“I strongly believe that when you make art, you have to reflect yourself in it. 
Every artwork has to tell the story of the person who created it. Only in this way can we create something authentic that resonates with the viewers.” 

After earning a degree in Art History from the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, Milena Paladino decided to follow her passion and move to Italy. An extensive search for the right medium to express her creativity eventually led her to the creation of textile works for which she uses a punch needle technique.

Working with the punch needle technique and natural fabrics like wool or alpaca, gives her body of work a strong visual impact and adds a sensory aspect. Its exceptional quality lies in that it is not only concerned with linear or color composition, but also presents a certain tactile quality. Her pieces thus allow the viewer to satisfy a visual need and the tactile need for close contact with a work of art.

 

Milena Paladino in her studio.

 

Specialising in still life, her work showcases delicate and simple compositional arrangements of forms and shapes. In a constant search for the essence and purity of form, the artist is guided by the aspiration for clarity, a sense of proportion, and harmony. This results in works that are both minimal and sensual.

INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST

Q. How did your education in Art History previously contribute to your artistic development later on?

A. I’ve always been a good observer and a beauty seeker in everything surrounding me. The path I chose to study art history was as natural as possible for me. Constant contact with art helped me develop many skills. During my time at the university, I’ve learnt how to make visual arguments and, above all, train my eyes in critical-looking skills. This experience helped me a lot with my artistic development later on because it allowed me to expand my perception of reality and visual analysis.

Vase Composition II'22, 2022
Alpaca and Cotton Embroidery on Linen, Framed


Q. Was there a pivotal moment in your artistic practice?

A. I think the discovery of the aesthetic of textile art was one of such moments. I immediately felt that it was something of mine, something that I fully found myself in. I realised that this medium helps me best express my sensitivity.


Q. Are you inspired by any other form of artistic or creative discipline/s?

A. Recently I feel very inspired by modern design objects or contemporary ceramic works. I found in them a common ground with my search and use of lines, shape, composition and texture. I’m very close to the thought of reuniting fine art with modern design, and creating out of this union objects with the soul of artworks.

Vase Composition IX'21, 2021
Alpaca and Cotton Embroidery on Linen, Framed


Q. Can you describe the artistic process of creating each artwork?

A. I usually start with a drawing. I do a lot of sketches in my sketchbook and try to put the idea of the composition in my head onto paper. Finding the perfect lines and shapes is usually intuitive for me. I know when the composition is good and ready when I see it, and I don’t want to change anything about it. As I’ve told you earlier, the skill of critical looking that I developed during my art school and university years helps a lot here. After the composition is ready, I transfer the design onto the pre-stretched linen or cotton canvas, so I can see where the embroidery parts have to be done and which parts must be left untouched. 

The basis of my works is precisely this contrast between filling and emptiness. When doing the initial linear embroidery of the composition, I focus mainly on the expressiveness of the line, differentiating its thickness. I choose mainly neutral colours for the rest of the embroidery to emphasise the harmony of the composition. Each element is supposed to harmonise and strive for visual contemplation. I do all my embroideries using the punch needle technique. And as I embrace the technical and aesthetic challenges of weaving, I mostly prefer to experiment with the medium and see what visual aspects can come from it.


Q. How did you get started with textile art and why do you like it?

A. Creativity has always been one of my main personality traits. I learned how to paint, draw, sculpt in clay, and design graphic projects in art school. At the university, I expanded this practical knowledge to include theoretical aspects of art and its reception. But during all these years, I couldn’t find a form of creativity that would fully allow me to express myself. 

One day, with absolutely no great expectations for the result, I decided to embroider rather than paint one of my sketched compositions directly on the canvas. The embroidery process itself turned out to be a very relaxing and mesmerising experience. I completely lost myself in it. Also, seeing how satisfying the visual aspect of the finished work was for me, I immediately understood that I had found something special.

Vase Composition I'22, 2022
Alpaca and Cotton Embroidery on Linen, Framed

Q. You seem to have experimented with different mediums before settling on textile. How do you think working with textiles is unique to you then?

A. Textile art has played a part in functional and decorative man-made objects for thousands of years. Before Anni Albers (a 20th-century textile artist), weaving was a craft, then it became an art. An art that can be simultaneously beautiful and useful. As any art, textile art continues to reinvent itself and this gives us countless opportunities to express ourselves while keeping many valuable practical textile traditions alive. It is the combination of the tradition and your present experience that creates the future of this art, giving you the feeling that you belong to something greater than yourself.


Q. Can you tell us more about the alpaca, cotton and linen materials and their handling techniques in your artistic creations? Also, what does the use of these materials mean to you?

A. I use natural materials to create my artworks, like alpaca and cotton yarns, because they offer the best aesthetic and sensory quality. I want my collectors to have contact with a truly high-quality product. The softness of alpaca, contrasted with the rawer nature of cotton, creates dynamic relations on the canvas. One of the most interesting aspects of yarn materials is their warmth and tactility. They have souls. Thanks to their soft materiality it is absolutely natural that they just have to be touched. My works require human interaction to fully understand what makes them valuable.

Vase Composition IV'22, 2022
Alpaca and Cotton Embroidery on Canvas, Framed

Q. Your artworks give away a sense of calmness and harmony. Is this what you would like to express and convey to the viewers?

A. Anish Kapoor said that ‘Art inspires and guides the poetic in us.’ I find myself completely in this statement. I strongly believe that when you make art, you have to reflect yourself in it. Every artwork has to tell the story of the person who created it. Only in this way we can create something authentic that resonates with the viewer. The strength and authenticity of our self-expression capture their imagination on which their emotional attachment is founded. It is important to me because I know that it is my collectors, not me, who will live with my works. And to be able to live with something requires an emotional connection with its owner. It requires an investment and a commitment. We buy things to live with us because we love them and they speak to us in some way or another. They show something of who we are. They give us soul-trembling experience derived from nameless emotions. I want to provide all of that.


Q. You said that you want to capture sublime tenderness and delicacy in your artwork. Can you explain your approach to achieving that?

A. As I mentioned before, I am deeply convinced that the art you create, besides the other arguments you want to express through it, must also talk about you. I try to strive for harmony, focusing on exploring colour, form, and composition in the pursuit of beauty. Through tangible materials, I want to express also intangible emotions: memories, dreams, silence and more.

Vase Composition II'21, 2021
Alpaca and Cotton Embroidery on Canvas, Framed


Q. How would you describe yourself and how are you expressing that through your artworks?

A. For many years, I was a very shy person who let very few people into my world. I was always rather the one who listened than the one who spoke. And it never bothered me because it allowed me to see the details that others were missing. It made me sensitive to the beauty surrounding us and allowed me to understand the value of silence. As I got older, I learned that you don't always have to be like everyone else, and that this feeling makes you special. Moreover, there are many people who perceive the world in the same way. It made me understand that the most important thing is to always be honest with yourself and not pretend to be someone you are not. So, I am a delicate and sensitive person, full of reserve but also open to the beauty of this world. I hope my art reflects this vision, of how I see myself in the world and how I want to show this to others.


Q. Is there any reason that minimalistic still life interests you? Or do they have a special meaning for you?

A. I have always been interested in the lines and flat surfaces in the composition, and their mutual relations, which often lead to a more abstract than realistic perception of an image. A reality that is beginning to capture something elusive close to abstraction. My paintings do not show real objects, so they are not typical still life. Instead, they are a search for a form that encapsulates the interdependence of lines and surfaces. What counts in them is not a single object but the whole as a form. And this form is simplified to minimalism because simplicity is the sincerest form of expression. It brings us poetic moments. And maybe not for all of us, but for some, sometimes poetic, intangible beauty is enough.


Q. Could you describe your work in three words?

A. Subtle - Minimal - Elegant