Coming from completely different worlds, their paths crossed to be the perfect complements to each other. Draga Obradovic started her career in the fashion industry, while her partner and fellow artist Aurel K. Basedow excelled in fine art. Their two backgrounds eventually merged and they founded their design studio Draga&Aurel together, with their base located by the picturesque Lake Como in Italy. Design is the common language of the creative duo, and they thrive as equal partners. The studio's work is characterised by their diversity; their creations reflect a continuous dialogue between art and design, while their technique involves constant innovation. The two artists of Draga&Aurel studio talked to us about their professional beginnings, their creative process, and inspirational figures—and we even found out what their favourite pastime was back in the day.
Seeing each other for the first time
Draga: It's as if we had been taking parallel steps for a long time without knowing each other. We both came to Italy—Aurel from Germany, while I arrived from Serbia—to study painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Florence.
Aurel: Then Draga moved to Como to become a textile designer and simultaneously, I came here to finish my studies at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts in Milan. It was only a few years later that we met, almost by chance, thanks to a mutual friend. We often smile when we think of how many times we were so close and yet we never met...like sliding doors.
Draga: Our best creations are the result of a lot of trial and error. As artists, we often use our bare hands in the creative process. First an idea pops up in our heads, then we put it on paper, and the next step is the realisation in our studio where we finalise the process by finding the best solutions.
Draga: We’re fascinated by the creative momentum of the space age at the turn of the sixties and seventies, a period that had a big influence on both of us and which we often refer to in our works. We love the vitality, exuberance and experimentation, and also the playful and unconventional approach of those years. When I think of inspiration, Gio Ponti comes to mind, who combined his own architectural background with a new understanding of design and surface treatment, or highly eclectic female figures like Nanda Vigo and Gabriella Crespi. Not to mention the fashion designers of the era, from Paco Rabanne to Courrèges, the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe, or even music by artists like Lou Reed, Blondie or Patti Smith.
Aurel: My main reference in art is the existentialist expressionism of Mark Rothko and Sigmar Polke, but I’m similarly inspired by Gerhard Richter and Hermann Nitsch. I’m fascinated by the process of painting and, in this sense, I also appreciate Pollock's action painting. Creating my pieces requires strenuous physical effort, one might even call it 'primitive', as they are made horizontally, lying on the ground.
Shared Aesthetic Vision
Aurel: Our visual aesthetic is hybrid, sensual, a constant mix of art and design, and the past and present. We don't want to share great truths, we’d rather seek to express relativity.
Praise and Criticism
Draga: Our approaches are completely different. I put a lot of energy and enthusiasm into the creative process, doing everything I can to achieve my goal, while also taking into account any problems that may arise. In contrast, Aurel is a meticulous and careful person. Initially, this proved to be a challenge, but we later learned how to manage and make the most out of these contrasting sides of our personality. We’re constantly evolving as individuals, artists and as a company. We now recognise that the fact that we approach things differently is an incredible asset. We have a shared aesthetic sense and value each other's opinions greatly, and there is a lot of camaraderie, appreciation and trust between us.
Aurel: Our differences are no longer a challenge, but an opportunity. It helps us view the same project from a different perspective and we can support each other with advice or at times with constructive criticism as well.