For the second episode of IN STUDIO, Collater.al’s new format to explore creatives’ studios, we ventured to China Town in Milan, to delve into Cosma Frascina’s underground studio. Hailing from Salento, Cosma swiftly captured the city with his art, teetering on the delicate line between collectible design and contemporary art, although he prefers to identify as an artist. Perhaps because his furniture pieces are more functional sculptures, and recently, he’s begun experimenting with painterly materials. It’s worth mentioning, however, that Milan, at least initially, embraced him as a designer. His initial interaction with the city was a design project during the 2015 Fuorisalone, followed by 2018, culminating in a personal exhibition in 2021 curated by Quei Studio, marking his definitive relocation to Milan. AD Italia has also recognized him among the new talents in Italian design, as have Elle Decor and Domus, which have highlighted his collections. Yet, a definitive label isn’t necessary for this artist, who skillfully navigates materials with a sensitivity rooted in his origins. Let’s uncover more about Cosma Frascina, who graciously opened his studio doors, revealing where all his work is conceived and created.
Who is Cosma Frascina?
Born in ’89, Cosma Frascina grew up in Salento. Despite a nomadic life leading him to study and work outside his region, his origins resonate within him intensely. His artistic background and subsequent degree in Product Design equip Cosma with both technical expertise and poetic sensitivity. The work we see today stems from an incident in Puglia that somehow shaped his career. A block of tufo, gifted to him years ago by an acquaintance, caught Cosma’s attention, leading him to start working with it. The limestone became the artist’s preferred material, giving life to Eroded Panorama, his most distinctive series. Now in Milan, bereft of this material, Cosma seeks its textures in cement and natural pigments, experimenting with new techniques.
As previously mentioned, Cosma Frascina’s studio is located in Milan’s China Town district. A small courtyard covered by vines precedes the entrance door leading to an underground space. Descending a set of small wooden stairs reveals a long area shared by Cosma and other artists. Natural light is scarce, each artist has their own workstation equipped with lights, shelves, and work surfaces cluttered with various tools and materials. Cosma occupies the last corner, at the far left. Initially, he shares that this place has a long artistic history. Since the early 2000s, it has seen a multitude of artists, initially including former assistants of Arnaldo Pomodoro, paving the way for a succession of brilliant personalities. However, let’s understand what brought Cosma here and how he experienced the transition from Salento to Milan.
How was your move to Milan?
My arrival in Milan was a bit traumatic. The first series I did here is called “Crack.” The name is somewhat ironic, playing on the sound of a crack, caused by a fracture, which I actually experienced after a tough period. It was April 2021, and I was in Milan for an event during Fuorisalone. I was setting up a villa, brought some works from Puglia, and everything went quite well, with various publications and recognitions. But that wasn’t the crack. Ten days later, about to return to Puglia, I broke my hand while skateboarding. I underwent surgery and did my recovery here. One day, I saw a story on Instagram announcing an available spot in this studio. I replied, came to see it the same day, and naturally ended up staying here in Milan. Besides talking about an actual fracture, the “Crack” series also marks my transition from two entirely different environments, a village in Salento near the sea and the city of Milan.
How was this transition?
Actually, I miss my land more when I’m not there than when I am. In Puglia, we have family vineyards. Initially, I did something else; I built vineyards. I’m actually a decent winemaker at heart. The countryside is mine; it’s my roots. The further south I go, the better I live, but I adapt easily. I try to make the most out of the situations that arise, as in this case. I can’t deny that my life here has definitely changed for the better, disregarding certain aspects. Consider that I come from the Southern province where it wasn’t easy to showcase my work. I had to believe in it a lot; it was a significant test of strength. Initially, I experienced Milan with a certain hype. The Design Week went really well, then Covid-related restrictions came in, and I didn’t take it well. I even thought of quitting, but I could never do that; I need it.
What’s your relationship with the studio like?
Actually, I have two studios: one here in Milan and a family space in Salento. They are completely different. The change was strange. I approached a shared space, a type I wasn’t accustomed to, especially because I’m a very individualistic person; I enjoy being alone. The studio is a place that connects you with yourself; it’s you with your thoughts that align with your hands. In the past, this space has been somewhat my place for contemplation. If I feel like I don’t have a place of my own—besides my home—I’m here even just to smoke a cigarette. Also, because my design phase is deeply connected to thinking; then, I work freestyle in the moment.
How do you envision your ideal studio?
My envisioned studio, one that’s yet to be, is solitary, by the sea, and connected to where I live, all consolidated. I like working in the evenings and at night; if I didn’t have a fixed job, I’d set my rhythm based on what I want to do, plain and simple. I also enjoy waking up early; lately, I sleep less. It might be hitting thirty.
Are you attached to this place or would you leave tomorrow?
I’d leave Milan tomorrow, actually. I never chose it. I acknowledge that it’s giving me something back, but I’m not sure if we’re even in terms of what I’ve given it. It’s more like a gym, really. I didn’t choose to come here; it just happened. Essentially, if I think about how I want to live, I’d want to be close to the sea and work outdoors. I could leave tomorrow; everything could fit in a small van—six boxes, at most.
Is this response also tied to missing your materials?
Yes, definitely. Here in Milan, I’ve started working with cement. I found myself without the limestone and began creating tapestries reminiscent of the aesthetics of “Eroded Panorama,” on a net I found in the studio. “Eroded Panorama” is my most distinctive series. I’ve somewhat built my identity around this series. It represents me; there’s the use of limestone, the stone from my place of origin, Puglia.
What are the essential tools in your studio?
In my studio in Puglia, I have an air compressor and pneumatic chisels. Although I started with a hand chisel initially, I equipped myself afterward. The flexible tool, disks, and blades are indispensable. Here in Milan, it’s much more basic. Molds and spatulas are essential, a bit like a lighter. Another tool I use is the pressure washer. It could be considered indispensable because the interventions on my works are always disguised. I carve the limestone, make holes, but then I go over them with the pressure washer to remove the artificial mark and leave that filter of unpredictability and chance. I recreate that natural effect linked to rain and wind.
It almost seems like an archaeological imaginary. Do you see yourself in this?
Yes, I wanted to be an archaeologist. Personally, I like to reclaim what exists, what one has, and at the same time, I have a great need to leave an imprint.
Ph Credits Andrés Juan Suarez