“Artists exist to show us the world. So do windows.” Writer Jarod Kintz’s words are just what come to mind when you enter the parallel utopian world of Italian artist, Franco Recchia.
As a child, playing with Lego blocks and toys was just how you’d want to spend your days. Do you remember opening up your first toy car or truck, to see what was inside? How about those old computers with those giant screens? In today’s day and age of tablets and smartphones one has lost the urge and curiosity to break open a machine and see what it runs on.
Italian artist Franco Recchia takes his curiosity to another level of artistic expression. Born in 1957, Franco lived in the cities of Verona, Milan and finally Florence, where he has been ever since. It was in his formative years in primary school that he was introduced to the world of art and colours. His teacher, Dilda, was the one who had recognised his artistic inclinations and encouraged him along.
A far-reaching passion for technology in all its forms is what he has imbibed even into his creative art – reassembling things taken apart, and creating large compositions that comprise of integrated mechanical parts like processors and circuits.
“Waste materials, metal or computer parts live a previous life that should not end when they are thrown away. They are the result of the work of man and cannot die just because they have done their job,” says Franco. Having recreated skylines of cities like Manhattan and Detroit through his art, he has also recreated mythological and phantasmal lands.
“Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy is the towers of Minas Tirith, the ancient stones of Gormenghast, the halls of Camelot. Fantasy flies on the wings of Icarus, reality on Southwest Airlines.” The words of George R. R. Martin, author of A Game of Thrones ring true every time you come upon the works of Franco Recchia.
Cities like New York, Rome, and Athens – all have a history that is so deep-rooted that even today the cities boast of the values and culture that have been passed on as heirlooms from generations. Franco Recchia’s work is perhaps a utopian representation of these cities, without the mundane and archetypal colours.
Colours of a city are again critically connected to its heritage and culture. For instance, Jaipur is called the Pink City; Jodhpur has its quintessential blue alleyways; Grecian cities like Mykonos and Athens with their beautiful and typical blues and whites. The use of colours in Franco’s works is not just also impressive, but also reflects his eclectic style and technique. His recreated skylines bring out varied hues and dimensions in these cities, lending them an ethereal and almost enchanting character.
“The process of selection begins with a selection of the components (these are duly washed and cleaned), that are kept in transparent containers. Then, on a plate of wood or metal, I try making combinations with these pieces,” explains Franco about his creative process.
His first piece was Il Circo (The Circus) in 1976. The time it takes to create a single project varies depending on the available parts and the size of the creation. “In some cases it takes a month, sometimes a year or more; it usually starts from a particular piece and then goes on to become a city,” says Franco.
So which city, according to Franco, has the most magnificent skyline? New York, he believes, tops the list, along with Hong Kong and Shanghai. Recreating the New York skyline was perhaps his most challenging work to-date, ‘for the material used and the number of pieces’ that were required.
Success however glorious can also be transient. So it is best to always remain attached to your roots, and remember where you started from. Which is perhaps why Franco Recchia visited his favourite teacher, Dilda, two years ago; she was then ninety years old. Describing the visit as “beautiful”, he goes on fondly about how she remembered his passion for colours and how they still manage to converse on the phone from time to time.
Text By Priyanka S. Menon
Photographs Franco Recchia