To properly indulge in Voglio Bene’s lush digital portraiture – replete with boisterous botanicals, ambrosial fruits, gilded frippery, and supple tatted-to-max flesh – please make a pact with yourself to
l i v e
t h e
m o m e n t.
The aesthetically alluring pleasure dome that French artist Bénédicte Piccolillo has meticulously crafted requires an unrestrained appetite for achingly beautiful historical artwork, taken to a breathtaking new level thanks to her edgy and decidedly modern compositional flair. This is a truly scrumptious collage buffet well worth gorging on.
Voglio Bene’s paradisiacal plane of painterly existence – which came into being just two years ago – was born out of the combined photography and graphic design experience that both Bénédicte Piccolillo (sole artistic director) and Pascal (chief operations manager) bring to the table. The name of their artistic design brand – which means “I love you, I wish you well” in Italian – also references Bénédicte’s nickname, heritage, and unceasing enthusiasm for Italian Renaissance era paintings.
The rapid ascent of the Voglio Bene décor line is certainly a testament to the appealing aesthetic that Bénédicte has nurtured, but it’s her deep-seated passion that continues to stoke the flames of this endeavor. She carries the faith that her grandfather had in her artistic destiny close to her heart, and today, she’s thriving – both professionally and creatively – thanks to the “complete addiction” that she has to her craft. We hope that the following conversation with Bénédicte will wake many of our readers from a deep slumber. The path to a brilliant artistic future begins with the very first step….
Impermanence is a key component of my art. We are all here for a very short time. In a sense, the painters throughout history – their essence – is re-animated in my digital collages.
The juxtaposition of the historical paintings featured in your digital interventions and your final Vogio Bene collages creates such a seductive feast for the eyes! In order to receive a Voglio Bene makeover, what attributes must a work of art possess?
First, there must be a love at first sight attraction. Religious scenes, Madonnas, floral arrangements and certain animals always capture my attention, but portraits of women are especially appealing to me! The subject’s body – often female – must be bare because I like to tattoo them. I also like the spirituality that emerges from some historical works of art, as well as the poetry. Sometimes a single detail is enough to attract my attention, such as the piercing look that Petrus Christus’ little girl has (in his 1470 “Portrait of a Young Girl”), and the cracks in her face, too.
No matter the year, decade, or century, the nude female form will likely to be an enduring inspiration for artists. Is there a deeper reason why you regularly incorporate them into your collages?
I like being able to preserve the identity of historical female nudes, but at the same time, I find it very gratifying to transform them into inspiring modern icons who are strong and assertive. It’s great to be able to convey that good energy to the women who gaze at them.
Once you fall head over heels for an old master painting, how quickly do you know if it’s going to work in one of your compositions?
It usually only takes me a few minutes to build an artistic concept in my head. After that, it generally takes between 10 to 15 hours to complete a collage using my tablet.
Do you look for feedback from your inner circle before releasing a completed collage into the world?
I receive artistic feedback from just three men in my life – my husband and my two sons (one is thirteen and the other is eighteen). One time, my younger son recommended that I make a few alterations to a piece and he ended up being right!
It’s nice to think that my Madonnas have magical powers and look after the people who put them in their homes. Perhaps my art is a way to thank the benevolent souls above my head.
When you select a historical painting to use in one of your artistic compositions, sometimes just the pose is the main lingering element in your final collage. Which is more important to you: transforming an old work of art into a brand-new image or preserving the spirit of the creative individual who initially brought it into the world?
I imagine that the artists of the original paintings are happy that a new audience is discovering their work – at least I hope so! I try to preserve the essence of each original work while giving it a facelift so that it is in line with modern sensibilities. I also love selecting pieces that will give me complicated design challenges. The more work I have to do, the more excited I get.
Has a masterwork that you’ve incorporated into a Voglio Bene collage ever failed to resonate with your audience?
Figures from the Middle Ages are so far removed from today’s standards of beauty that very few contemporary art fans like the final collage. Nonetheless, I select those type of works because I love them and hope that others will be inspired to learn more about the original artist.
You are in good company with other creatives such as Alexey Kondakov and Volker Hermes who inject classical paintings with unique visual twists. Did your affection for the digital collages of other contemporary artists inspire you to develop your own aesthetic signature?
Classical paintings have always been very inspiring to me, but even more so within the last 4 years. When I started creating digital collages with historical art in 2018, I wasn’t familiar with the various other artists who created their own contemporary interventions.
I transform bad energies into ultra-positive fuel that helps me to keep propelling my goals forward.
Is the Voglio Bene brand really rooted in the idea of demonstrating artistic reverence for the great masters of yesteryear?
Absolutely. I believe that far too many of the masters’ works have been forgotten, so appropriating them is my way of sharing these gems with the contemporary art community. I like imagining that the original artists are happy to be recognized by a new audience.
What might someone who is entirely unfamiliar with the old masters be surprised to learn about them?
Certain old-world painters – such as an Italian Renaissance artist who I’m completely crazy about named Carlo Crivelli – were so ahead of their time. He and several of his contemporaries created hyper-real modern works using just a few pigments, a wooden board as a support and rudimentary brushes – that’s it!
Do you follow a very regimented process to create the Voglio Bene aesthetic, or are you highly experimental?
I spend hours extracting elements from historical paintings and then transforming figures with make-up and tattoos. Once an entirely new character with all of those visual flourishes finally emerges, I create the environment and the atmosphere surrounding them. When I think my work of art is finished, I send the image to my phone so that I can view it in a smaller format, which helps me to spot any areas that need improvement.
La Santa di u Niolu and Marie Madeleine are both quite reminiscent of the otherworldly, over-the-top aesthetic of Pierre Commoy and Gilles Blanchard (aka Pierre et Gilles). Are they among your top art heroes?
I’ve heard the Pierre et Gilles comparison before, which is very gratifying. As far as my favorite artists, they tend to be found in museums. I’m in love with Carlo Crivelli, Sandro Botticelli, Fra Angelico – Italian Renaissance art drives me crazy. I also really like Roberto Ferri because he has such amazing talent and his paintings are as beautiful as Caravaggio’s.
The creative process is simply vital for me. Producing things makes me feel good and through my art, I believe that I can transmit positive energy to others.
Aside from the historical paintings that are crucial to your aesthetic, do you draw on other creative inspirations?
I pour a lot of feelings into my collages through meditation and constant contemplation. Classical music and requiems – which often stir my emotions – are also a regular part of my creative routine. When the viewer looks at my work, maybe they can sense all of this.
I am also inspired by haute couture, major decoration brands such as Fornassetti, song lyrics, small elements from advertisements, and social media accounts such as Beautiful Bizarre’s. I stuff myself with images for several hours a day, some of which immediately inspires creative concepts.
When the beholder looks at a Volio Bene collage, what do you want them to feel?
I hope that those who gaze at my work experience the same sense of joy that I did when I first discovered the original painting, and that they dissolve into the story that I tell. I always share my artwork narratives on my social media accounts as well as in my brand catalogues and other forms of communication because I like people to understand my creative approach. More importantly, I hope that they’ll be inspired to experience the original painting in a museum setting.
Your collages appear extremely gothic – and at times even romantic with a punk rock sensibility – but their main commonality is a spiritual omnipresence. Is part of your creative goal to sweep the beholder away to a house of visual worship?
If the spirituality in my art can somehow spread good vibes and elevate the beholder, that makes me happy. It’s nice to think that my Madonnas have magical powers and look after the people who put them in their homes. Perhaps my art is a way to thank the benevolent souls above my head.
I believe that far too many of the masters’ works have been forgotten, so appropriating them is my way of sharing these gems with the contemporary art community. I like imagining that they’re happy to be recognized by a new audience.
There is also a memento mori-esque quality to your art – whether via crackled finishes, moths, physical wounds, or actual bones – that reminds the beholder of the impermanence of the human condition. Why is that theme important to your aesthetic?
Yes, impermanence is a key component of my art. We are all here for a very short time. In a sense, the painters throughout history – their essence – is re-animated in my digital collages. Maybe in the distant future, other creatives will find my work inspiring enough to follow suit. In any case, I am leaving a small mark – the search for immortality, perhaps.
Of all the design flourishes that you incorporate in your art, tattoos seem to be a signature element. What draws you to that type of personal adornment?
I love the world of tattooing and got my first one at the age of 18 and a day. Tattooing paintings has been a big part of my signature aesthetic for years – some of my muses wear digital versions of the tattoos that are on my own skin. Many times, the tattoos included in my collages are representative of personal and meaningful messages. I like the sexy, outrageous quality that they can impart to a work of art that has historical origins.
Do you think that your art has more widespread appeal because your muses are tattooed?
Yes. I think tattooing gives my work a rock n’ roll feel, plus my tattooed imagery reinforces the messages that I want to convey. I also really like making the inkwork look realistic – as if it was always a historical part of the painting.
Are all of your digital tattoos entirely of your own design? Have you inked any of those designs onto your own skin?
My digital tattoos are a blend of many visual inspirations which I prefer to keep under lock and key. Only one of them is inked on my body because of its symbolism – my sacred butterfly.
Do you intend to branch out into tattoo art or sell Voglio Bene temporary tattoos?
I’ve considered temporary tattoos in the past – they will come!
I hope that those who gaze at my work experience the same sense of joy that I did when I first discovered the original painting, and that they dissolve into the story that I tell.
Tear drops are etched underneath the eyes of many of your muses, which is conventionally representative of mourning, revenge, or murder. What is your reason for integrating that symbolism into your art?
My Madonnas often cry because they are full of strength and will fight against adversity or have already emerged victorious. For me, it is symbolic of determination rather than something sad.
The push and pull of extremes – such as soft porcelain skin emblazoned with edgy tattoos or lush floral elements versus darker iconography – can be found in the vast majority of your visual compositions. Is that a design choice, or it is just reflective of the lens through which you view life?
I think it’s just my mind guiding my hand. I love flowers as well as bright, deep colours, which is funny because I always wear black. I also add a lot of butterflies to my collages because they are as beautiful as flowers and are representative of the spirits that surround us.
Your visuals – more tattoos, more flowers, more jewels, more color – seem joyfully maximalist. Is that a carpe diem reference?
The truth is that emptiness scares me. I definitely like maximalism because it’s reassuring. That’s probably why there is no more space on the walls of my showroom, plus I’ve already filled two cabinets of curiosities!
Every new work of art that I create and every product that I develop fills me the kind of joy that a child would experience on Christmas day.
Which Voglio Bene collages are most representative of your heart or mirror who you are as a person?
There are many women in my work that represent me, but the voluptuous brunette in “Tourmente” – who is determined to fight and will never give up – is emblematic of my personal experiences. The snakes in that collage represent past difficulties with family. Unfortunately, success always brings jealousy. I transform bad energies into ultra-positive fuel that helps me to keep propelling my goals forward. I channeled a lot of feelings into “La Santa di u Niolu” – she is a Corsican saint from my native island.
Which piece was the most creatively gratifying to make?
I love “L’automne” because the technical work was very precise. Making the baby in her arms disappear was very tedious.
Your aesthetic seems like it was meant for wearable art. Do you have any plans to partner with fashion brands?
My decoration brand consumes a great deal of my time, but I am going to give a clothing line deeper consideration. Perhaps it will come in due time.
You began creating collaged street murals two years ago. How did that creative outlet come into your life? Do you still see a way to fit that into you ever-busier schedule?
I remember seeing a video clip of a local muralist working on one of his street murals, which made me think, “Ok. I can do that, too”. I’ve created fifteen urban art collages so far, ranging in size from small to monumental. I will continue to do it when the inspiration strikes or to commemorate noble causes. I believe that leaving a positive message on a wall – incorporating drawings and kind words – is a life-altering act of love that can lift others up.
I like being able to preserve the identity of historical female nudes, but at the same time, I find it very gratifying to transform them into inspiring modern icons who are strong and assertive.
You were recently contracted to give the interior of a historical building in Seattle, Washington your distinctive Voglio Bene touch. Your project – which is expected to last for four years – seems to be quite hush-hush. Are you allowed to disclose any details?
The history of the building – which is pretty fascinating – fits perfectly with my visual aesthetic style. My friend Christian Collot, who is a very talented decorator who works on majestic sets, recommended me for this project, which will be my biggest to date. When the owner of the building saw my art, a contract was drawn up immediately. I hope to be able to tell you more about it soon, but in the meantime, I will be in America soon (my first time!), which is very exciting.
Has the success of your Voglio Bene brand taken you by surprise, or is it the result of working every waking moment? Are any other amazing projects in the works for you?
I knew the brand would be successful, but of course it requires a great deal of focus and energy. I work all the time, and sometimes in the evenings, as well. Fortunately, now it seems as though projects are falling from the sky – I even signed a publishing contract that will happen at the 2022. At this point, I genuinely feel happy and free.
It seems as though the act of creating is a spiritual experience for you. In your list of artistic priorities, is that just as important as sharing the result of your creative efforts with the world?
The creative process is simply vital for me. Producing things makes me feel good and through my art, I believe that I can transmit positive energy to others. Every new work of art that I create and every product that I develop fills me the kind of joy that a child would experience on Christmas day. I hope one day to write a book on personal development because my journey has been very complicated, but perseverance pays off. It’s very important that I share ideas that can motivate others to follow their dreams.