The simple and fascinating colour scheme of Olimpia Zagnoli’s shapes
Olimpia Zagnoli, born in Montecchio Emilia in 1984, has colour and shapes running in her genes. Her painter mother and her design photographer father helped to nurture her talent as a designer, illustrator and artist. Attending the IED in Milan allowed her to grow, exploding into a precise and detailed search for her own expressive identity through her study of Bruno Munari, Riccardo Scarry and Charlotte Perriand, graphics of the Sixties and Futurism and Pablo Picasso. The result was the affirmation of Zagnoli as one of the greatest and best-known Italian illustrators, her artistic image defined as consisting of soft shapes and saturated colours. Zagnoli is, therefore, a kaleidoscope of artistic soul that has set no limits in the expression of her illustrations over the course of her ten-year career. In fact, she has collaborated with The New York Times, Taschen, Penguin and Apartamento Magazine, and has illustrated two children’s books: Il Mondo è Tuo (The World is Yours) and Signor Orizzontale e Signora Verticale (Mister Horizontal and Miss Vertical). She has curated campaigns for Google, Apple, Barilla, Fiat, Illy and Uniqlo, as well as collaborating with the fashion world with brands and maisons such as Swatch, Fendi, Dior, Marella and Prada, to name a few. But that’s not all. At the same time, Olimpia Zagnoli has increasingly developed her artistic research with visual experiments such as music videos, design objects and interactive sculptures, exhibited in her numerous solo exhibitions around the world.
Her acronym, OZ, is therefore synonymous with imagination and polychrome, with fresh and natural images displayed on drawings, prints, neon, fabrics and sculptures. Colour is a fundamental aspect making up her work; it is the very essence of her art, capable of defining and identifying each piece. This comes to life when the illustrator searches for an idea, usually letting the pencil or pen express themselves on the paper, then defining it, converting it to digital and starting to work on it and adjusting it. Only then does the colour come into play, taking up to fifty different combinations, as it is the essence and definition of her work. The shapes that Zagnoli creates are, therefore, simple and minimal, and this is the focal point through which she defines her simple art. This visual poetics knows no limits and is expressed freely and in the same way, both when the Italian illustrator creates for her own artistic freedom, and when she has to handle big brands or commissions, even the editorial ones. When she has had to deal with children’s publishing, as in the case of the two books she has created, she kept the target audience in mind, intriguing them, inspiring them and involving them, yet remaining faithful to her idea of illustration. Olimpia Zagnoli likes to mix art with brands, the more global diffusion of an idea with what is more intimate with the exact same curiosity.
Her illustrations often reflect her views on society as well, based on the assumption that an artist should develop a critical eye towards the world.
Caleidoscopica is a book that celebrates the last ten years of her work, published by Lazy Dog and edited by Melania Gazzotti. It is a collection of over a hundred works, displayed and developed on similarities of form and themes: straight lines or repetitions, or food, kisses, sex, nature and architecture. 178 hours in isolation in Milan or Illustration on confinement are illustrations contained in the book and also published in the New York Times that arise from her forced experience of the various lockdowns in Italy due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Left alone in her studio, the artist rediscovered the domestic dimension as the author of her works, savouring the inspiration of when she used to do drawing in her room back at her parents’ house, at the beginning of her work, as she herself stated in some interviews.
What are the next boundaries that Zagnoli’s illustrations can reach? She has recently tried to further explore the relationship with three-dimensionality of objects, in whatever form they express themselves, from t-shirts to packets of tissues. As she herself stated, space is a theme that definitely intrigues her, even to the point of measuring herself with ever larger spaces. In conclusion, Olimpia Zagnoli’s works manage to condense shapes, content, nature and ideas with simplicity, curiosity, lightness and character.