Giuseppe Ragazzini is first and foremost a dream-like visionary, capable of telling stories without words. A painter, illustrator and visual artist, he was born in London in 1978. After graduating with a degree in philosophy and fascinated by the ideas expressed by The mystery of Picasso, a documentary on the life of the artist directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot, he began his creative career, one which led his towards that magical dynamism typical of video scenography. Over the years, he has developed an original technique for animation and pictorial metamorphosis which he creates in real time, during concerts and theatrical shows. These are amazing moments which, effortlessly, have become permanent memories.
Your career is characterised by philosophy and animated art: has this connection been useful for defining your work?
Since I was a child I have had a passion for drawing: I drew portraits of whoever came to our house. However, between the ages of 13 and 18 I stopped drawing entirely. It wasn’t until I moved to Florence to study Philosophy that, without thinking, I started once again to cultivate my art, initially keeping a small diary that I divided between my personal pseudo-existential reflections, philosophical quotations, and sometimes banal episodes from my daily life. All of these entries were accompanied by an illustration or a collage. I am convinced that it was the study of Philosophy that in some way led me to rediscover drawing, this time with the knowledge that I wanted to transform it into a career, that I wanted it to be my life. I soon after also began to paint with oils and to sell my first works in an art gallery not far from my home.
Where do you get your inspiration for a new creation?
I have to say that I have never believed in inspiration, in the romantic sense of the term. Instead I believe in work and discipline. When I start working, things “mysteriously” happen. These occurrences have much to do with chance and error: attempts to integrate, correct and reabsorb a mistake, instead providing an aspect of necessity. I believe that my creativity, in its freest form, is highly characterised by change and the paradoxical attempt to control it. A drop of paint that falls onto a drawing or a doodle absently drawn onto a painted face that you don’t like can open new and unexpected paths and render your work stronger, more authentic, more “necessary”, as it were.
Where do you prefer to work?
Without a doubt, in my studio, also because, I have to say, I have become rather methodical, if not neurotic, something which is undoubtedly a limitation and which, at times, I need to try and overcome, returning to the natural manner in which I used to work. Nowadays I need a clean drawing table, all my tools in reach, paper and cuttings at hand, the possibility to check the internet for a face or a model, even if in the end I sometimes end up just using a pen and ink, but I prefer knowing that everything is in reach.
What music do you listen to?
I always have music. When I work, I predominantly listen to Chet Baker and Miles Davis.
How much, and in what way, has the creative profession of your father, Enzo Ragazzini, one of the most celebrated of Italian photographers, influenced the formation of your profession?
My father has undoubtedly had an influence, he has always encouraged and supported me, also because he has always believed me to be talented. However, he has never “pushed” me. We have always experimented together, playing creatively. In his photography studio (which is also a carpenter’s workshop and a deposit for objects of all kinds), I have done all sorts of things, from collages with pin-ups from magazines to sculptures in wood, to shooting arrows, to go-carting down the hills of Rome with my friends, who couldn’t wait to dive into that unusual world. My mother is also a true artist, even if she never wanted to define herself as such because she is almost irritatingly modest, but she has undoubtedly played a very important role in my artistic growth.
Considering that curiosity should be cultivated, how do you develop yours and that of your children?
With my son Leo, I try and play in the same way I did with my father, creatively. But I often realise that all one needs to do is lay the foundations. It is the children themselves who are a constant source of surprises. All I have to do is observe this innate creative potential (which I believe all children have) emerge. All I do is indulge and encourage it. Leo is still in that magical period of pure creative instinct. The beauty and power of some of his drawings is incredible, a blend of Picasso, Basquiat and Dubuffet. For now, I am taking advantage of him a little, and enjoying this stage. Unfortunately, he will probably soon start drawing mangas, Superman and Spiderman. Fortunately, my second son, Vincenzo, is only six months old, and I will also have his support when Leo enters his Pop stage!
A dream holiday... where?
Without a doubt under water, in my beloved Greece.
What is your relationship with the digital world?
I have a very strong relationship with digital, even though my foundations remain analogue. I believe that in many senses this is a difficult period for contemporary art, where there is an abundance of pretence and often the spotlight is stolen by excess or phenomena without depth. However, I have to admit that being born in the digital age has been a great fortune for me. I have been able to experiment with technologies that until a few years ago did not even exist or were prohibitively expensive. One only has to consider pictorial animation, or collage, or video projection. I believe that living in this period makes my art, as well as my digital and interactive research, a kind of link between tradition and modernity. I was one of the first “artists” to experiment with a form of collage and interactive art through the use of infra-red cameras. Many years ago, with a modified Kinect camera, I created my “Interactive collage machine”, a form of software which allowed me to control and change my collages, controlling them in real-time with the movements of my body. The creative and didactic app that I have recently published, Mixerpiece is also clearly a move in that direction.
Tell us about it.
Mixerpiece is not only an app for children. Despite its simplicity, it is also a highly powerful creative instrument for adults and even for artists and illustrators. It is a kind of digital magnetic board with a series of elements taken from famous masterpieces from all the different centuries, which are grouped into categories, and which can be combined to create new collages, with infinite and very surprising creative possibilities. Mixerpiece recently won the Platinum prize “New Best Mobile App 2018” at the Best Mobile App Awards.
Are there any new projects in the pipeline?
I am working on two important exhibitions in two new spaces which have opened in Parma, thanks to the initiative of a highly original and courageous Parma-based arts patron, Virginio Mori. The first exhibition will be dedicated to my digital work, in a large new interactive space, the Mori Center. The second exhibition will instead involve my pictorial and collage work, and will be in the very central Vicolo del Vescovado, with the artistic direction of Giorgia Ori. I am also working on a video set for a theatrical production by Lucia Poli, directed by Angelo Bruno Savelli.