Art's New Spirituality: An Interview with Carlo Brandelli and Ewa Wilczynski

by SHOWstudio on 13 December 2021

As fashion becomes more enamoured with themes of human energy on the runway, we speak to two creatives creating immersive art for a new world.

As fashion becomes more enamoured with themes of human energy on the runway, we speak to two creatives creating immersive art for a new world.

The artists Ewa Wilczynski and Carlo Brandelli - the respected creative director, designer and artist, previously known for his transformative work on Savile Row - are on a mission to reconnect with one of the most basic and core parts of human existence: energy. Creating a series of gesamtkunstwerks of sorts, last month they travelled to Italy to present two bodies of work in unique installations.

Returning to Brandelli's home town of Piacenza, the artists were invited to present 1000 Breath Paintings & Sculpture in the 16th century Sant'Agostino Church, Volumnia Gallery, which is open for the public to visit until 30 December 2021. The project is made up of a series of works, each created from single brushstrokes of gold paint. Layer upon layer is built up over 1,000 days and the physical gesture of each brushstroke is made in unison with Wilczynski's exhale, creating a contemplative ceremony of sorts. Perhaps the most ancient form of meditation, the breath sits within a historic religious setting, inviting visitors to contemplate how spirituality might exist in the modern world through creative practise.

Then there is the iconic Casa Mollino. The interiors were designed by the Italian creative genius Carlo Mollino, who fashioned much of the furniture - such as the Fenis chair and Carlino bedside table - which holds up modern design today. Curator Fulvio Ferrari extended a rare invitation to the pair to take up space in the riverside apartment in Turin, and an intimate group were invited for one-on-one performances of Liminal. Set within the storied leopard print and Marie Antoinette-style gold wall carvings, previously glimpsed in the infamous erotic photographs Mollino took here, the intimate art experience asks the viewer to become part of the artwork as they are handed talismans by the artists whilst sat with around a harmonisation plate. You can read more in detail about a previous performance here.

We believe the ultimate artwork is the composition of energy within oneself. - Ewa Wilczynski
'1000 Breath Paintings & Sculpture', Sant'Agostino Church, Piacenza, November 2021

SHOWstudio: You previously said that 1000 Breath Paintings & Sculpture was conceived to discover new ways of being for humanity. What did the performance in the Sant'Agostino Church, Piacenza, set out to do?

Carlo Brandelli: I had practiced physical and meditative martial arts for over 25 years. There are higher human rhythms of existence, but it is difficult to talk about. [Both] these works express them visually so people can feel it. 

Ewa Wilczynski: The process of painting these works used the breath itself to push the paint and dictate the form - a single golden line. This created a very pure symbol of spirit without the layers of ego which can usually dictate a composition. We hoped the viewer would see these works without ego and tap into a different depth of sensuality of the self.

SHOWstudio: Talk us through the set design for the installation inside the church.

CB: As the gallery architecture is very striking, (a little Baroque, influences of Renaissance), we needed the set to compliment this history. We designed a contemporary box with the feature wall containing a ‘double sphere’. The sphere serves as the performance stage, but also references the work's themes. 

SHOWstudio: Why did it feel fitting to bring this artwork into such a religious and spiritual setting?

EW: The meditative process of painting these works involved an internal energy practice I learnt from my studies in acupuncture and Carlo’s background in martial arts. First, we refine essence into breath, then we refine breath into spirit, and finally we refine our spirit and revert to emptiness. This philosophy is encapsulated in the synchronicity of the performance, the composition of the golden brushstroke, and the way it fades with the breath used to create it. 

As artists, Carlo and I spend our lives balancing energy in our compositions and outside of the studio too. So naturally, we created these positive works to counterbalance the negativity we have all experienced these past few years. The 24 carat gold we use in the paintings is eternal and represents light and the syntax of spirit, which is why it felt fitting to exhibit in the church in Italy.

The energy present at Casa Mollino is very unusual, it is a surreal space in a surreal city. - Carlo Brandelli
'Liminal', Casa Mollino, Turin, November 2021

SHOWstudio: What energy does the Casa Mollino hold in relation to the art work?

CB: When you walk into Casa Mollino you feel the weight of the creativity and that something beyond your understanding is present. Carlo Mollino and his best friends, great designers such as Gio Ponti and Ettore Sottsas, were seen as avant garde, with strong interests in energy and human rhythms and nature. It is evident in their work, for example Mollino’s Arabesque table, which is an abstract human form lying on it’s back holding a glass surface.

SHOWstudio: What was your thought process behind the dialogue which runs throughout the film of the performance at Casa Mollino?

EW: The dialogue itself talks about nature, transformation and human rhythms. Carlo and I reverberated this spoken voice against frequency of 110hz, a very specific vibration we chose so that we could meet the viewer's energy in a subtle way which allows them to experience the performance in the way which we intend. We believe the ultimate artwork is the composition of energy within oneself, and this is one of the many layers we add to the work.

CB: The dialogue was a letter we wrote from one energy to can be interpreted in many ways. The hand-made porcelain angelus figures are wrapped in latex; our first couture pieces in small scale. Many people project themselves into these figures, it is very unusual. The clothes have no seams or fastenings, it is just the energy of the friction and gravity of the porcelain that secured them to the body of the angelus. 

SHOWstudio: What sorts of people did you invite to the Liminal show at Casa Mollino, and why did you want them specifically to experience the art work?

CB: The audience, (only 20 per night), was selected by the Carlo Mollino directors. It was eclectic, but many artists came. As the artwork is about connection, you need people who can understand what to feel.

SHOWstudio: Did the performance feel different to previous performances due to the new location? If so, how?

CB: The energy present at Casa Mollino is very unusual, it is a surreal space in a surreal city - Turin has dark and light energy tours. A wild squirrel in the gardens there just kept engaging with us, as if it knew. We named her Squirellina, or maybe it was 'Carla Mollino'.

SHOWstudio: You first conceived this artwork before the pandemic. How has the work changed since then in terms of the human energies it is exploring?

CB: We knew pre-pandemic something negative was arriving, we wanted to counteract that with this artwork that was positive, calming. People now engage with the work much more deeply as if they now understand more.



Conversation: Carlo Brandelli and Roland Mouret

22 September 2011
Artist and designer Carlo Brandelli and French-born, London-based fashion designer Roland Mouret compared notes on creativity in their Cafe Conversation.
Live Panel Discussion

Panel Discussion: Gucci A/W 20 Menswear

14 January 2020
Carlo Brandelli is joined by Ewa Wilczynski, Graeme Gaughan, Iris Luz and Otamere Guobadia to discuss the Gucci A/W 20 Menswear show.

Fashion, Art and Spirituality Become One: Carlo Brandelli and Ewa Wilczynski's Works Travel To Italy

05 November 2021
Combining performance art, painting, sculpture, costume and sound, two of the collaborators' impactful works travel to the Carlo Mollino apartment and Sant'Agostino Church Volumnia Gallery this November.
Back to top