Interdisciplinary artist Antonio De Campos designed and executed works of art for Zaha Hadid right up to just before she passed away. Tatler Homes interviews the Brazilian born artist about how his mesmerising work contributed to the Zaha Hadid canon

Much has been written about the late Dame Zaha Hadid but perhaps not many know about the multi-disciplinary artist Antonio de Campos and how his work contributed to her oeuvre. The Brazil-born Campos was a creative consultant and direct collaborator to architect Zaha Hadid right up to just before she passed away and was instrumental in creating architectural images for Hadid.

In the 1980s, before Hadid's first project made it from plan to piling, she became known for architectural images. These images were a combination of layers of detail and distortions of the projects, and the results were wondrously intricately charged and confusing architectural images. Alongside the buildings and design objects, these images formed a separate area of the architect’s oeuvre.

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As technology changed the ways in which complex buildings could be represented, elements of architecture and film were able to merge and became the new hallmark of Zaha Hadid’s architectural representations after the turn of the millennium. This is where Antonio de Campos came in, as the artist consultant who created a significant number of the large format images in the 2006 exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, for example.

Campos' work is now the subject of an ongoing exhibition at DAM Ostend (Deutsches Architekturmuseum). Comprising complex collages of prints, foils, and spray techniques, the works were created as preliminary works and intermediate stages for objects that were then used by Zaha Hadid Architects.

Tatler Homes speaks to the artist about what it was like collaborating with an architectural icon.

Tell us a bit about your background and how it led you to this career. 

Architecture drawings and models have always been a passion since my childhood. However, I wasn’t really interested in building anything real. My fascination was with the process. I guess I’ve always been keen on understanding creativity itself.

Back in the day, when I had to choose what to study, I decided on architecture as I couldn’t find anything else that fulfilled my interests. In parallel, I took film classes as it offers the possibility to deconstruct and recreate the real, transforming people into characters and studios into very different spaces. To me, architecture and filmmaking were quite the opposite in terms of their creative processes… at least that’s what I thought back then. 

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How did you come to work with Zaha Hadid?

Back in the late ’80s. A Malaysian friend Kim Lee Chai introduced me to Zaha. He used to be her pupil, and as he is a fantastic cook, Zaha asked him to prepare a Malaysian dinner for a couple of guests coming to her house and told him to bring a friend along. I was his guest friend that night. The next day, I started working for her.

What did your work with Hadid entail and what was the work process like?

Her creative practice became very different from what she did in the '80s and '90s, and it was the beginning of working digitally. I then decided to use some aspects of the digital drawings, by interviewing all her architects and trying to understand what their vision for each and every project was, then I would take some of these observations to my studio and create the paintings, which later were presented to Zaha for her approval. There was a lot of trust involved as it could all be cancelled by her in the end.

 

 

Your work was at the cutting edge of graphics programmes and digital video animation at that time. Could you explain how this helped realise Hadid’s designs?

My artwork reflects on Zaha Hadid Architects' designs as they progress. It’s a sort of art diary of Zaha and her team’s visions and design along the years.

My learning of new technologies started in the ’90s, when I first left Zaha’s office, due to a severe financial crisis. That’s when I moved to Germany to find another job. My first successful assignment was to create concepts for music videos. It was quite abstract like the paintings I did for Zaha during the '90s and it was the very first 3D animated music video made in Europe.

It was very well received by MTV and a few 3D animated music followed when I was then invited by a Malaysian post-production house to become their creative director. I accepted and moved to KL, where I lived for almost 7 years.

This experience was crucial for me to create groundbreaking new works for Zaha. So I’m very thankful for my years of experience in Malaysia.

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Being trained as an architect and filmmaker, how did you adapt to this more static method of representing the work? 

It’s actually not static at all. My work for Zaha reflects on space and it makes the viewers interact and move around the object in order to experience what they see. Most of my works are painted on light reflective surfaces and their colours change depending on the ambient light.

Therefore, it is very difficult to capture them in still photographs, you must experience them live or film them to capture the light/colour change.  There’s also a very dynamic relationship between the works, like in a storyboard for a film.

 

 

Was it challenging to capture the dynamism and movement in Hadid’s work in a 2D format?

No, in fact, it was just perfect as every new artwork connects to a previous one. I use many polyptychs exploring different moments of an architecture project like in a film strip. You actually understand when you see the works together in an exhibition.

Which one of Hadid’s projects was the most challenging to realise and why?

All her projects were very challenging, and I wouldn’t single one out. It felt like the first time every time, which is exciting.

What was it like working with Hadid?

Exciting, difficult, challenging, but mostly rewarding. It was incredible when I saw my works exhibited at the Guggenheim NYC. I will never forget that feeling and that was only possible because of Zaha.

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Tell us about your current exhibition at DAM and how it was curated. 

The idea behind was to show my process and not the final artworks, which resulted from each process. There are many memories and different moments of my struggles in finding a new solution. Some works never made it as they weren’t approved by her. You can also see tests and fragments of my very last canvas for her, which I did just a few days before she died in 2016. It’s like my own art diary of the last 13 years working with Zaha

What are you working on now and has working with Hadid informed/ influenced your current work?

I believe we are always influenced by our previous experiences. It’s all connected even if I’m working on completely different things.

I’ve been an artist before meeting Zaha. I had exhibitions of my unrelated works to hers in parallel to working with Zaha and continue to do so. Nothing changed, only my collaboration with Zaha came to an end after her passing.

I have planned exhibitions in Switzerland and Brazil.  I also continue my film work and have an animation project for kids.

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