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Interview and studio visit #3

Paola Ravasio

Overcome the limits

Ph. Jessica Soffiati
Ed. Jessica Soffiati

J.S: Hi Paola, thank you for having me here in your studio. Let’s start talking about exactly this place. It’s very important for you because there’s a special family connection, would you like to talk about it?

P.R: I thank you for the question that allows me to talk briefly about my father and his job as lathe turner.
Maybe that’s how it started, the hard work of my father hunched over a lathe, his black hands, the sparkle of the iron filings, the strain and the magic of a work unknown to me and familiar at once.
The space that now accommodates my works was his mechanical workshop equipped with manual lathes of the seventies, machines with an enigmatic and marvelous presence whose I still keep a few cranks, like they were precious family heirlooms.
The sculpture stems from that, the original idea of transforming those materials that were in my father’s smithy.

J.S: Did you imagine that one day this space would become so personal and intimate when you came here as a kid?

P.R: No, not at all, I discovered my father’s workplace as a teenager; when I was a kid, my favourite place was the wood, an outer but hidden space, the reign of imagination.
It was only when my father came towards the age of retirement that I started considering the workshop as an ideal “home” where I could create my sculptures; it just needed patience, I had to buy some trust and the generosity of the space I was taking up through my work.
Every work I created in that place was a silent question for me, and it asked to be welcomed.



«Every work I created in that place was a silent question for me, and it asked to be welcomed.»

J.S: You work on every stage of creating in this place. There’s usually very little knowledge of the sculptor’s work processes before getting the “finished product”; I’m not just talking about of those outside the industry: gallerists and collectors sometimes ignore the choices made by the artist during the process of creation, although it often represents the true value of a work. How do you usually get ready for a studio – visit? How do you deal with the contemporary art market?

P.R: Sculpture requires the ability to combine the idea with the craft, the knowledge of equipment and the use of tools to work on them is fundamental.
I have been lucky in that, because I was allowed to visit the studio of the man who would later become my master, the sculptor Pietro Scampini.
I trained in his studio and I can say that I apprendiced there the traditional way, following the learning pathway with patience and perseverance.
I think that there may be full liberty of action only if your hands know what to do.
I think that the artistic creation is driven by an emotional need that through the material can express our personality, if it is expressed with sensitivity and consciousness.
As regards the market, that applies well to goods, it becomes a stretch when it comes to Art. I think it’s hard to establish a price for an individual expression of the soul, but it can comply with the laws of commerce as well, like any man-made object, although the art market is pretty recent.
However, I like to believe that something may fade away at the very end, that the artist’s anarchic spirit may shift the overall balance. I guess it’s naïve to think like this, but dreaming is a freedom that knows no rule and Art remains the dream of matter to me.


«I like to believe that something may fade away at the very end, that the artist’s anarchic spirit may shift the overall balance. I guess it’s naïve to think like this, but dreaming is a freedom that knows no rule and Art remains the dream of matter to me.»

J.S: I was in your studio in winter and it was chilly, moreover, you told me there’s no heating. You seemed not worried at all, it must be because when you pour your heart and soul into the “making”, some basic human needs take the second place. You explained to me that these conditions aren’t ideal for forming and that you usually concentrate on the stages of the work’s finalization and refinement in winter, like sanding.
I guess you observe your works hundreds of time throughout their life-span, but did you ever not identify yourself in a finished sculpture?

P.R: My starting point is that art is a primary human need.
In the beginning of time, Homo sapiens needed to represent the world to propitiate hunting, to raise his spirit or maybe to grasp a truth he couldn’t see, we will never know, but the fact remains that creating was necessary to satisfy an inner need.
I hold that belief, that’s why I don’t let any difficulties discourage me, I just adapt like the tree that changes with the seasons while remaining what it is.
You ask me if I don’t identify in any sculpture, I think that every sculpture is the result of an effort which allows me to get closer to the original idea, there’s never an unambiguous form, you have to go on by trial and error; sometimes we get closer and other times we are miles away from our idea, and we continue in the search until the vision shows up very clearly. There’s always something that doesn’t convince me, that’s why forms are repeated in countless variants of proportion, rhythm and harmonies’ scans.
Every work of art, albeit incomplete, carries within it a more or less marked personal stamp, because it’s sparked by the inner need to  express my view of the world.


J.S: Human position in society and crossing the line are central focuses of your research. Are your works the expression of a personal desire or a manifestation of freedom?

P.R: When you create, you have a strong desire, or rather a need to work in complete freedom; this vehemence stems from a need to express and represents the dominant trait in the work.
In my sculptures  there is the empowerment of the force of life which struggles to overcome its limits, it’s a driving force that tries to find a hole to burst in with all its uncontrollable exuberance.

J.S: The sun kept me company during the visit and new organic forms emerged in the stacks and the hallways when the lights changed. It was kind of like swimming between the shipwrecks and discovering treasures. Sometimes you get the feeling that you’re watching something forbidden, too intimate and that you’re attending an extraordinary event at the same time, like an embodiment of a force that shows up in its nakedness. Do your sculptures always have a powerful role or are they sometimes subjugated?

P.R: I believe that all that is animated and contains the mystery of life has something special and powerful, obscene and intimate; sculpture is a living matter to me, it’s a bare and trembling soul which knows no walls sufficiently high to be stopped or subjugated.

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