. i was in love.
after finding little information about giacomo ravagli, i wrote to nilufar. i have now had a two month e-mail conversation with giacomo, to find out more about his, work, life and what makes him tick.
Ciao Andrew ,
Unfortunately (or luckily) with my kind of life I often put myself in very uncomfortable situations. Following the works I spend a lot of time in the production workshops, whether in the dusty and noisy marble studios or the chilly metal factories or in the hot and wax-smelling foundry or also up in mountains beside the quarries.. I have my laptop and my smartphone always with me but often a good internet connection is needed and I don’t have much time for office work. So when I come back to my base in Venice I have a lot of work that has been piling up. Actually I believe that limitations are the best friends of artists, because only going through uneasy circumstances you can find new creative ways. Putting myself on the line is the main goal. I want to keep the uncomfortable around because it is fascinating and complex and contains a mysterious power that make people aware.
AT : where are you from in italy? is this the reason you work often in marble?
GR : I was born in Pistoia, Tuscany. Carrara and the marble quarries are about 100 km far from Pistoia but i didn’t get into marble until I was 18-19 years old, when I actaully moved to Pietrasanta, a little village near Carrara, where there are the most important sculpture studios. Carrara business is more about the blocks excavation and cutting.
There is no a singular reason why I started to work with marble, except the fact that I wonted to learn a craft to realize my ideas. For a young italian boy like me who wanted to be an artist or whatever it means, the influence of Renaissance and old masters has been always the condition to be confronted with. marble is a very noble and versatile material and you can do almost everything with it, but you must to know how! I knew that I had to lear the techniques first. And before to be a sculptor I had to be an artisan. it was good though because I got to know and work with really passionate people and for great artists from which I learned a lot.
AT : you told me a while ago that you are currently in Venice, and you will spend the summer in New York. it seams a nice life, but are you folling work in each place, or as an artist you can feel free to spend time where ever you want? do you have a solid base or are you always moving?
GR : I have no fixed home and I am bounding around Europe and United States since 2007. In the last 2 years I have lived more often in Milano and now in Venice since last spring. I feel free to spend my time and live where I want and the strategy of my work is about this, so I follow each piece where actually it’s realized.I just need a telephone and good internet connection. I will go to NYC in September, after the Salone, the Biennale and all the Fairs in Europe. I would love to go back to New York more steady and face productions also there. Sincerely I really miss that dirty town! She could be so cheap sometimes, so meretricious. But nevertheless she makes me feel at home.
AT : after seeing your pieces in Nilufar, i tried to find out information, i couldn’t find too much, and you don’t have a web. why keep such a low profile?
GR : I think you can easily find infos about me on internet, through Nilufar website or my old press office. A lot of magazines and newspaper have been publishing my work, among the others World of Interiors, il New York Times, Design Today, AD France, TL Magazine, Abitare, Ansa Design, Casamica, Corriere della Sera, Designboom, DLux, Domus, Interni, Kult, Vogue.
I do design but I am a sculptor and in my pieces there is also much architectural influence or even randomness, so I don’t really now how to define myself and my work. That’s why I don’t have a website (unless someone do it for me) and I prefer others talk about my work rather than myself. Of course I want to sell my work and be acclaimed for my efforts but I believe the vehicle that makes all this things come real is true connection with what I am doing, and not superficial desire for fame. I do not pretend to be famous. I am not power-hungry. I do not delude myself with this grandiose idea of movements. The smell of success is the the type of bad I keep thinking about, the kind I run away from because I am so anxious to be forgotten.
I like the tiredness that come from hard work, from being hungry. Real hungry and real tired, physical tired. No that sort of tiredness that come from feeling the pressure of something that you know deep down doesn’t exist. I am not so ambitious, I am though exigent with myself and the only exposure I crave is for my work. I mean professional recognition, not myself or my private, although I can realize that I can be quite charming sometime! Seriously, internet is a quite strange tool, I want to keep a low profile because I believe there is a limit above which I don’t want to banalize my work and become the parody of myself.
AT : how did your career take of, and how did your relationship with Nilufar start?
GR : Beside working for others artists, I never abandoned the parallel activity of doing sculptures on my own and it’s thanks to that part of my life (that I didn’t want to throw away although very frustrating sometime) that now I do what I am doing. My career took off in 2010, when I started to make design pieces and working with Nilufar. My relationship with Nilufar started in a singular and funny way: I met Nina Yashar, the director of Nilufar gallery, in 2010 in Miami, where I was exhibiting in Design Miami Basel with a gallery from New York. We met after a dinner or something and we matched right away! I didn’t know who she was for the entire time of the conversation and only in the end when we exchanged the telephone numbers I actually realized that. ( I’ve never had a business card, so neither Nina, so we wrote the numbers on a piece of ripped paper that I still keep). The funny thing is that the week before that encounter I gained a meeting with her in Milano through the gallery staff to show her my work ! I told her that that night and we laughed. When we met again the week after in Milano the ice was already broken and she bought the exclusive of my first design collection, the Barometro lamps made in copper and marble.
AT : what makes you tick ? what are your inspirations?
GR : Well, inspirations.. sometime I need nothing, sometime I need much. I am a whimsical being. I draw a little and unwillingly, so not much inspiration from it. i read a lot when I need answers but in general I think my real inspirations are people. I long for community and its noise. I feel like a sponge, ready to catch every glimpse of life from the others. I care very much about the opinions of the others, friends, assistants, colleagues, the clients, the artisans I work with, so much that I believe in the end the final product is the result of a team work. feel more like a director than a designer sometime. I’m actually the author but I’m like a catalyst, the person who make the connections between others ideas and opinions. The fact is that I built such a strong relationship with the people I work with, that often I totally put my trust in them to solve the problems that are necessary to solve to make those ideas come true. I would be nothing without the others.
thank you Giacomo for take your time to talk with me.