La Chigi Interview
La Chigi is an Italian visual artist based in Trento, Italy. She utilises unconventional materials and found objects to explore themes of home, as a physical space and a place of the soul, and of the relationships between its inhabitants.
In the resulting three-dimensional installations, La Chigi distils complex feelings into small, ironic, and apparently light-hearted skits.
Question 1: The layers of meaning behind your work seem to belie their miniature scale. Were you initially compelled to work in miniature for pragmatic reasons or how did this challenging fascination come about?
I have always been fascinated by details, small objects. Everything I find on the street: buttons, seeds, fragments of things. Everything that has a story and offers a possibility holds interest for me.
Cans are perfect for containing my and our stories. They are objects with a specific purpose, created to preserve, which I empty and re-fill, with objects, stories, and meanings. They also often have very striking shapes, substances, and functions such as fish cans and food containers. These are already objects of intrinsic beauty, and they fascinate me.
"I am a story seeker.
Cans are perfect for containing my and our stories. They are objects with a specific purpose, created to preserve, which I empty and re-fill, with objects, stories, and meanings."
The limited space becomes an intimate space to me. As such, it is more suitable for me to deal with complex issues concerning identity, gender issues, relationships, and ecology. The small scale forces the observer to get closer to see and understand. Moreover, I often use cans that can also be closed: you can choose to see what they contain, like a voyeur, but also not to see. This seeing/not seeing makes them even more ambiguous. In everyday life we prefer not to see.
The limitation of space leads to the layering of meaning. I usually work in series, developing a concept in several linked works, so my narratives can be exceptionally long, as in the Janas Series, which consists of 90 small works.
Question 2: Would it be fair to say you are making responsive artworks? By that I mean you are responding to an event or stimuli. Be it the pandemic or Lewis Carroll novels or environmental waste issues. But you take a sardonic attitude and add a twist to your responses. Can you speak to this impression?
Human beings fascinate me, with their contradictions. My art mirrors us and our time. I live in the present, with its inherent contradictions. I observe the problems of our world, where we are led by the media and the way we deal with issues, the distance between what we say and what we do. In this sense, my works are responsive to our contradictions, but they are not mere documentations of our present.
“I have always been fascinated by details, small objects. Everything I find on the street: buttons, seeds, fragments of things. Everything that has a story and offers a possibility holds interest for me.”
Art must increase our awareness of the present, allow us to understand it better, perhaps change our perspective, and at the same time give us a future, provide a reality check and concurrently give us anchors for our dreams and freedom, in short a future. Art must stimulate reflection. This is why irony and playfulness are fundamental. They make it possible to bring the viewers closer, to make them lower their defenses with a smile or with surprise and wonder, attracting them with details, materials and bright colours.
After a moment, reflection takes over, a profound understanding of what is being observed, of the distance between what appears and what is, of the layers of meaning: a fertile dissonance. From a smile one moves on to reflection, often bitter (as in Italian writer Luigi Pirandello's humour).
“The expressive power through a single photograph is very limited, like a single finger; while a series of photographs can gather power, like a clenched fist hitting the chest, and the viewer can understand more clearly what you want to express.”
Question 3: I experience your work through digital media. I see your work online so essentially, I see photographs. This shifts the dynamic from sculpture which is 3D to photography which is 2D. At times are you thinking of yourself as a photographer or does the knowledge that you will be presenting your work as photographs drive some of your decision making?
I love mixing different techniques and I am interested in the tactile aspect and three-dimensionality of my works. My works begin as installations and small sculptures, the result of experiences that are also tactile for me. They then become objects that require an action by the viewer, a physical movement and approach, and a mental action. There are materials to recognise, thicknesses to look at and much more, multiple points of view to consider, many details to get lost in.
This is sometimes a problem when documenting and promoting the work because it is not possible to render the complexity of the work and the movement - physical, visual and mental - that the viewer must make at the moment of observation. Since the works are not designed for a 2D realisation, photography is sometimes an insufficient or unsatisfactory tool to communicate it. It is a contradiction and an inner conflict that I have not yet come to terms with.
Copyright for all photographs La Chigi 2023