108 x 142 cm
Hand embroidery with cotton and jewel effect threads on fabric
Chiachio & Giannone are Leo Chiachio and Daniel Giannone. Both Argentinian they live and work together in Buenos Aires. Originally trained in painting they moved into hand embroidery where they use a dazzling array of colour and stitches as they redefine the traditional family portrait into a riot of colour and technique. Epic in scale, their work incorporates elements of magical realism and a sense of humour. They simultaneously reflect the changes in society while demonstrating an encyclopaedic knowledge of stitch.
Can you tell us about your background in textiles.
We are two artists who have worked together for over ten years. We both trained in painting but decided to transfer our knowledge of painting to other disciplines including textiles. Daniel learned to embroider as a child in a convent school and never returned to embroidery until he met Leo. I studied for over nine years at the National Fine Arts School “Prilidiano Pueyrredón” and the Superior School of Fine Arts “Ernesto de La Cárcova in Buenos Aires. I learned to embroider through embroidery books and magazines and in the neigborhood of Once (an area of Buenos Aires known for wholesale fabrics, threads and wool etc). We both decided to use embroidery as a language to express our own images. We became interested in discovering the world of hand embroidery and started to become more sophisticated in our technique through embroidery books and magazines.
How do you describe your work?
Our work is a painting made with threads. When we embroider we have the same attitude we had when painting in the way we use colour and the exploration of the subject. We like to imagine we paint with needles. All our work is done by hand embroidery.
There are many reoccurring themes in your work. What are they are why do you use them?
We repeatedly talk about the family, and the changes of family in society, in our case, a family of two men with their dogs. Humour is always another element that is always present. We like to imagine different scenes in our imagination and we work really hard to represent our dreams as closely as possible.
Is your work autobiographical, if so why?
Our work is self-referential. It is always us and our dogs (which are like our children) as the main characters taking centre stage. Generally we pose in front, looking at the camera like in the old family portraits of the last century.
Where do you find your inspiration?
We have many sources of inspiration: art history (Sonia Dalaunay, David Hockney, the work of Rousseau, Piet Mondrian, Constantin Brancusi, William Morris, Judith Scott, Louise Bourgeois etc.) literature (Yukio Mishima, David Leavitt, Horacio Quiroga) , Kabuki theater, cinema (David Lynch, John Watters, Pedro Almodóvar), music (Madonna, Bryan Ferry, MIA, Chamamé (typical music of the Argentine coast), fashion (Alexander McQueen) and men’s fashion magazines, etc.
How does the partnership work when you are creating your art? Does one of you specialise in one area?
We do all our work together and we are present at all stages of the process, from the sketching to the embroidery itself.
Can you briefly talk us through your process?
We usually take a long time at every stage. For the initial idea we work on several sketches, sometimes drawings, or we take photos recreating scenarios. Sometimes we also use Photoshop and finally we transfer the drawing to the fabric. The fabric can be plain, patterned, or fabric we have printed with a design so it is unique to us. Finally, the embroidery starts. Sometimes we embroider several pieces simultaneously. We work with the entire palette of yarns to achieve volume, etc., sometimes we combine different kinds of stitches and also different kinds of thread (Perle, mercerized, rayon, jewel effect, wool, cotton, etc.) to give different results and effects we want to achieve (light, volume, texture, etc.).
Your pieces are huge. How long does it take to complete a piece such as Calaverita?
To create an embroidered work as Calaverita it takes a minimum of seven months for nine hours every day. This is the minimum working time in one piece, it can be extended up to 2½ years for pieces that are 15 square meters of embroidery.
Do you do all of the work yourselves?
We work with part-time assistants.
What embroidery stitches do you use?
We are always trying to test the extreme limits of embroidery. We use all kinds of embroidery stitches: buttonhole stitch, chain stitch, blanket stitch, rope stitch, couching, cretan stitch, roman stitch, stem stitch raised band, raised lattice band, guilloche stitch, french knot, chinese knot, buttonhole Wheel, spider’s website, ribbed spider’s web, seed stitch, plaid filling stitch, Roumanian couching, blanket stitch, satin stitch, satin stitch encroaching, long and short stitch, surface darning, etc.
How do you achieve the jewel like effect in your embroidery?
We use all kinds of types and qualities of thread. We like hedonistic surfaces so it appears that every surface is covered with precious stones. But everything is done with embroidery stitches, using eg. cotton yarns, wool, rayon or jewel effect threads.
Where do you source your fabrics? Are they new or do you like to use vintage fabrics?
We use all kinds of fabrics. Many are very old or vintage fabrics that have belonged to the family of friends, or friends of friends and we are sent them so we can give them a better future by turning them into works of art. In our travels around the world we try to buy fabrics that are characteristic of the place in terms of design, texture. We always prefer to work with cotton or the like. Recently we have started printing our own fabrics to embroider on.
Is there a big art scene for textiles in Argentina? Or do you find more success in different countries?
Although there is a long tradition of textile weaving in Argentina, with regard to the presence of textile art in the contemporary scene is it very recent. Luckily it is increasingly having more presence with young artists. However, there is a greater dialogue in the US and Europe with craft and contemporary art, the type of dialogue that we do our work.
Do you ever do commissions or do you only sell through galleries?
We don’t take on commissions. Only we believe what we want to do and we’ve always done it this way. We have two galleries that represent us: Benzacar Gallery in Buenos Aires and School Gallery Paris in France.
Are there any exciting future plans you want to tell us about eg. are you working on an upcoming exhibition?
At the moment we are working on the project for which we were awarded in the Cité de la Tapisserie of Aubusson in France. We are hand embroidering a large piece which is the interpretation of one of our paintings called “The dans famille la verdure Joyeuse.” This image is being transferred to the technique of tapestry Aubusson.
Do you have any advice for students / people who want to be textile artists?
Investigate and integrate the work with the technique. Make a commitment to the art work, image, etc. Think of textile art as a contemporary form, unorthodox and make use of it freely to express their ideas. Work with love and joy.
This interview has been translated. If you would like a copy of the Spanish version please get in touch.