Interview with Rachele Tinkham

Interview by Ilaria Ferri

Rachele Tinkham was born in Venice, Italy, where she studied art. She is currently enrolled in the two-year course of Sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna. Between Venice and Bologna, Rachele participates in group exhibitions and collaborations with artists, studios and experiments through performance as an artistic duo with another artist. She uses the language of her body to communicate with the public through her person and the family sphere. She likes to play with images and videos, inventing stories and anecdotes through a surreal and playful point of view.

You participated in the 9th edition of the COMEL Infinito Alluminio Prize with the sculpture “What are you watching?”. An ironic reflection on the infinite possibilities of interpreting forms, on the infinite points of view and the variability of human perception. It is a reflection that through art dwells on how everything is relative, but above all how a work can surprise the observer and only reveal itself after careful observation. How did this project come about? And how did the idea of participating in the COMEL Award come about?

I am attracted by the stimuli that help my imagination modify and re-propose in a surreal way the images that appear before my eyes every day. Whether I am in a museum, a park, or a supermarket, everything is a source of stimulation for my emotional creativity. You just have to know how to use it and access the unconscious mechanisms to activate it to the full and surprise yourself. I play with materials, shapes, and images and mold them to my liking as if everything that goes through my head is already tangible and sculptural. I created “What are you watching?” a few years ago, at a time when I felt attracted to metal, as much by its strength as by its fragility. Looking for industries that processed and sold steel materials for personal research, I came across COMEL. Opening the website and seeing that the company had opened a call for artists, I did not hesitate to apply. Here I am!

What are you watching? (detail )

Many artists consider art as an opportunity to express themselves silently and indirectly, like a message left in a bottle that sooner or later someone will read. On the contrary, your way of making art, especially in the performances and exhibitions held with the Plastikhaare project, is very much centered on the relationship with the audience, which is called upon, is invited to actively participate, almost as if it were anthropological research. How important is it for you to know the reaction of those who look at your works or performances?

Whoever is in front of one of my works, whether it is a sculpture or a performance, I am sure they feel something. It is not just a question of looking, dwelling on ‘I like it’ or ‘I don’t like it’, what is important is the energy that is created when the attraction for something is intensified by one’s own presence connected to all the others present at that precise moment.

Pantonia 85-001 TN Color of love

​In your career, despite your young age, you have already tackled so many different techniques: from performance to installation, from video to photo manipulation, through sculpture and much more. Are you looking for a technique that suits you, so are you always experimenting with new paths, or do you simply not want to be pigeonholed into one genre or language?

You know what the problem is? I don’t feel like being bored and as a result I never sit still. Any object or material that appears in front of me immediately becomes an object of emotion in my head. I get bored producing the same things, developing the same themes, and talking about the same things. I feel liquid. Like water, I fill any kind of container that holds me. At times I am calm and at times I am stormy.

Esperimento di vestizione onirica, 2023

Irony and a sense of the absurd, surrealism contribute to the desecration of stereotypes. Playfulness and non-conformism are recurrent in your artistic career, whether it is performance, photomontages, sculptures or crocheted works. They all seem to be pieces that attempt to communicate a new concept of identity, in this sense is there a particular message or idea that you absolutely want to send to the viewer?

In this last period of intense research, I have been working with my favourite material: my unconscious. I used it like a big blanket that I embroidered every night with my dreams, nightmares, and desires. During the day I dress myself in it. The surreal aspect of my artistic practice allows me to analyse and play with what the night offers me, and then translate it into images, wearable sculptures, and installations. Everything happens in my bedroom, which has also become my studio. What I mean is never to exclude any intuition or idea, even if it may seem illogical or embarrassing.

Your family is very present in your “games” with images, in particular, your grandmother is also the protagonist of the documentary Tonia. An important generational comparison between a woman who lived through times very different from the present and her granddaughter. Tell us about this experience.

Grandma and I became friends right from the start. I like our complicity and I really appreciate the fact that she is someone who is willing to learn. The thing I love about her is her curiosity. With her, I teach and learn at the same time. She is a magical creature, who has become young again at the age of 87. When I ask her to model for me for a few photo shoots, she immediately poses. What more can I say? I am so lucky. She teaches me the past and I teach her the future.

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