This is the next instalment in our lockdown digital exhibitions. We interviewed Elena Cecchinato as part of our proposal to offer insight into how practising artists were coping with these unprecedented times. She has provided us with a window into her current practice and inspiration.
1- Who are you? Introduce yourself
I am Elena Cecchinato, I am an Italian Artist based in the Uk. I am a multidisciplinary artist, I always start from drawing and then expand to ceramic, painting, collage, automatic writing, installations, video and sound. So when I find a material that speaks to me and makes me ask questions I instinctively want to work with that material and try to find all its possibilities as a way to find some temporary formal solutions which inevitably leads to even more questions At Uni I studied development studies and Korean and later took a course in art and calligraphy at Korio University in Seoul, South Korea. It was only after I took a Ma degree in history of art of Africa and Asia that I decided to become a professional artist.
2- What is your artistic practice?- What drove you to work as you are now? How has this been impacted by lockdown restrictions and the pandemic?
For me art is a way to find unity in the fragmentation of life.
I see my art practice as a place of transcendence, where the different elements can surpass the border that separates them. I like to push the boundaries’ between craft, art and design, between painting and music, or writing and drawing.
For example I did a lot of work on the relationship between writing and drawing, or between the verbal and the visual We can read images and we can also paint visions with words, yet writing and drawing are fundamentally not the same, that would be pure duplication. So I have been asking myself how do they differ? What are they not? And where do they cross their ‘Otherness’?
This year I have been working on a collaborative project I started two years ago during an artists’ residency in Lisbon [by the River Tejo] where I had the chance to collaborate with artists Marta Angelozzi and Céline Tschachtli.
The project is called River of change and it is very much an artists residency which focuses on the process itself as opposed to the end product or the final work. Our common denominator was the abysmal from the i-ching symbol of water and change but we all developed our own individual processes while exchanging our individual skills.
This April we were due to meet in London and work by the river Thames and of course because of the pandemic we had to quickly adapt our modus operandi: [we decided to carry on with this residency at distance, I was working in Yorkshire, Marta Angelozzi was in Lisbon and Céline Tschachtli was in Switzerland]
We would meet every day via whatsapp or zoom and we would set out what we would work on for the day, then we would meet again in the evening and we would present to each other what we would have done and we would give feedbacks to each other and also collaborate or well collaboratively contribute to an on-line platform for mind mapping.
Another way we connected with our practices was to give each other exercises and instructions, we used metaphors like changing of tides, symbols of eternal loop or the eternal cycle and we used these metaphors to deal with the rapid changes that the pandemic was bringing about.
I was developing a series of videos and real time performances where I used the elements of automatic writing and water in response to the notion of impermanence and transitory aspects of life.
Every day I would write for one hour straight with water on a black piece of paper against the sun: As the heat made the water evaporate and the words disappeared every time I rewrote them, the importance of destruction in the process of creation became clearer.
While each word evaporated and disappeared it also left a soft mark that later revealed itself on the paper – at first invisible to the eye- and yet it stroke me like a memory of the matter and the action that took place. Within this exercise there is an element of frustration as every mark disappeared deleting each affirmation but also of liberation as there were no traces left supposedly- it was like a meditation where I was in the flow, I was writing but no interpretation was involved.
Working at distance made us realise that separation is merely an illusion and that even if confined in a place, our bodies and our minds were free. We could connect with each other on a higher frequency that is beyond space and this was making us feeling safe.
3- What are you currently working on? (Virtual exhibitions, creative movements, collaborative projects, maintaining production of work)
I am working on some water painting, as in painting on water a bit like marbling, a technique I had started two years ago as a way of exploring abstraction. Up until then my work had been figurative and it took me quite some time to let go of figures and symbols and just be in touch with the emotion it self, then I decided to take abstraction all the way and I’m now collaborating with the music composer Timothy Ellis and we are using sound waves to make the water and the paint move to create quite phenomenally disruptive yet quite harmonic designs. So I prepare a size of water, which is based on top of a speaker connected to a synthesiser. I then paint on top of the water and Tim makes a sound composition [reminiscent of water] which ends with very low bass frequencies which then moves the water and the paint. Once the vibrations calm down I use a sheet of paper to capture and record the painting.
4- What is next? – How, if at all, has this pandemic inspired further progression?
I am developing the writing with water on black paper against the sun but I am adding drawing, I want to mix writing and drawing in a sort of coherent way. I am organizing an exhibition of my paint and sound recordings on paper with Padova (Italy) and Oxford (Uk) city councils, as the two are twin cities of culture. I am from Padova and Timothy is from Oxford.
5- Where can we find you? Extra projects you are working on, social media, website, exhibitions you will be in, etc.
I have contributed some stills from the River of Change videos of the performances that I did during lockdown to an online art exhibition that is currently on, this exhibition is called Coantivirus. There is my website where one can see some of my work and then there is Museum Spirituality where one can purchase some of ceramics I make and I am on Instagram like everyone else