Bicchiere con Vaso:
On Perspective and Illusion
By Alexa Hotz
Images by Oscar Piccolo
In a small and dark room of Bologna’s Via Fondazza, twentieth century painter and printmaker Giorgio Morandi worked and reworked common objects: a ceramic wine bottle, an oblong wooden box, clay planters, a funnel, and vases of different proportions. Contemplative still lifes, natura morta, by way of repetition—iterative arrangements of the same objects—was Morandi’s signature. “To achieve understanding it is necessary not to see many things, but to look hard at what you do see,” he said. A remarkable breadth of work—some 1,350 oil paintings and 133 etchings—was made over a lifetime in the same room, with a few different surfaces, and the kind of objects found in any kitchen of the time. This obsession with materiality of humble, familiar things and the manipulation of shape and space, is characteristically modern. In a London studio, contemporary Sicilian designer Oscar Piccolo conducts “ongoing material research through sculpture, photography, furniture, lamps, and digital still life compositions,” he describes, where sculptures and etchings “explore the placement of an object in space.” Piccolo, like Morandi, sees vases and bowls as more than vessels to be filled: “I don’t really think about their function, rather their presence through shape and material.”
With light, shadow, and architecture, bookends made from Mexican honey onyx stand apart. The bookends, or fermalibri, are both polished and rough with exposed tonal veining and raw edges. They stand in contrast to the illusory surrounds of pale plinths, narrow walls, and shallow space.
Altra lampada con vaso
Cypriot designer Michael Anastassiades plays with form and balance by way of a single mouth blown opal sphere which rests (or is it floating? sliding?) on a nickel beam. Piccolo’s playful perspective on the sculpture, his is titled Lampada ed altri oggetti, or ‘Lamp and other objects,’ expresses more weight to the sphere than in reality, but when measured with the dense iron vase beyond, it could just as easily be weightless.
Cornice con oggetti
Heavy glass bowls and vases and ceramic dishes and pots rest on plinths at different heights. Piccolo’s arrangements are, “sequences that portray handling objects and moving them around,” he says, “like trying to represent their static fragility and materiality through a screen.”
A fabric of light and color can clarify, complement, or conceal as in Carrafa (decanter), Carrafa al tramonto (Decanter at sunset), and Caraffa di sera (Decanter at night). The carrafa in mention is L’Atelier du Vin’s mouth blown European glass bottle with an empty green glass plug. Piccolo’s sketch plays with the color of glass as reflected through falling daylight. At the end of the day, the spherical plug rests gently beside the bottle to suggest an emptied state.
In an orchestra of vases, Piccolo plays with original forms and proportions, transparency and opacity, light and intense shadow. Through the process of digital draft, a new reality emerges. “Nothing is more abstract than reality,” Morandi once said.
Lampada ed altri oggetti
Altering the idea of a typical lamp base, designer Dean Edmonds’s De Table Lamp for Atelier de Troupe uses a slim brass tube as a weight. Like a line drawing or hanging mobile, the slender steel base arches over the brass tube as if each piece was acting on its own accord. The shape of the shade draws inspiration from French modernism with a shallow overturned bowl rendered in lightweight aluminum. In Piccolo’s draft, the lines and shadowy figures beyond parallel the lamp’s uncommon composition.
Vaso a vaso
By recasting material objects, as artist Giorgio Morandi had also done, Piccolo’s etchings serve as a response, he says, where light and shadow through pixelation become a conversation. It’s the kind of conversation, through the use of persisting objects and modern sculpture, with the ability to connect us through the illusion of time and space.
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Back to the Ancient Future: In the Studio with Romy Northover