Eco-social artist Luca Gnizio in the Italian pavilion for Expo 2020 Dubai


Sustainability is on everyone’s lips, with endless talk about reuse and the circular economy. But in an emergency – i.e. when taking a closer look at the products made from waste – we rarely see anything really effective or simply beautiful.
With this attitude, Luca Gnizio decided to suggest another route. In 2009 the Italian designer created a new subject: the eco-social artist, combining his artistic and technical background with his environmental commitment to forge an innovative artistic trend with a special focus on environmental and social issues, all based on the recycling of industrial waste.
This approach earned him a few strange looks at first, but the collaborations – including with international companies such as BMW, Levi’s and Piaggio – came in quickly, followed closely by a number of awards. For this reason Gnizio was named by the CNA – the National Craft Council of Italy – as one of the ten outstanding representatives of Italy for the ‘Success stories“About ecology, beauty and recycling at Expo Dubai. Together with the MPMI group (Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises) of the Italian trade and investment agency under which it operates, the CNA organized a seminar to present a total of ten success stories of Italian companies, each of which has a high level of innovation in Regarding product, process, research and materials. Among them is Luca Gnizio, who explains his philosophy as follows: “By acting creatively, I am constantly trying to refute the idea that waste materials make inferior products. But on the contrary! Waste can be turned into something beautiful and functional. I don’t just mean works of art; my work includes ecological innovation, which leads to new patented processes and products. “ In fact, he is the pioneer behind two ecological and technological innovations: The carbon fiber production waste from BMW and the SGL Carbon Group are now two of the artist’s ecological patents.
His latest work is entitled “Pandemic design“. It is a triptych based on one of his first creations. “Asfalto“: A chair made from asphalt scraps. In response to the pandemic where we hid in our homes to escape contagion, Gnizio’s work examines our domestic world with elements of our daily life – a chair, a table and a painting – which are reinterpreted with asphalt, as in its original creation: an omnipresent material, yes, but one that unfolds a high level of effectiveness from its familiar context. Just as we see in reality that slender blades of grass split the road when it is no longer used, we see plants growing in the three elements that the artist has put together. Something we would normally never experience has become a feature of this piece thanks to Gnizio’s artistic gesture. An almost metaphysical ensemble designed to stimulate our reflection on how short-lived the presence of humanity on earth really is. The planet doesn’t care whether we are here or not: Nature – even if perhaps in a different form than we see it today – will always prevail in the end.
Pandemic design, exhibited in the Superstudio Maxi during Milan Design Week, has become an installation that can be interpreted on several levels: as an artistic gesture, as a social criticism and as a call for environmental protection. Everything in one package that is spectacularly elegant in workmanship and concept. Because here, as with all of his creations, Gnizio has placed the emphasis on the intrinsic beauty of the objects he has created. Whether seats made from used Levi’s jeans – which led to the establishment of new educational and artistic sewing courses – or the carbon fiber with which he creates sculptural armchairs, it is always the beauty of his handmade objects that makes them unique and precious. What we are seeing here is not just the reuse and recycling of a waste product, but an unrivaled example of upcycling. The final product has a new value that is not only intellectual but also social by making an effort to involve artisans, groups of fragile people, who become a crucial part of the entire creative process. An approach Dubai could learn a lesson or two from!

Christiane Bürklein

Project: Luca Gnizio
Year: 2021
Images: courtesy of Luca Gnizio, Tel. Fabio Patrassi

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