Inside the Studio

Chiara Elisa Ragghianti’s Depicts the Elements of Everyday Life

What are the major themes you pursue in your work?

Some things I see remain in my memory more than others, up to the moment I paint them. I’m attracted by the beauty of nature, but also by the human figure. I always like to add human elements into my work. These could be people, cars, or even architecture, which I then blend into a landscape or even domestic scenes. My figurativeness explores and picks element from everyday life images: pictures, movie scenes, images from the newspapers, houses, children, and female icons.

The humans I represent tend to be “flat” and resemble colored shadows. I try to create a sense of volume in the leaves of the trees or other plants; I try to reach for the light in painting.

How did you first get interested in your medium, and what draws you to it specifically?

Growing up I was attracted to many art forms – cinema, theatre, architecture, and so I attended a high school specialized in an artistic education. I pursued my studies in visual arts, earning a degree in the History of Film.

Later I decided to  try my hand at painting and found that it gave enormous satisfaction to something which I felt needed to be expressed. I then dedicated my energy to bringing up my three children, and this satisfied immensely the maternal part of my character. Motherhood gave me much more inspiration and appreciation of art and imagination in everyday life. Having such a vast selection of colors to choose from was also very stimulating.

I like the act of physically painting, which involves every part of me, eyes, hands, mind. Even the smell of my paints is attractive to me. I adore setting up my work table. From there begins a journey of exploration.

How has your style and practice changed over the years?

I have been painting  for years, but not that long, to notice a drastic change in my work. It could with time and experience wander off in any directions. For the time being I’m aiming to perfect the art form which I’m presenting to the public in this period. Later who knows. I’m curious about a lot of things which surround me so this may mean quite a change of style in the future.

Can you walk us through your process? Do you begin with a sketch, or do you just jump in? How long do you spend on one work? How do you know when it is finished?

I  have to choose the right material to start me on my journey. Then I start drawing. The images that I paint are very similar to the images captured by a camera and then transferred onto canvas or plywood. I am the camera and the printer.

I often paint with acrylic colors, on plywood  in order to obtain slickness, but when I use canvas as a support I need to change my technique a little because a canvas, being softer, requires to me a less studied design which leaves more freedom my brushes.

Regarding how one knows when  a painting is finished, sometimes you feel automatically that the painting is ‘just right’. The proportions appear correct, the different colors interact very nicely and the painting seems to have the right tension. Other times though, you have a nagging feeling that something is slightly ‘off’.  You put the painting to one side for a while to let it rest, stew, then, on looking  at the picture again, you’re still uncertain about the element which is ruining the harmoniousness of the painting. Maybe it’s a line, a color.

For that reason and usually for the bigger dimensions, I make some paintings that need a longer time to be finished. Otherwise, I only need to spend a few hours when the image I want to paint is clear in my mind and the painting proceeds smoothly to its finish. Anyway, it is the painting itself which tells me when the work is finished.

Prefer to work with music or in silence?

I usually like and prefer to paint listening to music or audiobooks. My mind flows, my hand paints and the sound transmits rhythm to me.

I can’t work in front of other adults, but I like to paint surrounded by my sons and daughter, listening to them while they are playing or doing their homework. But I also like painting in silence, listening to the sounds of nature, as I live in the countryside of Italy.

If you could only have one piece of art in your life, what would it be?

There are so many beautiful paintings dotted around the world which I would love to have, but if it was possible to have any one piece of art, I would probably choose one of Picasso’s portraits of Marie Théresè. His paintings of her are always luminous, full of colors and transmit a sense of joy.

About the Author

Katherine Henning is Senior Associate Curator at Saatchi Art. Need help finding art? Contact her via our free Art Advisory service here.