Lorenzo Nassimbeni | Shot by Alexi Portokallis
Lorenzo Nassimbeni has managed to do what seems impossible to many in his field: he’s created a niche through his research that locates his work between the disciplines of fine art and architecture. The source of inspiration for many of his projects, from fabric prints to large-scale murals, is the city of Joburg and its architecture, especially the view of the skyline from his flat in Yeoville. Lorenzo is represented by David Krut Projects.
How would you describe your work?
I explore architectural principles that are inherent in a particular site of inquiry and I express them in the physical form of a mural, sculpture, painting or drawing. Often, the artworks are responsive to a particular set of pre-existing urban and architectural conditions. As such, the artwork complements the architecture, becoming a layer that’s sensitively added to the building.
What does the term ‘urban landscape’ mean to you?
To me, it speaks of a wide physical space that acts as the home of the city. It’s a space that contains buildings, public spaces, streets, events, everyday urban life, human sentiment, communication… I could go on. It’s a large cloth spreading itself far and wide, and shrouding urban artifacts.
Further to this, though, it can be defined as something that’s beyond a physical entity. It’s a virtual archive of all things urban, a collection of treasures that can be drawn upon to facilitate an artistic or architectural idea. From that perspective, the urban landscape is a mindset or a part of one’s human experience, as inspired by one’s perception of urbanity.
What do you find most inspiring about the city of Jozi?
Everything! But perhaps most impactful on me is that Joburg is in a constant state of flux and motion, and an ever-changing tapestry of human movement, urban decay, urban renewal, political tremors and political lulls. An inspiring aspect is the diversity of place and people. Every 30km there’s a new world, with each world its own vernacular of architecture, dialect of language, and typology of person. There’s a richness in this. Joburg is a relatively young city. Its history is still being written, and the history that has been captured is constantly being contested, and is moving, similar to the seismic shifts that created the geographical importance of the region itself.
Which part of the city do you find yourself most drawn to?
I’m fascinated by Hillbrow. The overlaying of a contemporary and African identity, particularly at street level, on the pristine geometry of the once-affluent environment, provides wonderment for me as an architect and artist. What draws me to Hillbrow the most, though, is that it’s one of the points of urban origin of the city. Joburg’s uitvalgrond, or leftover land, was a triangular piece of land deemed to be inappropriate for farming, and thus became the land on which the city grew. Hillbrow marks one of the points of this triangular area, and is as such a powerful space in the context of the city.
MEET THE IGER
Alexi Portokallis has a traditional 9 to 5 as a recruitment consultant for a management consultancy in Sandton. But with close to 100k followers on Instagram, he sure knows how to take an edgy and captivating picture, especially of the city and its people, his favourite subject matter. ‘I love cityscapes and seeing how people interact in and with the city,’ he says.
Where do you see Instagram taking you in the future?
Instagram is changing every day and I feel I’ll grow more with the platform and engage more with my followers, not just sharing photos but also sharing my story of the city, and the cities I visit.
What gear do you use?
I use my iPhone, a Nikon digital camera and a Yashica Electro 35 film camera.
What was the best part about your shoot with Lorenzo?
Getting to know him. While I enjoyed the location and the whole mood of the shoot, sharing his story, his process and his ambitions was really inspiring. His focus and sheer determination reminded me that anyone can succeed when you put your full focus and commitment into something.
Text: Genevieve Putter
Photographs: Alexi Portokallis/@alexioso