Heavy metal: Gianluca Pacchioni puts his monumental experiments centre stage

Heavy metal: Gianluca Pacchioni puts his monumental experiments centre stage

Milan-based artist Gianluca Pacchioni’s work is a picture of alchemy. A fusion of life experiences, people, and curiosity inform his rigorously sculpted metal objects. The sculptures embrace a spectrum of colours, textures, and techniques – often all at once.

Pacchioni makes his American debut next month at Collective Concept, a capsule presentation within the Collective Design Fair where eight artists examine their creative process. Pacchioni’s contribution, titled ‘Tropicality: a matter of sensorial intentions’, puts his recent experiments with molten metal centre stage.

The artist will present a series of pieces, each with a different (but related) personality. Most striking is ‘Fossile’, two monumental panels featuring bronze and rose-bronze bas-reliefs of plants grown in Pacchioni’s garden. ‘You have the sensation that the plants are floating in a bath of gold mud, while the other side is blank and smooth, focused on the classification of patinas,’ Pacchioni says. ‘There are two souls in every panel.’

A similar contrast is apparent in his ‘Cremino’ side tables, where liquid brass is poured onto raw slabs of red Persian travertine and suspended mid-air by uncannily thin legs. A stainless steel mirror, sourced from Japan, is mounted below the rock to reveal its craggy underside. Also on view are a stainless steel light sculpture – similar to the one permanently installed at the Italian Embassy in Paris – with two-toned, sea anemone-like tentacles, and an aluminium disk called ‘Pupil’, whose finish captures the fleeting colors of a sunrise.

‘The Pupil’ (hanging) and ‘Collapse’. Photography: Lorenzo Pennati

Born in Milan in 1966, Pacchioni studied economics before moving to Paris in the 1990s to begin a career in finance. Enamored with the city’s art world, he began forging metal as a self-taught apprentice in a studio shared with other artists at Quai de la Gare. After mounting his first exhibition – a collection of metal furniture – he returned to Milan to hone his work alongside top-tier craftspeople. Last year, the Cologni Foundation awarded Pacchioni a Master in Fine Arts and Crafts, an honour given to the most skilled artisans in Italy.

‘I am completely overwhelmed by the research of creativity. It’s never-ending,’ Pacchioni says. His heartfelt experiments are applied to objects in his workshop, where Pacchioni’s team fuses his methods with traditional techniques to manipulate metal in new ways.

The work is a labour of love: making one Fossile panel, for example, requires more than 50 steps. ‘I call it a medieval process,’ Pacchioni says. Multiple moldings, cold-casts, polishing, and the perfect patina are executed in close collaboration with local artisans. He sees them, and life itself, as a constant source of inspiration. ‘Beauty comes from everywhere. You need to be open and listen,’ he says. ‘You don’t know how many little pieces of every person I’ve met are in my work.’

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