Mauricio Pezo and Sofia von Ellrichshausen founded their architectural practice in Concepción, Chile in 2002. The studio is known for pared-back designs and careful explorations of scale and proportion that respond to their surrounding topography. As with their buildings, Pezo von Ellrichshausen’s oil paintings possess a quietness that allows for the unfurling of space. The study of perspective, light, and shadow via their shared painting practice served as the starting point for Paul Smith’s most recent textile collaboration with Maharam.
Sofia von Ellrichshausen: Every building is affected by many unpredictable factors: the temperature of the day, the type of clouds, the dust in the wind, reflections of the ground. We know that the surfaces of a room, the walls, floor, and ceiling are going to be stained not only by light but also by many other factors. Colors are already there; they exceed the intentions for a building. But in the case of a painting, the canvas is, by definition, a blank universe. Anything we put into it is related to our intentions.
Mauricio Pezo: A painting is always freezing a moment. Architecture does not freeze time but it ultimately frames life and nature.
SVE: We are extremely careful with the color we choose for our buildings. We tend to use the color of natural materials as a way to reduce the prominence of architecture, to allow for life to unfold naturally.
MP: In Cien house, for instance, the interior of the tower is painted with gray pigments. There are four shades of gray but you hardly notice which one is where. Sometimes the more bluish one looks green, the darker one seems purple, sometimes they look the same, even if they are not. It all depends on the windows and the light that comes in. There is the green of the grass that is reflected on the wall. We like that vagueness. But still, it is extremely subtle, elusive, and constantly changing. It is not at all imposing.
SVE: Color is never prescribed. We both work on the same paintings, applying layers one after the other. We are always reacting to each other. Sometimes Pezo starts a picture that is left halfway and I complete it, but then we agree that it needs more layers here or there. Sometimes I paint first and Pezo destroys it, but I always fix it later. [laughs] It is a circular process that only stops when the two of us feel it is the right moment; the moment we discover an intense reality or, should I say, an intense fiction.
MP: We could call it a frictional process.
SVE: We believe a painting cannot be totally programmed. It evolves over time, in our case over an emotional negotiation, in an intuitive manner. We never use a color out of the tube, it is a temporal construction, an addition of many layers, of our circumstantial intentions, their overlap, interference, erasure. It is not only that a Prussian blue is never the same on top of a cadmium red or an ivory black, but the fact that one of us is choosing one or the other, before or after the other. There is no such a thing as a pure color.
From Pezo von Ellrichshausen: Exterior. Interview by Ellis Woodman, published by B Architectural Publisher, Copenhagen.