Gianluca Pacchioni, Master of Metal

Milan-based Gianluca Pacchioni makes lighting and sculptures from metal, creating objects with the illusion of lightness and movement from the heaviest of materials. Here he explains how he works, and his passion for his chief inspiration – nature.

You are self taught – so how did you get started?

Yes, I am actually a doctor in economics! I moved to Paris after I graduated to develop my skills in the finance world, but when I reached there I was overwhelmed by the beauty and power of art – every moment of my life became full of it. I started to work in finance but I didn’t last very long, so I left, and began to dive into the artistic world of Paris.

I started little by little, visiting warehouses and construction sites full of old metal, and I would just wander around looking for something that was right. I was looking at them, saying ‘this could be a piece, that could be a piece…’ I bought a welder, and after about a year making things in an old parking area, people who came to my house, when they saw them, said ‘you should do more of this’.

Then, I got chosen to participate in an art fair for free – they gave me a booth and paid my expenses, allowing me to develop my ideas. After that, it was non-stop.

Collapse bookcases in rusted steel – Photo Credit: Lorenzo Pennati

Collapse bookcases in rusted steel – Photo Credit: Lorenzo Pennati

What excites you about working with metal?

First, you work with fire – such an alchemic element – then metal, so difficult, so dangerous, yet indulgent. It allows you to learn quickly; it allows you to correct, to underline wounds and scars in order to define the personality of the sculpture.

Where do you create your work?

I have a huge studio in Milan, which was once a factory in the 1930s. I have everything there – my workshop, my gallery and my house, all set around a courtyard.

What overall themes does your sculpture have?

My aim is to create something so gentle it looks like a feather, even if it weighs 500 kg. One of my pieces, called anemone, is like seaweed; it looks very light, but it’s 270 kg.

Usually when you find yourself in front a piece of iron, you don’t want to touch or approach it. My aim is to make you feel the opposite sensation – to feel comfortable and to go and caress it. Any sculptural object must be touched with your hands.

Anemone, a sculptural installation made from stainless steel – Photo Credit: Lorenzo Pennati

Anemone, a sculptural installation made from stainless steel – Photo Credit: Lorenzo Pennati

What different techniques do you use?

Because I am self taught, I discovered my own paths and techniques in order to meet my needs – so I learned how to rust a piece of stainless steel, or to give it a volcanic rough side and or softer side – like an apricot! And how to make a rusted patina more red or more brown, or how to use vegetable pigments, like the Japanese did in medieval times.

I work with stainless steel a lot, but now I’m exploring lighter metals. I’ve found a way to give to the metal the colours of twilight – you look at it from one angle and it’s pink, then you move it and it becomes grey-pink. It’s incredible – like you have a painting, not a piece of metal any more.

Sculptural lighting that’s rough on the inside, smooth on the outside

Sculptural lighting that’s rough on the inside, smooth on the outside

What inspires the forms in your work?

I like to magnify, like using a big lens, the details of plants and the patterns of nature. I’m mad for plants and flowers.
At the moment my favourite commissions are the open-air ones, in parks or gardens, dressing the trees and landscapes.

A nature-inspired installation in a park in Italy

A nature-inspired installation in a park in Italy

Do you experiment a lot?

Yes, it’s the most important thing. When I have a feeling I’ve stopped – when I don’t have that propulsive energy any more – then it’s time to change. Maybe open a restaurant or something…

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