Interview with Damss

THOUSANDS

This post is also available in: Italiano (Italian)

Daniela Arnoldi and Marco Sarzi-Sartori, are the DAMSS. A couple of artists and designers from different professional experiences. Daniela, environmental engineer, Marco, architect, create Fiber Art works of great visual impact, inspired by the principles of ecological ethics.

Daniela and Marco, in fact, start from poor materials, residues of industrial textile production and realize, thanks to a complex synergy of skills, ideas and actions, works of abstract and figurative art, installations and composite tapestries that express majesty and deep attention to detail.

The DAMSS are renowned and appreciated both nationally and internationally and their impressive textile works, present in many public and private collections, are undoubtedly innovative, far from the conventional schemes and any intent of homologation.

When you find yourself in front of one of their installations, you feel small, overwhelmed by so much magnificence and creative generosity. Rarely can a textile art work create such an immediate and exciting bond with its audience.

Here the link to the artists’ website:

https://www.damss.com

I also ask the Damss, what has now become a ritual question that aims to reveal how much textile art is a sector rich in history, opportunities and prospects.

Why did you choose textile art as the medium for your art?

This year we celebrate 50 years as a couple during which we have had individual artistic experiences that we have always developed in full collaboration; since 2000 our collaboration has changed because we have united our commitments under the sole signature of DAMSS and only with common objectives.

We have discovered and started to use the textile medium for its great versatility, it has an infinite range of technical and aesthetic variations, it is a very fascinating precious commodity to use; it has characteristics of softness and flexibility, it can be cut, abraded, coloured, painted, burned and it offers a very wide range of possibilities that other mediums cannot offer.

Our incessant research uses techniques of transformation and elaboration of textile and non-textile materials, so much so that we have gone beyond the limits of the traditional, without ever forgetting the origins of our path, our successes are then acquired and used as a bridge to new solutions.

“Monsieur Bohin”, copyright DAMSS

“MonsieurBohin – Detail”, copyright DAMSS

Daniela and Marco, your works are the result of an experience of artistic collaboration that began almost 20 years ago. What are the advantages and difficulties you encounter in this four-handed experience?

All our working days are characterized by a strong presence in the studio to develop those techniques that we would like to apply to the work we have in work.

Every time new material arrives in the studio, we spend a lot of time cataloguing it and dividing it into types, colours, weights, drawings, textures, quantities, storage methods, maybe even fantasizing about possible uses.

For the realization of large textile panels, which always require months of work, the daily activity starts early in the morning from the gym; a couple of hours later we are ready for an intense day of work, discussion and study.

During the breaks we dedicate ourselves to modifying the techniques and to experimenting.

In the evening, time is spent on computers to follow social networks, respond to incoming mail, feed our blog, develop computer graphics projects and write articles on our philosophy of life.

Not infrequently, discussions and exchanges of views continue even in bed, then we fall asleep with a smile.

We are sure that the activity of the couple is very creative because it feeds the dialogue and with the discussion you change your point of view, with the comparison we mix the ideas that sooner or later will be unified.

In practice there are three of us, the two of us and the DAMSS couple.

“ The Myth 4”, copyright DAMMS

“ The Myth 5”, copyright DAMMS

Can you describe how you plan a new artwork?

Does each of you have a pre-established role in the design process or do you work in synergy without specific roles?

Our working approach is devoid of any secrets and, on the contrary, we often like to divulge it as an example of fellowship, even during the courses we hold and during interviews and conferences.

Each new project is developed starting from digital processing, where computer graphics becomes an indispensable part of our creation; the process takes a very long time depending on the overall project and the specific themes we want to address.

Then there is the problem of dimensions, which during the elaboration of a preliminary idea can divert a project towards unexpected goals, and even here it is necessary to face the confrontation with differences of opinion.

When the result is a perfectly shared image, it is then given to screen printing in natural scale, in the exact size of the final work, and the canvas base will serve as a guideline for our work throughout the machine run.

During the long assembly, all the construction of our panels is done with machine stitching, we continuously exchange the work pieces, so as to melt the “hand” of the individual to obtain a truly shared work.

The process we use for art installations is very different.

After having obtained the two-dimensional project we realize a scale model that allows us to deepen the technical study of assembly in order to ensure a solid and safe installation and great visual effect.

At this point of the creative process, where there are no more doubts about dimensions, materials and methods, the installation will take place during the phases of construction on the site, and that will be the most delicate and fun phase for the appearance of an infinite range of problems to be solved in real time.

“San Marco”,copyright DAMSS

“La Tour Eiffel”,copyright DAMSS

First the technique or first the creativity? What do you think determines the perfect success of a work? When does creativity risk being suffocated by technique?

The choice of working with textile materials is not a random one. The vast range of fabrics available is already by its very nature an infinite palette of materials and colours to which is added the enormous typology of materiality, plasticity and “hand”. This allows us maximum freedom of creativity and expression.

Our technical ability derives strictly from having developed for many years many techniques of processing and manipulation of fabrics.

Working hard day after day we have developed a wide variety of personal techniques with which we are able to process and transform according to our needs the basic fabrics that will then be used in our works.

At a certain point in our work philosophy, technical ability becomes an emphatic determinant element of the creative phase: the more techniques we have at our disposal, the more work tools we can use, and how by magic any creative need can be satisfied from a technical point of view.

So much more work tools (techniques) so much more freedom of imagination.

We visited the most interesting museums in Europe to get in touch with the great works of famous artists who have used the textile medium, to have a direct physical suggestion of their work, especially in Italy we have found the inexhaustible source of energy that comes from art and creativity that are part of our generational geniuses.

What inspires you and how does your technical training as an engineer and architect affect the choice of subjects for your works?

We come from two different educational and professional experiences. Daniela, an environmental engineer, and Marco, an architect, share the pleasure of experimenting and researching, and after a period of individual production we decided to combine our energies that have the textile material as a binder. Our technical knowledge is combined with a deep knowledge of materials and techniques from many years of restoration, teaching and training.

When at the beginning we do not yet have a project and we are not yet linked to a specific theme, we base ourselves on the proposals that we launch on the discussion table, then we discuss the idea of developing that theme, until we arrive at a single common “peaceful idea”.

Once we have realized the graphic project, and the schedule of priorities and the list of necessary operations, in the practical phase each of us chooses to realize an area, an area, a series of details, then at advanced work we exchange the works carried out to improve them with a second intervention; it is practically impossible to find the authorship of their seams within our work because the operations are mixed until you get a single style.

Each piece of our work is a “unique piece”, but only in one case do we have serial works, that is when we design multiples, which are still to be considered single works that coexist to enhance their particularities.

We have thoroughly analyzed the work of the Impressionists, and we have matured our techniques by studying their brushstrokes, their way of holding the brush at a distance, the characteristics of their colors, their study of subjects. The brushes of the Impressionists, with short, square and compact bristles, have no points and leave rectangles and squares on the pictorial surface, allowing us to compose the image with pieces of colour placed side by side, a bit similar to those of the mosaics, which we make with fabric.

We imitated that brushstroke in order to achieve a lesser drawing incisiveness on the fabrics in favor of a blurred composition, for stain, of great effect.

Sculptural research has led us to create collections of sculpture-dresses, also wearable, where the body actively participates becoming the mobile contribution of our achievements. Our work is demanding, tiring and imposing, requiring a great deal of dedication and returning as much satisfaction and recognition.

“Sirio”,400 x 300 cm, copyright DAMSS

“Dom De Milan”, copyright DAMSS

How has your work changed from the beginning to the present?

When we started our artistic career we didn’t have a specific idea to follow, we made tests and attempts to obtain objects for exhibition, we followed any technique that seemed useful to us for the future.

At the beginning of our textile experiences our works were conceived as patchwork, then as quilts, and decorative panels, tapestries and coverings. With the evolution of the acquired techniques, the functions of our works have also changed, and therefore also the intended use. Many of the works, on the other hand, were conceived as motives for furnishing and decorating rooms.

Then we built some simple vertical looms with which we made the first macramé tapestries and then we woven with other looms built by us to take the road of weaving.

After a few years, the weaving mill was transformed into metal textiles, without a loom, with enamelled metal wires, etc..

Many courses that we have followed from illustrious international teachers have opened the way to the art of textiles, the art of felt, quality weaving, dyeing and processing of fabrics.

We never left the first course in the seventies at the School of Art of Castello Sforzesco in Milan, where we also acquired the fundamentals of design.

For some years now we have been creating sculpture-dresses conceived from a visionary point of view and at the same time simple, almost tribal, to create in the future a link with a past that can only be drawn and outlined in the present.

“Zuid Africans”, 140 x 180 cm, 1983, copyright DAMSS

Why use recycled materials? Are there materials that you prefer?

Industry waste fabrics have a life of their own: before they reach our hands, they follow a very distinct path, they go through all the stages from their production for well-known fashion houses, to their disposal, to be then recovered, reused and brought to new life as a raw material.

The result is extraordinary when these materials are manipulated and transformed, we remove the patina that industrial semi-finished products have, and we give them a new aesthetic function without obviously neglecting the ethical aspect, which is the very reason for reuse.

Under our hands, following the design requirements, the fabrics can undergo multiple processes; thermal transformations, chemical elaborations, mechanical treatments, cut/abrasion/material crushing, manipulations that alter the surfaces, treatments with resins, colorations with different methods, discolorations and whatever else experimentation and research allow us.

It is, therefore, a critical use of materials: the intrinsically ethical value of the work becomes significant also from the artistic point of view.

We strongly believe in the union between industry and artist. Industry needs the artist to make use of ideas and creativity and the artist needs the power of industry to conceive and realize what would otherwise be impossible. That’s why experimentation is the backbone of our work, and we also do research on behalf of companies. In particular, we are interested in using materials from industry for the design, furniture and fashion industries. The public’s interest in creative content, which evokes emotions and ethical values, pushes us to intensify our research every day.

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“Sustainable Garden”,copyright DAMSS

Can you explain us the artistic motivations that lead you to create large works?

We have chosen to create works through the mass of textile material, through the mass of details, through the mass of color: it is precisely the “mass” that creates the characterization of our work.

Movement … vision … perception … discovery of details, new movement … other vision … new sensations … more details, generate the development of new conceptual experiences that arise from the work but are generated by the viewer himself on the extension of our works.

We like to propose exaggeration, the excess of abundance of material, the disproportionate number of details to convert them into a positive fact for our creation.

We want to bring to the fore that pleasure of aesthetic research that has been lost after so many years of artistic disengagement in the world has caused the removal of the public from the halls of major exhibitions.

At the end of our creative tunnel, aesthetics, harmony and beauty appear, not only as our historical appeal, but as an enchanting moral illusion.

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“Wings ”, copyright DAMSS

“Wings – Detail”, copyright DAMSS

Can you tell us about your new book “Future Cities”?

Our book “Future Cities” is a provocation that, moving the time machine, does not take us into an unimaginable future but into the darkest Middle Ages, a great four-year project that required both an overall view and a wealth of details.

The project is a perfect zapping where you can find metaphysical art and comix, Stars Wars and the Bible, the Apocalypse and astrophysics, the postcard and Blade Runner, the catastrophic film and archaeology, science and fantasy.

MILAN, a working metropolis, suffocated by the smelly air, with the need for a system of mega aerators that bring oxygen, with giant alien creepers that grow to the top of the skyscrapers in search of substances to survive; in the city appear the first unpleasant colored fringes of sea that goes up along the canals, the monuments dearest to the Milanese have been duplicated to reinforce the idea that the city is improving; the moon has fallen apart after a collision, projecting into the sky some of its fragments, The Planets, which were captured by the force of the Sun.

ROME, in such a distant age will need to look for a new environment to save its history and its culture, while technology will be so advanced as to allow man to travel in space at hypervelocity with powerful spaceships to a host planet to move to.

VENICE, after another thousand years of upheaval of its seabed due to the acidification of the lagoon, will sink hundreds of meters while saving its architectural history on gigantic columns of solid rock.  The city seems safe and quiet, but it is threatened by large tsunamis from the open sea, while an active volcano takes shape strongly corrosive.

The book was printed by a small publisher and is on sale online

foto1: Roma 3000 – Foto 2: Milano 3000 – Foto 3:Venezia 3000

What are you working on right now? 

We are working on a big panel that will conclude the series of future cities and on the organization of a big exhibition about us and about Leonardo da Vinci, whose 500th anniversary is celebrated in 2019.

“Vitruviano Poesia Aurea”, copyright DAMZZ

“VitruvianusRuinaDeorum”, copyright DAMSS

Photo of the Gallery below

  1. “ The Myth”, copyright DAMSS
  2. “ Black Myth”, copyright DAMSS
  3. “Black Myth – Detail”, copyright DAMSS
  4. “VitruvianusCandidus”, copyright DAMSS
  5. VitruvianusCandidus – detail”, copyright DAMSS
  6. “Ultima Cena”,copyright DAMSS
  7. “Ultima Cena  – Detail”, copyright DAMSS
  8. “Ultima Cena – Detail”,copyright DAMSS
  9. “Italy Diorama – 5 Terre”, copyright DAMSS
  10. “Corniglia”, copyright DAMSS
  11. “Manarola”, copyright DAMSS
  12. “Monterosso”, copyright DAMSS
  13. “Riomaggiore”, Copyright DAMSS
  14. “Vernazza”, copyright DAMSS

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