Roberto Mannino

 is a sculptor living and working in Rome, Italy. Originally a printmaker, Mannino is very attuned to paper. His handmade papers are often highly burnished and rubbed with graphite or wax transforming the paper into something that looks like another material altogether, perhaps lead or skin. His polishing gives the works a feeling of being highly cared for and a soft glow. 

Last year Mannino made a permanent installation in the Sala Dante, the congress hall of the National Institute for the Graphic Arts in Rome. See the video here -

STREAMS, 2013, installation, National Institute for the Graphic Arts in Rome

The following interview took place by email in March, 2012.

1. You credit a 3d workshop at Carriage House for getting you excited about papermaking. What happened there? Was there a specific way of working that gave you the papermaking bug? (I took a great 2d workshop there too.)

It was a 12 days intensive papermaking, not specifically 3D. Yet the most striking memento was working with high shrinkage flax, which I never did before. It was my first and only workshop I have ever attended, except for Iapma one-day short workshops at Congresses.

After I saw what could be done with the shrinkage, I decided to buy a beater. That was in the Summer of 1996; I did start in 1994 by need of making paper by myself, but had no idea of real papermaking, I was just recycling etching printing paper with a blender on a rough sieve.

I learned from books, my main texts were “The art of Papermaking” by Bernie Toale, and “Papermaking, History of an ancient craft” by Dard Hunter.

2. I've noticed many papermakers come from printmaking backgrounds. A printmaker's concern/obsession with his substrate seems more complicated than a painter's. As a printmaker and papermaker, what are the relationships for you between these mediums? 

The printmaking practice is intriguing because a mechanical/chemical factor modifies a matrix of some sort. I believe intaglio is the N° one discipline among printmaking techniques; it has amazing potentials and “modes” that can be imported and applied into other disciplines like papermaking. I actually do wipe with silver ink stretched papers just like an intaglio plate.

3. I love your 33 graphites suite. The works really transform into other things. What inspired these works and how did they change as you continued working with them? Have you continued using the graphite surface with other works?

I enjoy searching pure, soft forms, I did search similar forms stretching damp sized cotton and linen canvases at the end of the eighties. 

Graphite, 2008, 2012, flax, abaca, tracing paper, graphite and mixed media

“transform onto other things..”, yes right, I do love to do that, to MAKE a thing that has mystery, raises questions upon hits genesis, it has to shine of a new light, transform the matter into form, to control the form and not letting it loose.

4. I love how in pieces like speculae and pergamene it feels as if an object is stuck in the paper or trying to burst out. 

Paper is so versatile a carrier that you can edit it as a holder of things, embedding and inclusions are practices that “corrupt” plain papermaking and are a prelude to 3D. So there are real objects as caps, underwear, textiles and wires in the Pergamene serie, a stucco & graphite mixture, then burnished, in the Speculae serie.

4a. You use a shiny, metallic finishes in these works as well, what about this look appeals to you?

There is seduction in a dim light, not a bright shine, more like pewter, polished metal; I think of Roman speculae, bronze mirror, or the perception of a Japanese lacquered object in the dark.

In papermaking terms, I was fascinated by the look of papers being used as interfacing in gold-leaf forging in the East sessions in China. I swear, its color is like pale gold. That’s an aim.

Why I like these things? This is just personal taste for a kind of light, nothing else.

4b. What else were you thinking about or hoping to achieve with these works?

Shaking tactile, rationale and visual assumption. We need to tool and transform something to actually fell it ours. Me, experiencing manipulating matter to the best of my desires. That is the ultimate issue!

5. How have your previous ideas and interests changed and/or been re-invented with handmade paper?

Pergamene I, 2001, flax, string, wax, graphite, 13" x 9"

Yes, all of them. Papermaking is freer than Printmaking, yet harder to control in precision marks.

5a. Are you working with similar ideas but in different ways? 

Yes, Sculptural and graphical ideas do crisscross and merge into diverse forms with papermaking.

6. I am intrigued by the video on your website. What is the material you are spreading on your paper? Is it for casting? 

Hot sands.

Yes, and to dry the paper in the shape I need.

What materials do you find most interesting to combine with the handmade paper? 

Paper on paper, paper coils, string or other linear materials, grids, etc.

7. Is your work created in a sketchbook, or from reading and experience and then get made in the studio or does the process come with the ideas?

Any of the above, or a combination of those elements. I do draw a lot, mostly to inquire a project, I develop a core idea into variables, then move on from that., not as much as free form.

12. Do you have an audience you create for? Or do you create for yourself and hope others will respond? 

I create for myself. 

Blukea, 2007, paper