Giuliano Grittini – Photographer, art printer, artist.
My first encounter with Giuliano Grittini was random and actually not looked for either.
I am not an expert in modern art and may never become one actually… I belong to the category of people that, when invited to an art show, try to show a neutral facial expression but in actuality think: “please,no!” “Can’t take this” etc. Because of that, I try to document myself ahead (on the artist and his work alike), to avoid arriving there to admire work that might make me think “if I received it as a gift I would sell it the next day” or “I would not even keep in my dark basement”.
Regretfully, not having had a chance to read anything ahead of time, it truly felt like a blind date. The exhibit was organized by Formitalia Luxury Group SpA and held at the Aston Martin center in Milano. I decided to attend and check out the new “Luxury” line of furniture 100% Made in Italy made for Aston Martin. With that in mind, what started as a blind date, with no particular desire nor any positive energy on my side, turned into a rapid quick change of mind; I loved it! Sort of like “Folgorata sulla via di Damasco”? (ed struck on the road to Damascus). The title was “ I Miti” with work inspired by the luxury cars by Aston Martin as well as icons such as Mick Jagger, The Beatles, Marilyn Monroe and of course the man who better than others spells legacy with Aston Martin: Sean Connery. I recall that the grand opening was set for the next days and therefore it seemed quiet and peaceful for me to attend. It was also happening at the same time as the Salone del Mobile (ed furniture expo). Did i say I was struck? Perhaps a bit more than that. I was admiring each painting for a while. Almost like hypnotized and not paying attention to the clock at all. I recall the one about Mick Jagger in particular… I could not understand why, while being so different and in contrast with one another, when put together they all just worked amazingly well.
Every piece was just so beautiful and in harmony with each other. Silver, gold, an old music script, some hot red color brushes, a bit of a poem, a Mick Jagger picture, all blending into something magic. Quiet some time went by from that blind date, giving me a chance to meet Grittini personally and to appreciate him more, attend other shows and to visit his famous art printing business (www.incisionearte.it). And not to mention… to chat with him for a moment (or two…).
Please continue the reading, as this interview, which serves as a mini biography, rather than a philosophical-artistic dissertation happens to be also a narration of his journey. Perhaps, an aspiring photographer or art printer or artist could benefit from him and transform his dream into reality? This is what transpired from my meeting with his wife Marina Cerati, his daughter Lora and of course with Giuliano Grittini himself.
Marina: Giuliano, as a youngster, along with his brother and as, a result of their father’s death, attended the boarding school, Istituto Pavoniano Artigianelli, located in Via Benigno Crespi, Milano Italy.
At this school there was a lab that focused on teaching young kids an actual profession.
So this was a mandatory choice on one hand, but it turned to be pretty casual on another.
After finishing the boarding school at age 14/15, he started to work. Mostly doing whatever came his way. At that point, he met an artist in Corbetta, and he started to work (at age 16) in his graphic design lab. This is really how it all started. At first with serigraphy, which allowed to get in touch with artists of Andy Warhol’s caliber.
Spending many years in this lab, allowed him to become a specialist at this technique.
At the same time he developed a passion for photography, which led to organize exhibits as well as being one of the featured artist at times.
Right after, he moved to Milano (Via Dell’Orso), to work at a lab which had a show room attached to it.
He worked on lithography and etching. It was at a very central location, with much traffic of very important artists and writers alike. Aligi Sassu and Federica Galli were regulars, just to name a few.
While in Via dell’Orso, aside from mastering the techniques I just mentioned before, he truly started his career as a professional photographer and the first “big scoop” came his way.
At a very important event which the official photographer could not attend, Giuliano volunteered to cover for him. It was a success which led to more work and eventually to become the main and official photographer for the gallery. Needless to say this was a great experience because it allowed him to “capture” many personalities with his camera. Onassis for example and again… many more!
Gabriella: what type of photographer is Giuliano? What does he like to “capture”? Some prefer landscapes rather than animals or flowers? What’s his preference?
Marina: Giuliano has always showed a preference for personalities, their faces, their overall figure. Very often he would visit famous artists studios just to capture them “in the moment.
Gabriella: how did he come up with the idea of opening an art printing facility? When did he start working for himself?
Marina: he always had that idea, but at age 20 he felt ready to open a small workshop. And he started by just printing aquaforte (ed etching). To work on other products there was a need for more machinery and since he could not afford it, he just focused on that. That was a time that offered many working opportunities in the graphics design world.
Gabriella: how did he start? Did he have money to rent a place?
Marina: Not at all… he had opened his first location in a tiny place which was made available by his mother, then later he had moved into an abandoned stable… and slowly he started to gain recognition by working with Federica Galli for example (and print some of her etching work). Later he started collaborating with his friend Enrico Cattaneo who was a master at serigraphy which allowed him to offer more serivces. As soon as some income had started to pour in, he would reinvest to remodel the place. A room at the time and always in small steps.
Gabriella: wow… every artist’s dream is to open an artsy farmhouse!
Marina: it was indeed a real farmhouse surrounded by nature. A very enchanting and poetic location. You said it right: a real artsy farmhouse.
Gabriella: so why did he not stay? What made him move to his current location?
Marina: let’s say that it was time to grow and expand…
Giuliano: no, no, let’s say that we had some issues with ASL (ed medicare). It was a great farmhouse, great to work from, but we were forced out.
Giuliano: well… bureaucracy accounts for people doing plain serigraphy, without considering if they actually specialize in arts. They think that if you do mainstream work, like Borletti for example, which prints tachographs. So if that is not what you do, you must still obey by the same general rules. It does not matter if you print a one off or do volumes of 50 a month. This is the main challenge in Italy is in fact: bureaucracy. You must follow the rules within that category without accounting for the many variations within.
Therefore that wonderful place was no longer apt, for us to continue some business and therefore I found this place which was owned by another enterprise. When they left I was able to lease and eventually buy it (Still paying the mortgage).
On a nicer note, I must say that I had previously found one on Via Picasso and of course with such a name for a street, it would have been very conducive to open there instead.
I continued, and still do, to work for many artists (Robert Carroll, Guido Crepax, Ernest Fuchs, Kei Mitsuuchi, Ugo Nespolo, Enrico Baj, Salvatore Fiume, Aligi Sassu, Renato Guttuso, Federica Galli, Luciano Prada, Emilio Tadini, Valerio Adami, Andy Warhol just to name a few!!)
Gabriella: one of the things that is unique about your art printing business with a showroom attached to it is that you made it into a destination point for many artists and personalities. How so? Was it random?
Giuliano: not at all… I truly wanted that to happen. I love aggregation, having people to meet, network and eventually start something new. A platform in which one could compare to one another. Back in the days, we would host a large size party and invite the artists from Accademia di Brera (ed very famous academy in Italy) and approx. 30 to 40 between artists, gallery owners and photographers, would actually show up.
Some of these connections were the spark to business relations that exist to this date. It was very much like a factory, just like Andy Warhol had done. Being a great admirer of him I had tried to replicate the concept, my way of course.
If people meet, only great things could happen! That was the thinking behind, and in fact, there were shows, events and artists that just became partners in crime and friends alike.
Gabriella: how did you do that? How was it all organized and managed?
Giuliano: every year we would pick a them, such as internet (in the 90’s) or perhaps Alda Merini, or nude arts, or ecology, perhaps Milan. Clearly the challenge was not to come up with a theme. We would provide a special support (usually colorful cardboard) and everyone could just paint at large. By being in the same room everybody was feeding each other with its respective creativity and all to be done on the spot. We have some incredible archive of these meetings.
We had Salvatore Fiume, and on some footage of him, you could see hin drawing a woman from Somalia without lifting the pencil from the sheet, while everyone looked astonished and in complete silence.
Even Munari was part of these meetings… what can I say? There has been some history!
This particula paper that you see here, with a rope inside, was created when Milano was the theme and everyone created some in maximum liberty. We have kept all the creations from that show. We would just hang out, and especially during the summer, with some great music as well… we truly lived some unforgettable moments.
Gabriella: what about your passion for photography?
Giuliano: when I was 6 years old, my father died and my mother moved a bit closer to the city and it was just me, her and my brother. At that time we would get points with each groceries shopping and, while doing so, at completion of the card where you would stick those points on, you would go to the store to redeem a prize. My mother had opted for a bag, but i actually picked up a camera, specifically a Agfa Isolate III.
My mother was a bit disappointed and I offered to buy one purse for her. I lucked out because she did not get too upset and actually believed my story. On top of that, after seeing my growing motivation, she decided to give me a camera that belonged to my father. Therefore this passion is something that has been with me since I was very little.
Gabriella: after creating your own art printing business where you had hosted (and still do) some of the finest artists around, I am wondering how to do you manage to do so in conjunction with the photography? Have these always been running on parallel lanes or actually ended up merging? How does the Giuliano Grittini artist fit into this?
Giuliano: I had started by doing both in what I would call a harmonious parallelism. Then I got tired, because I was cloning some very important artists (including some of the contemporary).
They would come here, bring along their work and ask me to do it since I was better than them.
Therefore I would create some serigraphy for him/her and that is how the Clonart project started actually. (Many booklets are available on this topic).
I love photography more than anything else and I was lucky to had the chance to “shoot” people of all kind and profession. So what I did was simply a merge of the two art forms into one… This is how my my personal work is a combination of photos, meeting special people and by implementing those special art printing techniques.
Gabriella: one last question, Giuliano. What would you suggest to someone that would want to make his/her dream come true? Considering that you actually made it!
Giuliano: to study first and foremost. To be inquisitive and curios, to be willing to explore. Be in sync with the times, travel, be abroad and compare yourself to others you might meet. Step out of your own backyard.
What else could I say at the end of the interview? First off a special thanks for all the time I was given. And of course I invite all the readers to simply take the time to actually visit his facilities because it is truly a magic experience.
Whatever your love for the art might be, even if very low or none (I include myself in this category), there would not be anyone to make you feel uncomfortable there.
Actually, the Grittini family is a great and a very welcoming one. They truly give special meanings to words such as courtesy, kindness, easiness and… patience.
The Grittini Art Printing is a very important and precious asset in Italian history and of the Made in Italy.