Inside the Studio: Camilla Ancilotto
Camilla Ancilotto is a classically trained painter and sculptor from Rome who utilizes oil painting techniques from the historic masters of the Italian Renaissance. Her stunning works shine a light on the harmony that exists in nature between humans and animals. Often portraying various sea and land animals with humans, the use of similar shapes and figures in her work highlight the beautiful unity that exists between us and nature. These shapes effortlessly morph from one to the next, and combining these works with an interactive element is the reason Ancilotto’s have rightfully gained special attention.
Combining painting and sculpture, Ancilotto paints multiple works on triangular prism pieces that allow for them to rotate on their axis and effortlessly shift from one work to the next. Suddenly, a group of exotic fish can transform into a chiseled marble statue. This creates a unique, forever changing artwork that is never still, and never set on a single interpretation. In constant transformation, similar forms between nature morph from one to the next.
Ancilotto is inspired by the beautiful creatures that we share this planet with and continues to create stunning works that she hopes inspires us to protect our planet. We had the opportunity to sit down and speak with Ancilotto about her process, inspiration, upcoming shows, and more.
Read on to find out more in an exclusive interview with Camilla Ancilotto.
Your unique exploration of shapes and figures result in visually engaging works that encourage viewers to act and participate in the art. What motivates you to create interactive pieces that engage the viewer?
-I have been doing these works since 1999, and I have always loved the idea of giving the average viewer the opportunity to interact with a work and become an artist themselves. Calling viewers to interact and to be part of the creative process is something that I think was inspired by the books I used to read as a child. I used to love interactive books where you had to make a decision that affects the story. You would come to a crossroads and the books gave you a chance to choose: “Read on to visit the forest, or skip to page 39 to avoid the forest and take the spirit path”. I loved this ability to choose and feel like I am creating the story as I read along, which I believe inspired me to create my interactive pieces. I also grew up being the third of three kids, so I was not very accepting of being told what to do, ever since I was young. Having this mindset growing up, making all my own decisions, is the reason I like giving the viewer a chance to decide and create something themselves.
This metamorphic process that takes place in your works reminds us that we aren't so different from our counterparts in nature. Can you speak about the importance nature and animals have on you and your work?
-I truly care about the earth and all the creatures that inhabit it. Ecology is important and I believe there is a need to save our planet, to fix all of the things we have done to hurt it. We need to do our best to preserve all of the beautiful lands and creatures who we are so much alike. I believe that there is a true harmony between humans and nature, and I aim to show this through my work. Using similar shapes, colors, forms, and volumes, I show how we are all united in harmony. This harmony cannot exist forever though unless we help our planet.
Can you explain the process in creating one of your rotating (parallelepiped) pieces?
-Like all my works, I start with an idea in mind, and try to pull a message from something important happening in the world. For example, I did a body of work inspired by The Elgin Marbles, a collection of ancient greek sculptures. The works were removed by a British diplomat in the 19th century and sold to the British museum. This was a big controversy because Greece was trying to get them back, and Britain didn't want to sell.
Once I have my idea in mind, I draw the multiple layers on semi transparent paper. Using these transparent paper pieces allows me to accurately paint the subjects onto the rotating pieces in my work. The individual parallelepiped pieces are then dipped in varnish to protect them from damage and fingerprints. From here, the pieces are assembled onto steel rods that allow the pieces to rotate within the frame!
What was the first parallelepiped piece you created?
-The first work in this style was created when I was doing my diploma project at the New York Academy of Art in 1999, and it was titled Venere Reclina or Reclining Venus. In this work, Venus the goddess of love transforms herself into a fish. It was humorously influenced by the political scene at the time in the U.S. where the Clinton Lewinsky scandal was happening. For the piece, I imagined the mermaid in Greek history who pulls sailors' ships into the sea and destroys them. I had a mythological representation of the political scene.What I found very interesting was when I debuted my work in front of teachers who were asking me many questions about it. I was trying to explain the work by showing the side with the fish, and then switching it to Venus to explain that side of the piece, but all the teachers and people coming into the room kept changing the artwork. The people in class couldn't resist turning the prism pieces to change the piece. I knew that I had captured something special with the piece. Since then my art has never been still, as my works are always continuously evolving and changing.
The second piece I did was a self portrait in which I transformed myself into a pig and a sheep. This piece had three rotating sides to it now, which I thought made it more intriguing and opened more possibilities for the work. I chose to do this self portrait as an artwork on the value of biotechnologies. I was making this between my move from New York to Rome. I used a pig because at the time, the Vatican had approved the use of animal organ transplants into human bodies, which was a very radical thing in 1999. Not long before this, Dolly the sheep was the first sheep to be cloned from an adult cell. These events influenced the piece, and my transformation into these animals was meant to represent the value of these biotechnologies at the time, to show this harmony between nature.
What are some of the common items that you use regularly in your studio?
-I am always working with traditional materials like pencil, eraser, tape, and semi transparent paper. When I do my drawings I work on three different layers of transparent paper. This allows me to match similar shapes, volumes, and figures between the multiple paintings included on my parallelepiped piece. On these pieces, I work with iron workers and manufacturers to produce the frame and structure for which the pieces can rotate. For my sculptures, I commonly work with other collaborators to help produce the structures.
Which artists or people have been most influential to your creative
development, and how have they shaped your understanding of art?
-I learned so much during my time studying at the New York Academy of art, but some of my favorite and most influential artists have been Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Tiziano Vecellio.
What shows do you have coming up?
-In May I will be showing 4 works at Volta Art Fair (New York, May 17-21, 2023) at Alessandro Berni Gallery's Booth. The 4 works being shown there are my Kinbaku Collection, inspired by the ancient Japanese art of bondage tying. I was particularly intrigued by the shapes and forms that these women would take, I think they are so artistic and beautiful. Also, I will be showing two small pieces at Clio Art Fair (New York, May 18-21, 2023).
You can learn more about Camilla Ancilotto and follow her journey via these links: