Then There Was Us

In the Studio: Damien Cifelli

2023-04-11 – Interview

Tarrogama

Damien Cifelli is a Scottish-born, London-based artist, whose multidisciplinary practice revolves around the imaginative realm of Tarrogama.

Using personal experiences, diasporic creativity, traditional narratives, and contemporary shared encounters as sources of inspiration, he produces striking, often large-scale works that capture the essence of this colourful universe. Through a kind of fictional anthropology, his art illustrates that this imaginary world, despite its surreal nature, is not so different from our own. As a result, he encourages us to contemplate the underlying themes he explores -  community and connection - which he argues have become increasingly crucial in contemporary society.

Can you tell us a bit about your process, do you typically only work on one piece at a time?

Yeah, I usually have quite a clear image in my head and I can’t move on to something else until I’ve got it out, but I’m always planning the next piece while I’m working on one.

 When did the idea of Tarogramma first come about?

I’ve always been interested in working in a wide range of different mediums, but it's hard to build a particular style if you spread yourself so thin. As a kid, I was fascinated by adventure novels and explorers: the idea of discovering a new place. I realised that if I created my own world I could use it as a vessel for all the ideas I have.

Where do you find inspiration for your work?

I find a lot of inspiration in travel. I love seeing the distinct visual cultures that are built up and refined over generations. There is meaning behind everything, it's so nuanced it would take forever to really understand it all. I was recently in Uzbekistan, then South Korea. They have very different aesthetics, one has an ancient feel and the other feels incredibly futuristic, but both have a really rich sense of their own identity.

Can you tell me about any other influences, (other artists, music etc.)?

I can be inspired by anything; more often books, music and films than art. I recently saw my first ballet, Coppelia by Scottish Ballet, and filled my notes app with ideas as soon as I left. I’m inspired by people who can build worlds or create a strong visual identity, people like Charles Avery, David Bowie, Lynne Ramsay, Young Fathers, Charles Jeffrey, Rosalia, Sun Ra, Clarice Lispector, etc. etc.

What are the most important elements that make a good workspace for you?

For me it’s not so much about the physical space but the people around you. I’m not the traditional, solitary artist, I prefer to work with other people around me. In my space, I’m surrounded by people who work in lots of different industries, which is really stimulating. It’s great to have that variation because who wants to talk to artists all day?

Find more from Damien over on his Website and Instagram.
Photography: Josh Bright.

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