SANG BLEU take an in-depth look into the work of French designer Natalia Brilli. With a new collection based on leather-covered animal skulls, some insights into her work including how she works with her materials and the intangible aspect of her work. Some questions and answers can be seen below.
SB: What is it that attracts you to the darker side of human nature?
NB: What attracts me to the darker side of human nature (I mean on a aesthetic level) is the desire to avoid boredom and to feel new and unknown sensations as well as a kind of surrender towards dark and irrational forces. The ugly, the horrible, the morbid are to me aesthetic values as much as is beauty.
SB: Do you have favourite materials to work with?
NB: There’s obviously leather, but also some unusual materials such as burnt wood, horse hair, hair, real insects and raw stones.
SB: How important is it to you to maintain a traditional artisan approach to your work?
NB: The artisanal aspect is very important in my work because the leather-covering technique I use is a time-consuming and meticulous process, everything is done entirely by hand: no machine can do it… For instance, it takes a minimum of one hour to make a pearl necklace, and some of the more complex pieces can take one, even two days to complete. Only human hands are involved in making the pieces, which makes each one of them unique.
SB: Do you use any found objects?
NB: It depends on the pieces: for my limited edition objects, I often work with real elements (animal skeletons, drum set, guitar). But for the Bambaataa exhibition in Brussels, I made a series of monkey heads, for which the bases were of course resin casts. For the jewellery it’s the same, sometimes there are real elements (watches, keys, shells, etc.) and sometimes I draw objects which are then sculpted and cast in resin.
SB: How important is symbolism in your work?
NB: It’s an art movement that I like very much for the mystery which it embodies and also for all it reveals, the ambiguities of man with his faith, his sexuality, his neuroses. The symbolist author Mallarmé wrote: “Paint, not the thing, but the effect it produces.” This is what I try to achieve with this fine leather skin which sometimes gives to the object both a fragile and a ’sacred’ dimension, but there is also a lot of humour and surrealism in my work as humour is part of my nature and I think of my culture too. Belgians have an absurd and nonsensical sense of humour akin to that of the British. And after all it’s only accessories, sometimes it’s healthy not to take oneself too seriously…
SB: What are your biggest sources of inspiration?
NB: People that I know, that are close to me, but also women such as Edith Sitwell, Nancy Cunard or Charlotte Rampling for their timeless beauty and their typically British spirit, their troubled and ghostly auras, the mystery that shrouds them. The poetic and surrealistic movies of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. The “film noir” of Jacques Tourneur. Midnight Movies”, from Dario Argento to Alejandro Jodorowsky. 20’s and 30’s decorative arts, such as decorators Janine Janet and Tony Duquette. Italian architects Carlo Mollino and Gio Ponti. The Northern school of painting (Belgian, British and Scandinavian painters). Contemporary art. Travels. “Curiosity cabinets”, natural sciences and gardens. Nick Cave. The list is very long…