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Creating ‘Sculptographies’ with Daniele Papuli

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After obtaining a degree in Sculpture from the Brera Academy of Fine Arts, the Italian born artist, Daniele Papuli, started working with sculpture in 1991 with his first pieces in stone and wood, materials easy to find in his territory – Salento. At last, he discovered paper, which offered him countless sensorial, visual and tactile suggestions leading him to create vibrant, visionary and living paper “sculptographies”.

Daniele Papuli. © 2014 ph. Gianfranco Aquaro

When and why did you start working with paper?

While attending an international workshop in Berlin in 1993, I became interested in the methods of producing paper. I directed a workshop for the creation of papier-mâché, and I tried many different materials. I realized that I was always unconsciously passing from gravity to the lightness of the form, from the solidity of the matter to its ductility. The volumes grew thinner and thinner, ending up being large bi-dimensional surfaces. At last I reached paper and, in order to master it, I tried to produce it. I mixed and reassembled different kinds of paper together with grounds, herbs and colors. In the process of its metamorphosis, I was spurred by the accumulation and combination of reams and reams, usually strips and cuttings, that were useful as raw materials to start with. I resolved “to build” a shape choosing the sheet of paper as a unit of measure.

“I was fascinated by paper’s textures and by the structural potentialities of this alive, vibrating and changeable matter.”

CARTE E FIBRE INSTALLAZIONI, Galleria Casa Dugnani, Mi, © 2014 ph. Raul Zini

Where did you get the inspiration from?

When someone asks me why paper, suddenly I feel as fragile as the light sheet of a book, and, at the same time, as strong as a thousand-page book browsed over centuries by hundreds of hands. “Sculptographies” are my investigations with paper. I like to think that paper has chosen me, I haven’t chosen it myself. I got the inspiration directly in my hands. It is like a return to the origins, to my heritage, to the vision of the lights and the shadows of my land, the density of the sea, the primal forms of olive trees, the bright yellow of the corn field … But most of all paper reveals itself to me.

“My work originates from the shadow, which is the DNA of my sculpture.”

CARTE E FIBRE INSTALLAZIONI, Galleria Casa Dugnani, Mi, © 2014 ph. Raul Zini

Which is the process you follow when starting one of your artworks? Which is the most challenging part?

According to the way in which it is moved, touched or cut, paper offers countless sensorial, visual and tactile suggestions. I try to reproduce these experiences, while looking for the physical character of the sculpture and for its connection to space. The most challenging part is the starting point of sculpture: the research, the proofs, the errors, up to the final revelation.

ULE CARTE VISIONARIE, Church of the Immacolata, Castle of Ischia. © 2018 ph. Marco Albanelli.

What story or emotion do you wish to convey through your sculptures?

Sculpture is alive. Paper is alive. The sculpture must be touched not only with the eyes but with the hand. Sculpture is a spatial sensory experience. It links us and connects us to the physical world. Sometimes the sculpture shows a sort of inner energy. I am extremely interested in these variations. Sometimes the shapes become paper monoliths faceted in many light layers like veins. The chromatic variations of the surface, yellowing as paper does in the sun, follow the metamorphosis by which the sheet traces back to wood, to the tree, to its primary mother-matter. This makes me feel even stronger and more grateful.

ULE CARTE VISIONARIE, Church of the Immacolata Castle of Ischia (Na), © 2018 ph. Daniele Papuli

How do you integrate the art of producing paper sculptures with contemporary design?

I believe that today, in an immersive world of encoded images that pass through flat and cold screens, is the right time for paper. We need it. The choice of paper is not frivolity. Paper leads us to its strength, its tactility, its smells, its transformations, which are increasingly forgotten today. Even everyday objects, like the ones I propose as unique pieces that fit into contemporary design, can repay us a dreamy feature to touch. Because time is between us and this matter. A paper sculpture or object resists depending on our care, is not eternal, but humanly accessible and enjoyable. Any sculpture lives its own destiny.

“Paper is a living organism made up of living material that gives back time.”

CARTE E FIBRE INSTALLAZIONI, Galleria Casa Dugnani, Mi. © 2014 ph. Raul Zini

You designed for prestigious fashion houses such as the windows of Missoni’s new flagship store and of Maison Hermès. How do you usually incorporate the brand’s motto and values into your designs?

I have always considered shop windows as outdoor galleries. Angela Missoni gave me carte blanche. I found connections between my paper sculptures and their threads. For me, their light clothes were sheets in flight and my papers had shades. Regarding my collaboration with Hermès in Milan and Rome, I thought about creating a series of small scenic installations with different materials. Each window represents a story of objects, emotions and it always tries to involve the person passing by.

CARTE E FIBRE INSTALLAZIONI, Galleria Casa Dugnani, Mi. © 2014 ph. Raul Zini

Which space best suits your compositions?

I have always preferred industrial spaces with evident signs of the past for both small sculptures and extensive installations. For example, I exhibited in the beautiful church of the Castle of Ischia, where the whiteness of painting and light created intense suggestions and visions. I also like to exhibit in the formal silence of a room or in rooms with triumphal colors, as in the case of the painted rooms of the ducal palace of Martina Franca in Puglia.

CARTE E FIBRE INSTALLAZIONI, Palazzo Ducale Martina Franca, © 2014 ph. Raul Zini

Can you tell us about any exciting future projects?

My research now focuses on the technological connections with paper. I also try to investigate the relationship between sculpture and space through video installations or theatrical installations that involve the public.

“Maybe paper looks like me or I look like paper, ductile and resilient.”

CARTE E FIBRE INSTALLAZIONI, Galleria Casa Dugnani, Mi. © 2014 ph. Raul Zini

Quoting Bruno Munari, Daniele believes that “Out of one thing comes another”. MiND appreciated the opportunity to get to know such an artist, a performer, self-producer, creator and designer at the same time. We really look forward to seeing one of his site-specific installations, live performances, paper objects and exclusive pieces for luxury brands and we wish him good luck with his future projects.

By: Lisa Zanon