One Discipline: Benny Andallo in Conversation with Rafaella Braga
Culture — 22.07.20
Words & Creative Direction: Rhianedd Dancey
Artists: Rafaella Braga & Benny Andallo
Photography: Celine Paradis
Rafaella Braga is a Brazillian multidisciplinary artist based in Berlin. Her paintings emulate personal vulnerability, bringing vibrant fluidity to the gazing eye. Benny Andallo, a London-based artist, creates millinery pieces filled with “tales of spicy debauchery” to stimulate and excite the wearer. Amidst the global pandemic back in April, these two artists exchanged thoughts, dreams and processes behind their disciplines.
Rafaella: What first attracted you to work specifically with hats?
Benny: Whilst I was studying fashion, I created sculptural paper-mache headpieces to complete a silhouette that fulfilled a concept. After leaving university, I ended up in an uncreative job in which I started making hats for myself. It was a way for me to stay creatively stimulated and to spice up my wardrobe. I just wanted to make stuff that excited me!
Benny: I see vibrancy, chaos and a kaleidoscope of graphical visual noise in your work. What informs the subject of your paintings?
Rafaella: The connection between mundane life and the intangible nature of dreams play a role in my work. More specifically, when it comes to the body nuances inside these aspects, as a social, anatomical and subjective being.
Rafaella: I love how loud your pieces are, and how you bring life to them by adding textures, flashing colours, and energetic forms. What’s the significance that it has for you?
Benny: London is quite a grey place in general, and I hope my hats bring more colour, energy, and edge to it. Colourful comes out naturally in my work. I’ve always been obsessed with all things visually noisy. I feel most confident when I’m experimenting and expressing myself with colour and texture combinations in my work, and even in the way, I dress. If I can wear it I’m happy for others to!
Rafaella: Looking at your work, I feel like I’m diving in a whole universe of magic and fantasy. Our world is passing through a continuous and turbulent crisis. Do you think that imaginary surrealism in your work is also a tool to escape from this reality?
Benny: I wouldn’t say I escape too much from reality but definitely trying to contribute to a better one bringing out the magic and confidence in myself and others. Finding a balance between fantasy and reality – creating something new yet familiar.
Benny: Does being part of a diaspora change the way you’re perceived as an artist? Is there a fetishisation of being ‘different’?
Rafaella: To make art as a woman of the diaspora means you’re spreading some ancestral roots inside a society where white supremacy persists, and that fact is not well accepted. I often realise how slowly my work is integrated into an art field that still very male-dominated, white and Eurocentric. My work is often made invisible because it’s seen through a colonising perspective that objectifies our bodies as an “Other”. But I understand the coloniser gaze is illusionary and I don’t care about its validation.
Rafaella: You have been using a lot of faux fur. When did you realise you wanted to work with this material?
Benny: I started working with faux fur when I collaborated on some hats with my boyfriend Ed Curtis. We knew we wanted to make something that was ridiculously fun and vibrant to go with his collection. The final outcome became an object that invited you to touch and play with. The texture just brings life to a colour and it just creates automatic fabness. I don’t use real fur but for me, sustainability has to be deeper than just the material. I would never say that I am 100% sustainable but I try and do my best at being creatively resourceful and not overproducing.
Benny: I create my best work under limitations and through music. What mood and situation do you need to create work that feels right?
Rafaella: The work environment is something really important for me. I need to feel safe enough to communicate and open up truly. This means to be completely alone, in silence, surrounded by my flowers, fruits and a window where I can observe the different shades of blue in the sky and the birds flying and singing. The studio is that kind of sacred space for me, a little world filled with my secrets. Embodying my innocence and vulnerabilities.
Rafaella: If your pieces could speak, which stories would they tell?
Benny: Tales of spicy debauchery.
Follow Rafaella Braga’s work through her Instagram.
You can also stay up-to-date with Benny Andallo’s millinery work through his Instagram.