In the Studio with Louisa Gagliardi.

Words by

James Ambrose

In the Studio with Louisa Gagliardi.

You mentioned you have just returned from undertaking a month-long residency in Ecuador at Nave Proyecto. Can you talk a little bit about the residency and how was the experience of completing it during the global pandemic?  

My partner Adam Cruces and I were both invited to a month-long residency near Quito this past February. It was fantastic. Going away from home after pretty much a year of being in Zürich felt amazing. Even the PCR tests and the ride to the airport were thrilling. This past year has kind of felt like Groundhog Day and so changing the environment was very beneficial for me, and for the work. My practice is quite influenced by everyday life, so a strong routine could only take me so far. Quito is so lush, colourful and joyful, it was really inspiring. The residency was about one hour outside of Quito on the grounds of a flower plantation, that specifically grew flowers named Baby’s Breath, so the scenery consisted of fields of white flowers, avocado trees, and other beautiful flowers and fruits. And three awesome dogs that would always follow us on walks. We ate delicious Ecuadorian food three times a day with the other four amazing residents (shout out to Lola Dement Meyers, Juan Manuel Parra, Cielo Saucedo, Georgia Horgan and Antonio Lopez). If in normal time I would be sceptical to be living with so many people, after a year of isolation, it was a dream! Meeting and spending time with other artists from around the world was a joy!

You have also just moved into this new studio in Zürich, how is this space working out so far?

The space is great. My work is mostly done digitally, though I didn’t need that much space and could always make do with working from home. Also, in normal times, Adam and I would travel about 6 months in the year so I didn’t feel the urge to have a fixed studio. When I needed space, I would always find a temporary solution for it. But with the pandemic, having a separate environment, even if just for sanity of mind felt more urgent. It’s been a month now and I am thrilled, I get to experiment more, live with works more, it’s very beneficial.

I wanted to talk a little about your journey as an artist. I know you initially studied graphic design at The École cantonale d'art de Lausanne and following graduation you were working as a freelance graphic designer. What was the motivation and reason you started making your own work and how did you present it to the world in its first instance?

Already during my study, I was quite drawn to image-making. I would always try to include some of it in my projects. But quite quickly after I graduated, I realised that I was happier making images than doing pure graphic design. Back then I would call it illustration, as I was taking commissions from magazines and brands. It allowed me to be my own boss which I also realised quickly was the only way for me. I liked the immediacy that working digitally would offer, the fact that you can sketch and produce pretty much at the same time.

At the time (we’re talking 2013-2014) I had developed a language that I adapted to different pitches for clients. After a while, it felt like the commissions were always the same: the client would send me an image of my work and say, hey can you do something similar to this, but for that. And I started to get bored of it, and out of boredom comes the best ideas I think. That’s when I started to mess around with a new approach of image-making. More fluid, less planned, more painterly. I made two portraits, they were JPGs, publish them on my website, as just that. Two JPGs, no context. I just thought they were cool and wanted to show them. About a week later, I had two offers to show them in galleries, in New York and Dublin.

Installation view, Wishful Thinking, Antenna Space, Shanghai, 2020

Was being an artist always an aspiration for you as a child? Did you have any direct influences in the art world growing up?

I’ve always been creative and crafty since I was a little child. I was really drawn to fashion as a kid, I would collect fashion ads in a binder, and repaint them. Those pictures are so cute and hilarious! I also made clothes for my Barbies. My mom even helped me shoot a catalogue for them. I was lucky to have parents and a godmother that would always take me to museums around Europe, and was surrounded by art and culture as a kid. When I became a teenager, I got into skateboard and snowboard and its culture. I would make my own skate magazines and t-shirts and so on. So I never really thought, oh I want to be this or that, I just knew I had to be in the creative field somehow. When it was time to go to college, being pragmatic, I thought, let’s learn graphic design. It felt like it would allow me to be close to everything I enjoyed; art, photography, fashion, etc… and at the same time being able to have a “real” job.

I know the process you work within, which you have constructed, is somewhat structured and follows its own rules in the digital sphere. Are you able to talk through briefly how a new work is conceived and how you end up with these wonderful physical paintings?

I usually have a sketchbook with me and doodle in there when I get an idea. These are usually the more formal ideas, an interaction between bodies, an object morphing into another, etc…. And I have a page in my Notes app where I write ideas, that most of the time make no sense after a day. They will say; Maggi Cubes or Sweaty Still Life or Bird Dices. These will usually be the impulse for a new painting. I will start by rendering this little part of what might become a work and see where it takes me. It’s rare that I have the full picture in mind when I start, or when I do, it turns out not working out as planned. As I’m sure a lot of people will tell you, starting new works is often quite frustrating (excruciating at times even). That’s why I usually work on many paintings at once. Each gives me clue for the next, and when working on a show, a coherence amongst them.

Once the digital part of the painting is done (which is basically 90% of the piece), I print them on PVC, a more refined material than what you see in outdoor advertising, but close to it. Once they are printed, I stretch them and will usually add by hand a last layer of gel, latex or nail polish on some parts of the paintings.

Your work is known to be intensely personal and closely tied to contemporary life. Are you trying to portray a specific narrative in each painting? Where does your inspiration for the preliminary sketches come from?

Each work I make does have its own narrative, but I try to keep it somehow open -ended for each viewer to make it their own. I think a recurrent theme in my work, an inspiration, is how we deal with public versus private life. With social media and technology, we are, wilfully and/or not, constantly watching and being watched. Online, we get to curate our image to a certain extent. Having an irl conversation, showing your actual unfiltered appearance, you feel at risk of making an immediate mistake, or revealing something you didn’t plan on. I think this duality is inherent in my world. Longing for contact, intimacy, while fearing it at the same time.

Installation View, Rain check, Dawid Radziszewski, February - May, 2020

What was the attraction of using a Digital process to compose and perfect your final drawings?

As I mentioned earlier, I love the immediacy that the digital process allows, the fact that you can pretty much sketch and produce at the same time. Also, the computer allows me to render ideas much more efficiently than if I was to do it by hand. I don’t have a perfect eye for proportion, meaning if I attempt to draw anything anatomically correct, well, it won’t be correct. I know what I want things to look like, but I need help to do it, so the computer is the prosthesis to help me do that.

What do you feel the final stage of your process and the addition of a physical layer of gloss or varnish brings to the work?

I love the flatness that the work have once they come out of the printer, but I also, in some cases, want to highlight some parts of it. The physical layer can be quite invisible if you look at it from only one angle. But once you start moving around the painting, it will come to life, interact with lighting, and I love that.

The last layer is also a little wink to painting and its physicality.

You had two shows in 2020 at Helmhaus, Zürich, and Antenna Space, Shanghai respectively. Both saw increasing elements of installation and sculpture presented within them. What was the thought process behind incorporating these elements and do you see yourself continuing to explore different mediums in the future?  

As much as I love the contained aspect of the paintings, when making these shows, I wanted to work with the whole space, not only the walls. The sculpture leading you to the paintings and vice versa. Both come from the same universe and in a way the same process. Once borrows from the other, and compliment each other.

And it is definitely something I want to keep exploring in the future.

Installation View, Under The Weather, MOSTYN Wales, Llandudno, Wales curated by Adam Carr, 2018

I would love to get your opinion on the medium of digital art as a whole, its continued growing influence within the art world, and what place you believe it may have in art history?

Technology is so embedded into our everyday life, and everything we do, and it is becoming the same with art. So much of art is somehow connected at some point in the process to technology, that it feels like the term Digital art might become a bit reductive. Also, it is a bit of a dirty word in a way, I’m not exactly sure why. I think the whole NFT thing is really not helping it, at least at the moment. But I’m excited to be proved wrong, as honestly, I don’t know enough about it.

Your partner Adam Cruces is also an artist and someone you frequently collaborate closely with on specific projects. How do you feel your respective practices, outlook, and work complements each other?

Even when not collaborating on a project, we always ask each other for input and opinions on our respective works throughout the process. Our practices are visually quite different but we draw from some similar inspirations since we share so many experiences together. To cite a few; intimacy, sensuality and a bit of humour. What’s really nice when collaborating on a project is that it allows me to steer away from my individual practice and try new things, which also inevitably feeds back into my personal work. Adam has an impressive capacity to make each show a totally new thing every time, he draws from the space and that’s very inspirational to me. I also love to work with my hands, get a bit dirty (which I don’t get to do very much with my paintings), so these collaborations are a blast.

What are your upcoming plans for 2021?

At the moment I’m working on a presentation at Art Basel in September with Dawid Radziszewski. This September I will also be going to Paris for an 11-month residency at Fiminco, which I’m very excited about. I’ve had the chance to spend quite some time there these past years and I'm totally in love with it. Also some other exciting projects, but with the Corona virus still watching, I prefer not to jinx it by saying too much.

No items found.