When minimalism is fashionable he makes elaborate furniture, when ethnic is all the rage he opts for completely “European” materials and crafts them with Cartesian precision, when hi-tech is in he refers back to master craftsmen.

He has cut an extremely personal path through the vast jungle of interior design, with an anti-modern style that explicitly negates the rationalist principles of functionality and serial reproducibility, indeed often using unrepeatable materials: Murano glass clay no longer in production, elegant details recuperated from dismantled objects and reinterpreted (not that Rida practices creative recycling, but rather salvages individual elements of particular value and sets them in his creations).

Rida conceives furniture and lamps like a goldsmith: choosing rare and precious materials, employing master craftsmen for the processing of glass, bronze, and wood, and above all giving absolute priority to complete creative freedom, to the point of almost discouraging the practical use of his products. His furniture assumes architectural forms, sumptuously decorated with mirrors and

coloured glass in complex geometrical arrangements. Resembling antique treasure chests, his items assume an imposing presence, while sometimes offering very limited storage capacity, large enough only for items of inestimable value (like perhaps a favourite toy from a lost childhood …).

However, this creative freedom, rejection of functionalist rules, does not imply a lack of design rigour, absolute precision of cut, perfect joining. Some of the items are as complex as three dimensional puzzles and it seems incredible that they were designed using traditional means, with a ruler and pencil rather than on a computer. The geometric forms multiply in very subtle variations, adapting to the shape of the individual  item while at the same time perceptually deforming it (Tricot, Tessuto, Mediterraneo, Carefull, Stelle, etc.). Extremely elaborate calculations and strict control during realization lend Rida’s works an antique quality, of painstaking inlays, but in the playful modern spirit that sets them apart.

Rida has an in-depth knowledge of Art Déco and 20th century interior design, from which he draws the  secrets of materials and techniques. He lived for many years in Venice, frequenting the Murano glassworks to learn every aspect of the ancient glassmaking craft, with its softly imprecise shapes and triumph of colours and chromatic patterns.

Returning to Milan he discovered the other face of glass: extremely clear crystals to be worked cold with cutting and engraving of absolute precision. With this patrimony of know-how and the spirit of a treasure hunter he developed a unique archive of glass clays, sheets, bowls - almost enough in themselves to inspire the next  unique creation. Even more extensive is the archive of design models that Rida has filed away in his memory, with the result that one of his items of furniture might include allusions to the Medieval and Art Déco, the Renaissance and 1950s, Cubism and Op Art, in a post-modern spirit arising out of his spontaneous love of shapes, without  any underlying mission but in full awareness of the choices being made. With this unusual approach to design, an encounter with Alessandro Guerriero and  Alchimia was only to be expected. Many people appreciate Rida’s work, but it was Alchimia that provided him with an ideal context, highlighting the harmony of ideas, imaginative freedom, and love of objects typical of his work, and the poetic sense of hanging in balance between the contemporary and uncontemporary.

Rida’s first love were lamps,  with a highly coloured collection of floor lamps created in the 1980s. Today in this sector he mainly develops plastic forms in brass, shaped and finished to display and

exalt glass and crystal elements. There is a prevalence of period glass which, for shape or chromatic quality, has inspired a chain of formal and verbal associations for the author: two simple 1950s lampshades gave rise to Kioto, which with its simple framework and “bunch” of wires tossed, with apparent nonchalance, at the base expresses the balance of refinement and naturalness typical of Japanese culture; Boccio embodies the idea of the development of a flower with an elegant shade, supported with wires that descend from an irregular block of green crystal; Ciaro, a word from the Venetian dialect, epitomizes Murano glass, with soft light filtered by interwoven swirls and filigree patterns, offset by the gloomy lagoon-water shade of the block on which it stands.

All of Rida’s alchemic works are founded on the same underlying ingredients: research into material quality and perfect crafting, distilled with the heat of artistic awareness to realize, perhaps not a homunculus, but certainly beings of striking vitality.

 

(Antonella Rossi Colavini, from: Roberto Giulio Rida “Transmutations of glass”)

Roberto Giulio Rida prefers not to be classed as an artist, but he certainly expresses the fundamental artistic trait of always rising to a challenge.

copyright r.g.rida 2007-2016