Carnovsky is Francesco Rugi and Silvia Quintanilla, an art and design duo based in Milan. They started collaborating in 2007, producing multi-layered artwork which reveals different scenes under red, green and blue light. The resulting experimentation led to 2010’s critically acclaimed RGB project, which has since spawned a number of other works by the duo, some of which are shown in this month’s issue.
How did you start working together as Carnovsky?
[Francesco] Silvia studied as industrial designer in Bogotá, Colombia and I studied art history in Bologna, Italy. We met in Milan in 2004 at Domus Academy, where we were doing a Masters in Design.
What was the inspiration for the RGB project?
[Silvia] RGB has various inspirations. We were experimenting with printing techniques and lights, two fields that we truly love and always wanted to work in. In April 2007, we got the opportunity of participating in a small exhibition during Milan Design Week called Surprise, so we decided to present what we were working on. It was just with red light and not LEDs, but a bulb with photographic gels filters. Then we start to experiment with the other primary lights colour: green and blue.
Working with coloured lights we understood that each colour works in a different way, because they have different wavelengths – red the longest, blue the shortest, green in between – and we use this characteristic for the narrative of the image.
The idea behind RGB is that there are many different levels of meaning in things. What you see for the first time may hide other meanings, other worlds, and what is supposed to be flat may not be.
What is your working process? How do you plan out the layers?
[Francesco] It is kind of a difficult process because there is not just one image but three, and they have to look great by themselves, but also together with the other two.
For us, more than having different wavelengths, they have different meanings. The red filter makes one of the worlds emerge in a clear, sharp and obvious way, hiding the other two. It’s like a wide-awake state. The blue one instead does not hide the other two worlds. We like to think about it as the world that is deep inside, so we use this level as a sort of hidden meaning, with fantastic creatures and sea monsters as in the Animalia series, a guffawing monkey tribe in La Jungla series, or a mythical procession in the Landscapes series.
You’ve done some work which is more interior design based – for example, wallpapers and tabletops. How does this differ to preparing work for an exhibition, for example?
[Francesco] Even in our exhibitions we love to use wallpaper, because it allows us to achieve an architectonic scale and create spaces and experiences where people are completely immersed in an ever-changing world. Sometimes we also have some limited edition prints or objects.
The main difference is the scale. When we design a new artwork for our wallpaper collection, in the design process we don’t know the exact dimensions in which it will be printed. If we are preparing for an exhibition in a specific place, we do. Working on a screen or making printing proofs on A3 sheets of paper is never the same thing as seeing a wall five metres tall and 12 metres long. Our works are always very dense and full of detail. They contain lots of information precisely because they must be able to be reproduced in a large scale.
What are you working on currently?
[Silvia] We spent the last winter working on our first Illustrated children book. The title is Illuminature, written by Rachel Williams, and it’s going to be published at the beginning of October 2016. We really enjoyed illustrating a children book and we are currently gathering ideas and materials for a possible new one.