Filippo Caramazza for Drake's

Filippo Caramazza for Drake's

Presenting the latest in our series of artist collaborations. For this collection of pocket squares, we teamed with London-based experimental painter, Filippo Caramazza.

Over the course of the last decade, London-based artist Filippo Caramazza has established himself as a singular presence, working in a field more-or-less of his own making. His painting style is a bold synthesis of classical brushwork and experimental thinking, drawing inspiration from a remarkable breadth of sources, from European Old Masters, to early 20th century poets, to the pioneers of American jazz. We are excited to present a collection of pocket squares made in collaboration with Filippo. Entitled Harlem Air Shaft, after the Duke Ellington composition, the collection comprises four pocket squares, each of which is printed with one of Filippo’s distinctive ‘folded’ paintings, that make use of negative space and decorative borders. Allow Filippo to reveal his thinking behind the collection:

‘I was introduced to Michael and Drake’s through a friend. There’s such a rich history of artist-designed textiles, so I was excited to be asked to take part. In the ‘40s, manufacturers such as Wesley Simpson and Zika Ascher worked with all the important artists of the time - Matisse, Braque Delaunay; and in Britain, Hepworth, Moore and Nash, to name just a few. Picasso even designed sportswear. It’s lovely to see Drake’s continuing with that idea. A square is so simple and versatile, and an inexpensive way to own a work of art - hung on a wall, or as part of an outfit. When Michael visited the studio, he was very open minded about things so the whole process was very straightforward. We decided on a number of existing folded paintings. The paintings in this series often consist of a central motif along with a decorative border, so stylistically they seemed to lend themselves to pocket squares.

Broadly speaking they use the environment of the studio as a reference point; on the one hand, an enclosed space of contemplation and quiet production, and its counterpoint, a factory-like site of industry and the world outside. At the time of making the paintings, I was also looking at a wonderful, postcard-sized painting by Thomas Jones: ‘A Wall in Naples.’ It shows a quite ordinary aging wall with peeling plaster and a small balcony with washing hanging out to dry in 18th century Naples. The composition and network of putlog holes (from the now absent scaffolding) give the painting an abstract quality suggestive of its history and its method of construction.

The series, Harlem Air Shaft, refers to the title of an early Duke Ellington composition. It seemed to rhyme with Rauschenberg's "gifts from the streets". For the piece, Ellington gives an evocative description of the diverse forms of life resonating through a Harlem air shaft, distilling this experience into a compositional structure. I’ve included the passage taken from the New Yorker, July 1, 1944...

“Take ‘Harlem Air Shaft,’” Duke said. “So much goes on in a Harlem air shaft. You get the full essence of Harlem in an air shaft. You hear fights, you smell dinner, you hear people making love. You hear intimate gossip floating down. You hear the radio, an air shaft is one great big loudspeaker. You see your neighbour’s laundry. You hear the janitor’s dogs. The man upstairs’ aerial falls down and breaks your window. You smell coffee. A wonderful thing that smell.

An air shaft has got every contrast. One guy is cooking dried fish with rice and another guy’s wife with the turkey is doing a sad job. You hear people praying, fighting, snoring. Jitterbugs are jumping up and down, always over you, never below you. That’s a funny thing about jitterbugs. They’re always over you. I tried to put all that in ‘Harlem Air Shaft.’”.