Hello Dear Molly Pi. Thank you for giving us the chance to Interview with you. Our first question is how the “Covid-19” affects your art?

Hello and thank you for having me. Covid-19 has indeed affected my process. As the pandemic hit Switzerland my activity as museum curator was compromised and I found myself facing the impossibility to exhibit – hence analyse within the context of a scientific publication – the works of other artists. My education trained me to look at images and artefacts and to analyse them from an art- and cultural historical perspective. In this sense, I can clearly state that for me the reception of any piece of work is strongly connected to knowledge rather than subjective emotion. This said, and to reply to your question, Covid-19 made me even more sceptical of the public institutions. I witnessed first-hand how public institutions reacted to the pandemic by, for instance, sacrificing the quality of the works’ content over their appearance and display. The art world – I am thinking about the art trends but also the artistic motivations  – depend more than ever on the economical dimension. I have in particular observed that the knowledge of culture(s) and history is becoming more and more obsolete. My art tries therefore to resume a highly (art)history focused attitude with the aim to encourage the autonomy of the artist’s discourse.

What is the hardest part of creating a painting?

For me the hardest part of creating a painting is building the most efficient thread between the conceptual image and the visual result. The struggle lies in trying to make the image – and my intentions behind it – as clear as possible. Since a large part of my works actually resides in the idea, I don’t want the latter to be lost during the process. Of course, I am well aware that at least a fragment of the work’s reception will necessarily depend on the viewer, since we all face reality with the tools we already possess. But, on the other hand, this is exactly the reason why I can’t afford to be misunderstood. As a scholar, I know very well that there are rules to write an essay as to make it as clear as possible: the epistemology needs to be stated, the choice of the subject needs to be justified, the methodology needs to be presented, the sources need to be analysed first-hand, the research needs to be feasible. It may sound very oppressive but the objective is to communicate with a common language, even within the context of a debate. This is the same spirit that fuels the creation of my images: I wish for my message to be seen and understood as objectively as possible.

How do you choose the subject of your painting? And what is your artwork exploring, underneath everything?

The choice of the subject is the part that I feel as the most connected to my intimacy: it’s the phase that stirs my emotions and requires meditation. Since I first stated drawing – as a child – the process has always been about looking inside oneself to unravel tensions and mysteries of the mind. I was always very sensitive and very subjective to (auto)destructive thoughts and it took me a very long time to understand my actions and myself. My subjects are always a manifestation of the themes that guide me the most: the femme fatale; the ecce donna motif; the vanitas; and alchemy. All themes these are deeply rooted in my identity, and I will try to briefly explain how. The femme fatale is my first interest. The femme fatale is a sort of archetype that can be found across time, cultures and the media. I primarily draw cultural elements from the Western 19th-century context, where the “revival” of such figure is closely related to female sexuality. By drawing femmes fatales I wish to validate the individual and collective awareness of female sexual expression. The second theme, ecce donna, is a sort of counter-point of the femme fatale. It’s no secret that a liberated self-expression may lead to suffering and violence – mental and physical. Following the spiritual example of the Passion and the tradition of the Devotional Images, this theme aims to always conceive suffering as a sacrifice worth enduring in order to transmit a message. Thirdly, I show an interest for the vanitas. It’s a motif that helped me progress a lot: as a reminder of the ephemerality of life, I see vanitas paintings as comforting images. They feel like sweet whispers saying: “everything is going to be okay”. My fourth focus is around the spiritual discipline of Alchemy. Expression, sacrifice and vanitas all participate to the search for a coherent sense of self, which in my view is embodied by the alchemical Magmum Opus.

What is your creative process like?

The creative process always starts with a personal feeling. This feeling is often obscure and confused: time and reflection are required to understand its shape and nature. Being able to understand and manage my emotions was never among my strongest assets, and even today I strongly rely on “solving” whatever mental process could have generated instability. Detachment becomes a key moment of the creative process. I compare my first feeling, which is the trigger, to a burning flame. By sitting still and venturing into myself I can progressively abandon my emotions, my chaotic thoughts and my material shell to find collective images able to say my message with clear and recognisable signs. I strongly believe in avoiding an entirely ego-centred process because our subjectivity will never even remotely equal the largeness of history. There is so much knowledge out there and life is short compared to the infinite. Molly Pi is my sage avatar: an explorer of the infinite dimension, a simple but dedicated woman meticulously travelling along the figures of the π (pi) number. This way, I can sit still while the flame burns and I can deliver new images by putting together pieces of the past.

Can you give us a spoiler on what’s coming next for Molly Pi?

Yes, of course. I am working on creating a body of narrative images, with the aim to illustrate stories. I want to “soften” my usual compositions and allow myself to leave some empty spaces. Within the context of a story – i.e. a work composed by multiple images – I will feel more comfortable in diluting the contents in each image and experiment with only small hints of a larger message.