London Paint Club

Ornella Pocetti

Ornella Pocetti combines painting and ceramics to explore themes of gender, horror, and optimism in imaginary landscapes. Influenced by both psychoanalysis and her love for horror, she aims to create enigmatic, timeless worlds that blur the lines between past and future.

I died for beauty, 2023, Oil on canvas, 110 x 124 cm

Ornella Pocetti – My artistic practice is deeply rooted in the history of painting, but I’m also engaged in ceramics. Lately, I’ve been experimenting with combining these two disciplines. My work frequently depicts female or androgynous figures in imagined landscapes, drawing inspiration from science fiction and elements of psychoanalysis. The latter is a nod to my mother, who’s a therapist. Many people see traces of Surrealism in my work, which often blurs the line between reality and the uncanny.

Kelly Foster – I’ve noticed that your artwork features surreal landscapes and androgynous figures. You also weave in recurring motifs and symbols, extending even to your ceramics. Could you elaborate on how you construct this symbolic language?

OP – It’s almost like a puzzle or a secret code. For instance, viewers might wonder if the same figure recurs across multiple works. This conceptual thread carries over into my ceramic pieces as well. My paintings aim to imbue the subjects with an enigmatic quality, inviting the audience to ponder not just what they see, but who these women might be. Ultimately, I strive to create a timeless world that blurs distinctions between past and future. I’ve drawn inspiration from various philosophers, especially those offering hopeful visions for humanity. This is in stark contrast to more pessimistic thinkers. My artwork aims to infuse this measured optimism, imagining future civilizations where, despite challenges, something redemptive remains.

KF – Your art assembles an array of objects to build an otherworldly ambiance. Would it be accurate to say it offers a more hopeful vision of the world?

OP – While that’s the intention, I must admit that I’m not inherently hopeful. I may be cheerful in my everyday life, but my art often emanates from my darker inclinations. I’m heavily influenced by the horror genre in both literature and art, and I continually explore various theories. My art is a reflection of my ongoing journey through a world that continues to shape me.

KF – What fascinates me is your blend of horror elements with settings that are serene and almost pastoral. Could you speak to how this unique blend came about?

OP – I view it as a natural progression. I’ve been drawn to horror stories since childhood, thanks to my father who read them to me. I’ve noticed that many horror narratives feature female protagonists, and I saw a part of myself reflected there. My exploration of works like “The Monstrous-Feminine” by Barbara Creed led me to incorporate elements of feminism and horror, recognizing that these themes have always intersected in my life.

KF – Was your focus on this subject matter deliberate, or did it evolve naturally?

OP – It has been more of an evolution. Over time, I’ve appreciated how often women are at the narrative centre of these stories. I’ve also integrated elements from diverse cultural and historical contexts, like my admiration for the Pre-Raphaelite movement and my enjoyment of ‘bad taste’ elements, such as those found in John Waters’ films.

KF – So you find value in aspects of art history that may not be universally acclaimed?

OP – Precisely. Although some critics may dismiss these elements, I relish incorporating them into my creative practice.

KF – Your work intriguingly melds various artistic periods with a futuristic, almost sci-fi aesthetic. Does each painting encapsulate a specific narrative?

OP – Yes, when I embark on a new painting, I often conceive it as part of a series rather than as a standalone piece. While I do have specific narratives in mind, I opt not to divulge them. I believe that doing so could constrain the viewer’s imaginative scope.

Red Waters, 2021, Oil on canvas, 100 x 140 cm

KF – Another striking aspect of your work is your nuanced approach to gender roles and identity. How did this interest come about?

OP – Feminism has been a part of my life from a young age, greatly influenced by my sister, who is also a close friend. My engagement with gender issues has both emotional and political dimensions. I participate in feminist activism, including recent successes like legalizing abortion. While I don’t aim for my art to be overtly political, my activism inevitably seeps into my creative work.

KF – Between painting and ceramics, do you have a preferred medium?

OP – I primarily identify as a painter, although my approach to ceramics is more instinctive due to my lack of formal training. My plan is to more cohesively integrate these two mediums in future exhibitions.

KF – Some of your paintings zoom in on individual objects while employing unique framing. I find this approach quite intriguing.

OP – That’s actually an homage to art history—a painting within a painting. Our literature here often delves into meta-narratives, stories within stories, a concept I aim to translate into my art.

KF – Are you inspired by writers like Cortázar, who specialise in such narrative techniques?

OP – Absolutely. The idea of embedding stories within stories is a narrative technique I find captivating.

KF – I, too, appreciate that style, particularly in South American literature which frequently incorporates elements of magical realism.

OP – That’s correct. Even though some stories may resemble horror tales, their South American origin often places them under the magical realism category.

KF – It seems your art shares that hybrid quality—blending themes of history, the future, and layered narratives.

OP – Indeed, I’ve recently begun incorporating elements of Argentine folklore into my work. I believe each country has its own myths and legends, and I’m eager to explore those from my own cultural background.

Untitled, 2022, Oil on canvas, 20 x 30 cm

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