10 Minutes with Giuliana Rosso

On the occasion of the exhibition But I doubt, I tremble, I see (shaking edges) and the wild thorn tree taking place at Pina, Vienna with artists Giuliana Rosso and Rory Pilgrim curated by Caterina Avataneo, Huma Kabakci interviews Giuliana as a part of 10 Minute Interviews.

Using delicate materials and puberty subjects in your paintings, sculptures, and drawings, you explore the fragility and fears of the individual through a contemporary reinterpretation of universal themes of transition, change, and anxiety. You also seem to research the hidden corners of human conscience. Can you explain how your interests and practice evolved over the years?

For me, a sort of unavoidable necessity, my work is the primary form of communication with the outside world and with others. Perhaps art for me represents above all this need and tries to connect my experience as a child and adolescent in empathic communication with others.

Through my work, I would like to be able to convey those ”in-between” moments that represent neither one thing, nor another. I am interested in liminality and how it manifests in daily life. I am curious about everything that can hide in these liminal states, be it emotions, strange forces, abstract beliefs, or physical phenomena. In my work, I would like to convey the sensation of a sort of hybrid instant – between the visible and non – on the verge of the supernatural, as it often happens with memories, imagination, and the transfiguration of emotions.

Three or four years ago I was more interested in exploring unusual atmospheres and corporeal feelings. With my subjects, I wanted to build an image that originated a bit from some of my dreams and from surrealism or, sometimes, from 19th-century Gothic literature and from Oliver Sacks’ studies on altered states of the mind. 

I did a series of works very focused on the feeling of anxiety and the space it could occupy. I was creating images that evoked this state of mind; images where everyday actions were immersed in a horror-like atmosphere, with pulp details. On a formal level, however, what I wanted to trace was more related to the path of a dreamlike thought. I wanted to refer to altered states that induced fears, but also a certain surreality and a detachment from reality. Bachelard’s The Poetics of Space was a fundamental book for my research. I found some answers to what I was looking for: spaces that stimulate the imagination.

I then began to work on this theme and to relate my work with the three dimensions.

Working with angles, trying to overturn the interpretation of architecture and space, giving them at the same time the meaning of a hidden, shadowy place and a point from which things spring. I then began to work to overcome two-dimensionality, expanding painting on three-dimensional objects linked to pictorial representation but independent, in composite narratives in dialogue with the space in which they are placed.

For some time now, I have also been focusing on the idea of ​​ fragility, in particular since I started working with paper and large drawings.

You are one of the artists in this year’s Forum 2021 curated by Caterina Avataneo. I can see a use of distinct green throughout the exhibition and mail art commission, can you explain what the colour green symbolises for you? 

The color green for me represents an intermediate state. And I think this can be interpreted in many ways.

In the collective imagination, taken from films, comics, and pop visions, green suggests a supernatural dimension. But that’s not what interests me; it’s a deeper and more essential level. The function I would like the green to have represents an escape from a certain type of composition of chromatic relationships and the sensations derived from it. I would like it to suggest something that comes close to an idea of ​​transfiguration, change, metamorphosis. 

Against a gray background, the colour green rather stands out and comes into play with its opposites, or turns into shades and variations of itself, as when there are thunderstorms, and endless shadows and the facades of the houses seem to emanate a light of their own. I’m interested in that kind of atmosphere, where everything seems to shine in its most complete substance, susceptible and momentary, in apparent completeness between good weather and bad weather.

But I doubt, I tremble, I see (shaking edges) and the wild thorn tree, 
Giuliana Rosso & Rory Pilgrim, Curated by Caterina Avataneo, Pina (Vienna) 

How has working collaboratively with Rory Pilgrim been? Do you see more future collaborations like this? 

I am very happy with this collaboration with Rory Pilgrim, his way of returning images and scenes of real-life is unique, I admire his work very much.

I am a person who finds it a bit difficult to collaborate, I am rather lonely and I do a type of work that requires a lot of solitude, but it is very nice when you have the opportunity to dialogue or see your work compared with artists with whom important issues are shared but in very different ways.

What is your preferred medium to work with?

I love working with drawing and painting or using simple materials, easy to find. This helps me get closer to the spontaneity that I look for in my work, to capture that moment when you had an idea and want it to manifest in a certain way and, at times, even with a certain urgency. The mediums I mentioned allow me to get closer to what concerns the flow of thought and its transposition that always emerges simply, like a sketch.

What inspires you in your artistic practice and work?

What inspires my work every day is what I have around me, the people, what I see on the street, or the images I come across. The sources can be infinite and without any order of importance. But literature is a great reference for me.

What has been your biggest but nicest distraction during the pandemic?

This last period of lockdown in Italy was a good opportunity to try skating again, I haven’t done it since I was a child, and in fact, I am no longer really capable. I think skating gives me a great sense of freedom unlike other sports, and I felt I needed to experience this kind of feeling at times like this.

Catatonico iridescente (2019),
Installation View at Almanac, Torino
Photo by Sebastiano Pellion

If you could choose to be any other living species in this world, what would it be?

It’s a difficult question, there are so many animals I would like to transform into. Maybe I would like to be a squirrel, one of those who live and jump in the parks of some city. I think they are very lucky.

Are you reading or watching anything interesting at the moment? 

Lately, I read Shadow and evil in fairy tales by Marie Luise Von Franz. I am very interested in her studies on fairy tales, in this book she makes an analysis of the dark figures of the subconscious. I would say these are almost universal because the book collects examples of fairy tales from various countries and also deals with a lot of problems arising from the Enlightenment and Western inability to understand and accept evil. The author interprets fairy tales as dreams of the collective conscience and with these she invites us to see the more disenchanted side of fairy tales, almost inviting us to accept the shadow side of things. Right now I’m reading Ingeborg Bachmann’s Invocation of the Great Bear.