De Lucchi – De Lucchi

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At Galleria Punto sull’Arte, Varese

Last Saturday night, us of WoMA had the immense pleasure to meet Michele and Ottorino De Lucchi at the opening of their duo exhibition De Lucchi – De Lucchi, curated by Alessandra Redaelli. The exhibition represents a unique perspective on the artistic research led by the two brothers, with whom we’ve talked in an exclusive interview on their different, yet parallel, careers and artistic production.

Michele is an architect of global fame and lives between Angera and Milan, while Ottorino is a chemist and professor living in Padova. They untangled their lives long ago, but there are bonds that can’t be broken and knots that can’t be untied. Even apart, the seeds of something powerful suddenly exploded, and it is not that surprising to discover that the two brothers have found a new way to be together: art.

WoMA: Which are the experiences that have led you to pursue this artistic vocation?

Michele De Lucchi: I am deeply convinced that what you become as an adult is strictly related to what you see and experience during your childhood. In our case, one could say that art was in our DNA, but I disagree. I think that the cause of this artistic choice both Ottorino and I made has to be researched in the environment we shared growing up. To become an artist, of course you need a curious mind, but most of all you need a deep culture of the image and the right propensity to inquire, to judge, to understand what you like and what you dislike and to ask yourself why you do or don’t. My brother and I led parallel lives until university, so it is not surprising that our common education shaped our mind-sets in a way which led both of us here today.

Ottorino De Lucchi: It was never my intention to become an artist, at least in its contemporary meaning. With my works I don’t want or aim to provoke, to denounce, to testify. I simply want to do something I like, and to do it well. But if I had to identify a particular moment as the turning point of my artistic career, I would say it was when I discovered the watercolor drybrush technique. As a chemist, I had the opportunity to spend some time abroad and, visiting the USA, I came across Andrew Wyeth’s artworks. Their vivid, vibrant colours immediately struck me and, as soon as I read the unfamiliar name of the technique, I took the decision of trying it myself.

WoMA: Which are the emotional and rational aspects you want to represent and communicate through your artworks?

M. D. L.: As an architect, all I do has as final scope architecture. My sculptures are born as architectonic projects, so looking at them you can always find a constructive element or the representation of a space, which of course refers to my ordinary profession, my clients, my projects. Architecture is itself a balanced combination between the rational and emotional, because every construction has to be built in a way that enables it to stand on its feet but also to communicate, to speak, to express something to whomever sees it. Since the beginning of my career, I realised that there is no condition of pure emotion or pure rationality, but rather a mixture of them. It is this equilibrium what I am researching and it is in this mix that the value of architecture – and thus of my sculptures – qualifies.

O. D. L.: The dichotomy between rationality and emotion is always present in my works, or else I wouldn’t paint. In particular, my approach toward this contrast is strictly linked to the mind-set of my profession, and in my paintings I apply the four steps of the Deming cycle (plan, do, check and act) in order to continuously improve their quality. This choice has its roots in the fact that, in order to formulate a scientific concept, it is necessary to isolate my research from all the possible external influence and reduce it to its smallest nucleus. In the same way, when I paint I always isolate everyday things in my art, using the sharp contrast of a totally white or black background, so that for the spectator it’s possible to view something he or she may see everyday, but contextualised in a different perspective where my subjects stare back at the viewer, with a deep, estranging power.

WoMA: You both chose peculiar ways of executing your works, which put you in direct contact with art’s materiality compared to the intellectuality of your profession. Michele, you decided to use a chainsaw, a very unusual tool for an architect, while Ottorino, you made use of the uncommon technique “watercolor drybrush”. Would you explain us the reason behind these choices and the functioning of your creative process?

M. D. L.: What you see displayed tonight are the development of sketches about my architectural project. Yes, I recognise they are kind of approximate, yet they are projects, which I decided to realise not with paper and pencil, but through sculpture. I chose to use the chainsaw because of its peculiar contact with the material I carve, which gives uniqueness to every piece I use when assembling my works. It is such a raw tool, yet its blade leaves on the surface some engravings, which are never trivial or common but on the contrary emphasise the value of the substance and the wood itself. Thus, each of my Mountains, Stilts and Buildings is able to tell its own story and sing a different rhythm.

O. D. L.: As I told you, when I came across Wyeth’s artworks I was immediately captivated by their luminous vibrancy and colourful energy. I did not look for further information other than the name of the technique but, being a scientist, I began experimenting until I was able to do something that could really be called “watercolour drybrush”. This technique contemplates the realisation of a watercolour, but making use of just a little quantity of water, diluting the pigment as less as possible. The watercolour technique is reversible: since the water doesn’t polymerise the colour, it is possible to erase what has been painted with another brush stroke. A scientific approach was therefore very useful in refining this very challenging technique, because it allowed me to pay the right attention in choosing the perfect drop of water vaporised on the palette to create the right level of transparency or luminosity. In a continuous process of innovation and improvement, I independently created my personal version of the watercolour drybrush technique, which I applied as much originally to the objects I paint.

WoMA: Michele, through your wooden sculptures, solemnity and monumentality are clearly perceivable, but we feel that you also want to reproduce the most savage part of the human being, tied to nature and its roots. But do you think that the contemporary man still feels the necessity of those ties or he is ever more projected towards modernity and continuous renovation?

M. D. L.: It is my opinion that men will always try to be modern. This attitude is so deep-rooted in our being that it has absolutely no sense to think about a man who doesn’t try to be modern, because this creature does not exist! We are lazy animals, and we will always look for a better condition in which to do nothing. However, today the big challenge that modernity poses is the resolution of the condition between man and nature. Nowadays we have reached a point in which nature worries us: we acknowledge that we have been constantly exploiting it and that now, in a certain way, it is rebelling from the chains we imposed it, with consequences that can be dangerous for humans. Modernity has come to mean relating with nature, and don’t mistake this phenomenon for a temporary trend: this is the new condition of human mind, a true necessity. It is definitely impossible for man to be modern without remembering its savage roots.

WoMA: Ottorino, it appears that through your elegant still lives you want to express the eternal dichotomy between life and death. You chose to represent a theme of simple interpretation, yet in your artworks it is possible to notice that sometimes one of the two opponents prevail, other times the other. What do all those shades of victory and defeat represent in the battle between life and death? Is there a winner? 

O. D. L.:It is true that a still life holds a meaning that is not difficult to read, but there is a deep conceptual research behind it. The protagonists of this theme are ordinary things we see everyday, very common yet – like every living thing – subject to deterioration. In my works I want to underline this condition, so I am always careful to include at least one element of caducity and frailty, such as dry autumn leaves, slightly chipped jars and bowls, ruined fruits. I want my paintings to be as alive, realistic and ordinary as possible, because they are part of a true meditation on the condition of human life. I want to encourage people to find beauty and interest in all the things that surround us, especially in the most humble of them. These objects are hints to the transitory state we all live in. But I believe that in this battle life is the winner. I try to represent my point of view through vivid colours and transparencies, letting the light enter my paintings (almost as if its source was the subject portrayed itself) and surround the spectator.

Elisabetta Galvagni, Giorgia Papaleo