The Room I’m In 

Michele De Lucchi

31 May –  15 June 2024

Novalis Art Design

G/F, 197 Hollywood Road, Hong Kong

The Room I’m In

This short text serves as a premise for all the activities at this time and gives meaning to the title of the exhibitions in the Far East, in Hong Kong and Tokyo, and to who knows where next. It means that I am always inside a room, which undoubtedly refers to the room I am in now. Also, the mental room is the specific area in which I orient my perceptions, my curiosity, and the sense of what I am doing. I didn’t think about which room I ended up in when I was younger. I would wander from room to room, discovering that there were many, many rooms. Well, very well, I wanted to see them all, and I wanted to experience the different atmospheres of each room. To enjoy the morning and afternoon light in my rooms, the sunrise and sunset, the rainy days and the sunny days, the passing of the seasons and the feelings that each season arouses. They were always rooms in one house, a very large one, that just had no end, and I imagined, going around it, that one day I would be able to find the front door. Then I would go out and finally see the house from the outside, in one glance, and I expected I would understand everything.

That never happened, clearly, because I am still wandering around those rooms, enjoying the light that changes throughout the day and the temperatures that vary throughout the seasons. On the walls, I have attached so many memories, drawings, plans, photographs, writings, thoughts, theories, and nursery rhymes, and whenever I enter a room, regardless of the time of day and season, irrespective of the orientation of the windows and the amount of light that penetrates them, I discover bits and pieces of my past that comfort me, reassure me, and, thankfully, still motivate me to keep going. And fortunately, I do not stop. I know I probably won’t find the impetus one day, but so be it; for me, that day is still far away, and it is not up to me to decide if and when to make it come.

The skin with old age becomes thinner. We become more sensitive and alarmed at the unexpected. As we age, we lose the strength and ability to react energetically, and the fear grows that we will not be able to survive and cope with the demands of physical power that we had in our youth. In early adulthood, one does not think about this. One relies on a mysterious as well as nonexistent reserve, stowed away no one knows where, somewhere in the body certainly, the body that one does not know enough about and that indeed, one mistakenly thinks, hides extraordinary stores of strength stored well in youth and ready for them to be used at the appropriate time when one needs it. And then, year after year, it turns out that that mysterious part of the body where the stores for old age are, are not there, and those stores never existed.

So, as the skin becomes thinner, with a more careful mind and a little wisdom and prudence, which are my hallmarks, I measure strength and define ambitions. Instead of reducing, I recharge and pump them up to the most extreme limit, more or less aware but sure that those rooms are worth inhabiting. “The room I’m in”, in fact. On the walls hang so many artefacts, some valuable, some ordinary, some with no value except to refer to the value of something else. Those walls that border our rooms are like a skin. A skin that is not turned outward like our bodies that is not meant to demarcate our limbs and act as an interface with what is outside but turned inward. This skin serves to look inside, inside ourselves, inside the mind that belongs to us and to which we belong. I personally use this concept of “The room I’m in” a lot and distinguish each room carefully because each room is a place of inspiration and influence; it is the physical, mental and disciplinary context in which my ideas take shape.

Michele De Lucchi, May 2024

Small Monuments of Everyday Life

By Vera Canevazzi


“Essence and existence, imaginary and real, visible and invisible:

painting blurs all our categories,

unfolding its dreamlike universe of carnal essences,

of powerful resemblances, of mute meanings”

Maurice Merleau-Ponty, “Eye and Mind”, 1989


In the exhibition “The Room I’m In” at Novalis Art Design in Hong Kong, Michele De Lucchi explores the complex interaction between human beings and the surrounding environment, between the flow of past time and the liveliness of the present. He invites us to reflect on our ability to communicate and our constant effort to give meaning and value to everything around us.

The exhibition consists of almost thirty recently created works: ten small wooden sculptures divided into two distinctive series, “Casa con gli abbaini” (House with Dormers) and “Padiglione con le gambe”(Pavilion with Legs), three bronze sculptures, called by the author “Sasso in bronzo” (Bronze Rock), sixteen paintings on paper, and a lithographic work “Architetture ideografiche” (Ideographic Architectures). Despite representing common objects such as simply shaped houses, pavilions, and rocks, these works present unusual elements: the little houses are dotted with irregular dormers, the small sheds rest on ashlar pillars, the rocks cast in bronze lose the irregularity of the natural material, adopting strong sculptural characteristics, and the paintings, like all objects presented, become almost surreal thanks to the vivacity of the chosen colours.

Filled with alienating and original details, these works reveal the intrinsic multiplicity of our perception because a house is not just a physical structure, but a weave of objects, narratives, relationships, and meanings constantly changing over time. By using archetypal forms, De Lucchi exploits the power of “symbolic-narrative language”, a code that, as theorized by the Israeli anthropologist Yuval Noah Harari, has shaped human evolution, allowing us to convey complex concepts through easily understood representations.

The importance of object symbolism in De Lucchi’s poetic echoes that of Giorgio Morandi, one of his favourite artists. Like Morandi, De Lucchi focuses on the contemplation of everyday things, transforming the banality of a common object into a symbolic figure. Both artists abstract the object from its canonical meaning whilst affirming its physicality through pure representation. Also, they share a similar solitary and contemplative lifestyle, finding inspiration in the repetition of the artistic gesture and the rigor of the creative process. Just as Morandi found comfort in long solitary periods spent in his studio in Grizzana, far from a glamorous life, De Lucchi retreats to the tranquil and isolated confines of his studio in Arona, building small monuments of daily life.

In his workshop, almost like a fairy-tale character, Michele De Lucchi works with wood, meticulously selecting blocks, carving them, smoothing them, tracing their essential lines, defining their contours, to outline their shell, the border between the object’s space and that of the surrounding world. He carefully works on the patina, on the effects of light on the surface, experimenting with different reactants and observing their response on the material, sometimes treating it with iron acetate, with oils, or painting it. His research focuses on the exterior of his works because appearance is our first instinctive perception of the world. The internal space seems non-existent: the sculptures are solid, the paintings have no perspec- tive, they are “flattened” in the foreground, in their absolute two-dimensionality.

Wood is certainly De Lucchi’s preferred material: he defines it as “ancient” for its millenary history, already used at the time of Egyptian pyramids, but simultaneously “contemporary” for its eco-sustainability. However, he admits that wood is also a “cowardly” material, subject to cracks, swelling, and moisture absorption. For this reason, in the last period, as seen in his series of rock sculptures, he began using bronze as well, to solve conservation issues, especially in the creation of outdoor works or installations. In general, De Lucchi shows a predilection for natural materials, such as wood and paper, and for essential forms, trying to seek some sort of purity and a return to the origins through ancestral symbols: little houses, rocks, huts, mountains, mounds. This inclination comes from his early experiences in radical architecture, his participation in the Global Tools movement and in the Cavart group in the seventies. During that period of great cultural ferment, people reflected on redefining the concept of living and on the research of primary structures, with the aim of rediscovering an ancient way of making, using human tools such as hands, feet, and body to interact with the surrounding environment. In this debate, exchanges among artists were very lively, especially in Italy, and particularly with Germano Celant and Arte Povera. These encounters converged into a vision that the artistic gesture should be free from historical constraints and conventions, in an attempt to decontextualize the work from the traditional canons of art history.

In Michele De Lucchi’s journey, these experiences are manifested through the production of artisanal artworks, unique and unrepeatable objects with imperfections, that carry their creator’s history and hand. His pace of work is never too slow or detailed, nor too fast and crude, but rather “it is what one could perceive as the ‘right’ amount of time, the way that everything in these works can be seen as the fruit of a meditated gesture in which nothing is superfluous” (Giuliana Altea, “Sculpture as a model” in “Haystacks”, 2017, p. 52). Therefore the artist’s works, characterized by a strong human component, aim for a conceptual synthesis rather than formal perfection.

The immediacy of his artistic gesture is reflected in his painting technique. De Lucchi paints multiple layers: first, he creates monochrome backgrounds, lets them settle, and then gradually adds other layers. This way, images are created by overlapping materials and designs, each component leaves its trace, acting as a bridge to the next. In this continuous backward labor limae (fine-tuning), where nothing is removed but rather added through constant research and refinement of surfaces, De Lucchi’s works are in constant evolution, they are “open works,” as Umberto Eco would say, allowing room for continuous readings and re-readings, inspirations, and ideas.

Each painting by Michele De Lucchi becomes a stage where imagination comes to life, shaping dreamlike and fairy-tale scenes with the human figure always present, albeit in a stylized and smaller-scale form. Each work becomes a narrative canvas, where visual fascinations and emotional cues intertwine. De Lucchi immerses himself in this array of stimuli, seeking to capture and mould them. He believes that, in a society oriented towards standardization and pursuit of numerical results, the artist’s task is to create spaces of pure expression, capable of awakening the genuine ability, inherent in each of us, to create stories. This way, De Lucchi’s works offer not only a space for artistic exploration but also an invitation to rediscover the beauty and poetry of the world around us.