Riccardo Monte is an Italian architect and artist who grew up in the the Italian Alps close to the Swiss boarder. He spent eight years living and working in London with some of the most vibrant architects and designers in Europe. He's now returned to the mountainside, creating misty impressions of the sights that surround him. But despite the dramatic change of scene, Riccardo describes how his process has remained unchanged, and sacrosanct.
Cover image: Riccardo Monte, in his studio in Ornavasso
Below: Riccardo's mountain workshop, where he escapes to find solitude and nature
"After I finished my architecture course at Politecnico di Milano, I immediately started my personal adventure in the art world of London. I was lucky enough to have worked on exceptional architectural projects. Above all, I fell in love with London – its rhythm, its people, its vibrancy, its creativity, its enthusiasm, its history, its art and so on, weather included".
Like any other artist living in a city Riccardo's bread and butter didn't come cheap – it was model-making and architecture that made sure that he had enough to survive on. But beyond that, Riccardo's passion for the city and the people he collaborated within it drove him to expand his own creative horizons, working towards a lifestyle which fed that creativity.
"You're always busy.
Finding time for yourself
becomes a real skill"
"I collaborated with a lot of architects and artists, all of them incredibly talented. Working with them opened my mind and I learnt the meaning of professionalism, passion, creativity and craftsmanship," Riccardo says. "But London is a fast city and following its rhythm isn't easy. You're always busy – work, events, parties, exhibitions, theatre, markets, jogging in the park, pubs and so on. Finding time for yourself becomes a real skill".
It was only after a few years that Riccardo found a good life balance for himself in the city. He carved out a schedule that gave him more time for himself, and therefore more time for art. Although he describes this balance as something that came to him over time, to the outsider it seems more accurate that it was a consequence of his personal insistence and resistance to the city's recreational pull.
"Sunday afternoons, and Saturdays too... and sometimes even Friday evenings, became almost sacred. My diary had to be free. Because that's when I could carry on with my work and develop my thoughts and ideas," Riccardo asserts, acknowledging his need to escape the city to produce art, even if it was the city that delivered his most inspired moments. "London gave me a lot. From day one until the day I left it was a continuous learning process. The city gives you a certain energy that, at some point, you become addicted to. It becomes hard to leave and go somewhere else. Every corner of London is a surprise, an emotion. Its environment, fresh and vibrant, inspired me as much as a beautiful sky full of clouds would".
Riccardo Monte, Forms 2, charcoal on paper, 100x35cm
"The city gives you a certain
energy that, at some point,
you become addicted to"
Riccardo did escape the grip of the city. He returned to Italy in August 2016 where he virtually exiled himself in a mountain cabin, usually used as a summer house by his family. "I'm quite stubborn and decided to spend all winter there alone – no electricity, no internet connection, not even a real road". His cabin-come-studio is located at Alpe Cortevecchio, 1,500 metres above sea level in Ornavasso, near the Lake Maggiore. Here, in a place made up of merely fifteen human-dwelling cabins, Riccardo set up a workshop in which to paint and sculpt.
Riccardo Monte, Forms 3, charcoal on paper, 100x30cm
"Being inside my mountain cabin – alone – with the natural elements outside, is a unique experience. I love walking alone in the forest, through valleys and up to the mountain peaks. Everything created by nature inspires me, not just for my art but as a means of understanding life. In nature I find the meaning of real values, and what most is fascinating me at the moment, beauty. It is hard to find a tree a flower or a cloud that isn't beautiful". Riccardo's love affair with nature is central to his work. His charcoal compositions might be mistaken for arbitrary or abstract forms, but in actuality they represent the geological compositions he's discovered during solitary explorations on the mountain side.
Riccardo Monte, Forms 5, detail
"Everything created by nature inspires me.
It is hard to find a tree a flower or
a cloud that isn't beautiful"
The age-old dichotomy of city vs country is alive in so many visual artists. Both places can be suffocating – one from its hyper-stimulation, its aggression, its ability to alienate and overlook; the other from its solitude, its silence, and its resistance to change or grow. Artists have moved from country to city and back in search of the place where they can begin to thrive. But if Riccardo's model is anything to go by, that place has nothing to do with geography. It's a place where balance and self-control have been harnessed, contained and kept intact – despite all and any external elements.
Riccardo is an architect, painter, and sculptor. He is currently building a studio workshop in Ornavasso, near the Lake Maggiore. He spends most days painting, designing a small house in the forest, working on product design, and sculpting in timber. Riccardo is working on creating a workshop where art and architecture work hand in hand, with craftsmanship and passion as a singular ethos.