Born in 1976, Marcantonio Raimondi Malerba is one of the most charismatic figures on the interior design scene, whose work connects man and nature. His path runs on the double tracks of art and design, as they intersect and contaminate each other.
Irony and nature are two key elements of Marcantonio’s stylistic language: they are the protagonists of his imaginative universe populated by fantastic, dreamlike, extravagant and surreal creatures. The relationship between man and nature (one of the recurring themes in his works) is greatly emphasised, both in the bigger works such as the gigantic giraffes of the collection She’s in Love but She Doesn’t Know It Yet and in the small objects such as the famous Monkey Lamp and Mouse Lamp for Seletti.
Interview with Marcantonio
We met him to hear about his vision and his new designs that will be launched at Salone del Mobile 2023.
Your imagery is connected to the animal and natural world. Where this connection with nature come from and what are the dangers caused by not respecting the environment today?
From the very beginnings of my artistic research, I wished to reflect on the relationship that man has with nature (isn’t it the central theme of our existence?), so the relationship he has with himself. I believe that the strongest connection that a human being can experience is precisely that with the nature. If you do experience it, then you are also in deep contact with what surrounds you, with others and yourself as the highest expression of nature, along with all the feelings that nature can arouse.
I’ve always thought that beauty means recognising each other, as the more we recognise ourselves in what we see, the more we enjoy that connection. Connection is beauty and emotion.
We are sophisticated animals and, just like plants, we are the fruit of a great mother that is nature and its unparalleled beauty, which, more and more often, is unfortunately damaged and uncared. Society should definitely understand and take care of the environment around us, thus giving it the attention it deserves.
Heart is a central motif in your art. Tell us how the works related to it were born.
Hearts are part of a much broader concept, embracing the world of nature: they are passion, feeling in waiting. Veins become shrubs and then flowers, turning the dramatic state of helplessness into that of the highest expression, the natural sublime.
Some hearts, such as Love in Bloom for Seletti offer the possibility of placing flowers inside them, so that the veins sprout, as if the organ was the bulb from which the feelings blossom. Vegetables and animals blend in a natural belonging, warming even the least romantic souls.
The philosophy of kintsugi recurs in several of your works. What attracts you to this ancient practice?
Kintsugi literally means “to repair with gold”, giving value, magnifying and enriching what’s broken. I think I have a particular attraction to anything that is able to communicate time as it is lived and history.
I love objects that have a temporal patina, even new ones, and yet hold a strong identity, when the shape can tell the process by which they were made. The story that objects can tell is their own life and I think that reassembling lies in my creative chords. It is something I have always done.
I remember gluing the pieces of a broken vase together for fun when I was a child, as if I was an archaeologist…. I think there is no better metaphor to represent the individual: man, as in the philosophy of kintsugi, is often fragmented and broken into multiple pieces. It should not be a weakness, but a strength, enriching each of us. As the broken vessels are embellished and held together by gold, the same thing should apply to human beings.
During Salone del Mobile 2023, you will launch a new project Window Lamp for Seletti, a window of light with dreamlike tones. Where did the project come from?
Window Lamp was born from a vision: when I imagine a house, I immediately think of doors and windows, as they are the eyes of the dwellings, letting in light and illuminating rooms. A window with a view of a beautiful sky is a positive and pop subject. Moreover, windows can be placed wherever we wish and open to the world without any builder or authorization.
Your design is often also art. How can the two expressive dimensions coexist and what works best represent this union?
Yes, two categories often flow into each other, so I find it difficult to explain the evolution of my work. I have always tried to put even in a small object my artistic worth since I was a child. I feel like an artist, I have a fire, a soul within. Since I love everyday objects, I apply my artistic desire to a lamp, a chair, an umbrella stand… The desire to find magic, an imaginary world that I hold within as an artist.
One of the works that best represents this combination is the Monkey Lamp line as monkeys resemble human beings. This is why I have often projected them in my sculptural works as well. In the lamp version for Seletti, they sneak into our homes: I like to think that they are stealing those light bulbs, creating an evolutionary reference, and that they are not at our service at all, breaking chandeliers and wandering around the house undisturbed.
Irony is a common thread through all your works, is it part of you too? How do you decline it in your objects?
Absolutely, irony is part of me and my works. It takes away all my doubts. When I look at the sketches, what really convinces me is what makes me smile. In literature or theater we use indeed narrative devices, as we do with design. The combination of irony with design and art can add new meaning, triggering the imagination of the viewer.
In my works, irony can be expressed through the opposition between comfortable and convenient: what is comfortable often turns out to be functional, while the concept of comfortable, where I see myself most, have a strong emotional factor. The first collaboration with Seletti in 2012, for example, was precisely the furniture line Sending Animals: the production was inspired by the relationship between man and nature, aiming for a simple but also ironic result, provided with a good dose of tragicomic (could someone actually send animals?).
Where would you like to see a large installation of yours and what message would you like to send through it?
I would definitely like to see Great Soul in a museum or gallery. It represents the creation of a project started in 2011, designed before the monkeys, giraffe and everything else. What we see now is a whale, the skeleton of a cetacean containing lights and lamps. The lights are on and create a bright volume, as they are the soul of the big animal. Is it alive or not though? I would like to exrpress, once again, the relationship between man and nature reflecting, of course, on the condition of our oceans and even more deeply on life and death, the importance of care and the consequences of individualism that drives contemporary life. I like this indefinite and bittersweet play between dramatic representation and magical vision. The whale is alive, flying, lit by lights that belong to our world. We are the lights because it all depends on us.
What is your relationship with the world of wine and bien vivre? Do you have a favorite wine related to a memory or a geographical area?
No, I don’t have a favorite wine. I love to change and constantly taste new flavors and experiences.
Opening image: Marcantonio Raimondi Malerba with some of his works (ph. Mikael d’Alessandro)