Mario Trimarchi: between design and sculpture
By Nico Fedi & Paolo Oliveri
Mario Trimarchi graduated with Franco Purini and in the 80s moved to Milan where he began his studies and professional career which led him to understand design as a discipline related to contemporary art, and in particular to sculpture. A very skilled designer to the point that he cannot distinguish the difference between drawing and design. In 2015 he won the Compasso d’Oro with the “Ossidiana” project for Alessi, a sculpture more than a coffee maker.
From your biography we know that in the 80s you moved to Milan. How have you lived and still live this reality from a professional point of view?
I arrived in Milan to attend the newly founded Domus Academy which was a unique experience for me. There were people coming from all over the world and for the first time ever, the academy was run by designers, architects, artists under one roof offering an ongoing exchange of skills. In the following years and with the opening of Milan to Japan, everything started to grow rapidly from job opportunities, seminars and workshops around the world. After completing my master I was offered to work for the Academy as Director of the Design course which I did for four years. Meanwhile my professional career started with the appointment at the Olivetti Design Studio where other designers worked, from Sottsass to Bellini, from De Lucchi to Sowden. That was the time when the cultural exchange and the experiments in design were utterly special.
Mario Trimarchi for De Castelli, SAMOTRACIA – ink drawing on paper – 2018
Culturally speaking, could you tell us how do you approach a job?
When I start working on a new project, I always begin with dreamy and literary yet intriguing ideas. Working with people like Branzi, Restany, De Lucchi for a long time was a very stimulating experience and has pushed me to look beyond the ordinary. For instance, at the the Olivetti Design Studio we worked with top of the range technology (in those years Olivetti was the largest european PC manufacturer and its products were sold worldwide) but at the same time we researched for new and better means to improve the digital world. I then started working with Japan which allowed me come close to the oriental culture of the emptiness. For four years I was in charge of a joint venture between Domus Academy and Mitsubishi for the development of the Italian design in Japan therefore I was travelling to Japan very often which gave me the opportunity to gather a lot of ideas for my projects.
Mario Trimarchi for De Castelli SAMOTRACIA – Photo: Santi Caleca – 2018
Would you say that your sculptural approach to design also stemmed from these experiences?
In my opinion, design has always been very close to contemporary art which tries to foreseen the future rather than to illustrate the present. At the moment for instance, I am trying to discover the boundaries between design and sculpture so as to find a way to refresh the current mood.
Mario Trimarchi for Alessi OSSIDIANA SOGNA I SUOI ANTENATI – drawing – 2014
It is apparent how important is sketching for you so it seems this is an integral part of the project…
It is difficult for me sometimes to clearly differentiate between design and project. I studied and graduated with Franco Purini who back then used to spend more than eight hours a day drawing without breaks. The way I work is the result of that experience which was very educational. To draw helps me fully understand how things are really made; this is the reason why I draw before, during and after the creation of a product even when it has already been made and from different perspectives.
I do the same even after years because in reality the product has a life of its own; we can work it up to 80% as the remaining 20% depends on itself, the world, the marketing campaign that might change the original colour and its usage. And this is the beauty of it. We come up with the idea, we give life to it and then en perhaps we discover little by little that even objects have a soul, a life of their own, a duration; sometimes they move from what you had thought and often say things different than what you wanted them to say. It is an interesting process, and I try to follow this path of objects through drawing.
Mario Trimarchi for Alessi OSSIDIANA Coffee maker – Photo: Santi Caleca – 2014
In your work there is always a reference to nature which is perceived as a strong bond..
For me there are four kingdoms: the animal, the plant, the mineral and the objects ones; to design leaves, or branches, or stones or flower pots is exactly the same practice. I feel as if the objects tell us that they have always existed, that they we will be here tomorrow and will survive happily ever after …