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On cutting hair and sacred space

Posted on 09 October 2019

On cutting hair and sacred space

In conversation with hair artist Andy Restuccia on the art of the cut, curation and creativity 

English philosopher Aldous Huxley held strong opinions about the ways men cut their hair. One of the causes, he believed, of the apparent lack of great men (throughout his lifetime) lay in the poverty of the contemporary male coiffure. ‘Rich in whiskers, beards, and leonine manes, the great Victorians never failed to look the part,’ Huxley wrote, ‘[but] nowadays it is impossible to know a great man when you see one.’ 

The degree to which he was being serious is now impossible to know; the relevance of his statement a matter of opinion. Even so, his words, and their severity, do denote the degree to which hair can be, whether we like it or not, a reflection of the self. Beyond its chemical construction—its triglycerides, waxes, and phospholipids—hair is more than just a physical feature that we simply grow and cut. It’s one marker among many of our humanness, an element of style that is often seen as an extension of one’s being. 

As with social codes and tastes in clothing, the way we style our hair is forever evolving, a reflection of not only the transience of the times, but also of ourselves. What has remained consistent is the composition of the salon; spaces often characterised by their myriad of mirrors and the electrical staccato of appliances and scissors. 

Andy Restuccia by © Anushka Restuccia, courtesy of ANDY.R

But in Melbourne there is a place you can go to escape the high octane homogeneity of the standardised hairdresser. To have your hair cut in a manner that amplifies the authenticity of your aesthetic. 

On Johnston St, Fitzroy, hair artist Andy Restuccia has deconstructed the traditional salon model one module at a time, designing a space that allows one to return to self with greater sincerity; accommodating a liberty that allows you to feel lost in the moment. Here, having one’s hair cut is not about sitting submissively in a chair, but rather, becoming a synergistic part of what could be. 

KATHRYN CARTER: Do you feel as though you can tell a lot about a person’s character by the way they style their hair? 

ANDY RESTUCCIA: I think it’s interesting to observe how connected people are with their hair. How carefree or how protective a person is with their hair, perhaps is a glimpse into their personality. As an artist I pick up on these energies and find more creativity in cutting hair when an individual is at ease and open to trusting my work.

KC: Your grandfather and father were both hair artists, and once worked together in their hometown of Sicily before migrating to Melbourne and running two salons. Do you think you always knew that you would become a hair artist, too? 

AR: I grew up in a very creative environment. I was a drummer for many years and at one stage considered following that path. I have always loved fashion and art and am fortunate to have carved a path for myself that incorporates both.

KC: As an artist you employ a slow approach to cutting hair, a technique that is quite distinct to other hair stylists. Can you tell me more about your process? 

AR: My approach focuses on cutting a structure into the hair, opposed to cutting just the ends of the hair. This is quite a meticulous technique but results in a shape that can be worn quite effortlessly and will grow out gracefully. My men’s haircuts can take 1-2hours as a result of the [level of] detail involved in the work.

Andy Restuccia by © Anushka Restuccia, courtesy of ANDY.R

KC: The path you have taken in the industry is quite distinct from the approaches taken by other hair stylists. Can you remember the moment when you realised you were destined to take roads less travelled by, ones that have been paved and crafted exclusively from your mind’s eye? 

AR: Throughout my career I’ve always felt at odds with traditional practices and the typical loud salon environment. When I opened my own space, I saw it as an opportunity to throw all rules out the door and [to] create an environment that I feel comfortable in, [one where] I can develop my own practice, and invite like-minded individuals to experience and share in my aesthetic. I wanted to have a minimalist brutalist space devoid of glossy magazines and hairdressing paraphernalia, where I can play minimalist, experimental music and, in essence, focus on creating.

KC: In describing your technique, you make a note of there being no mirrors in your space, no needless aesthetic noise, allowing freedom for the faint whisper of solemn strands floating onto the concrete floor. What role does your surrounding landscape—its layout, lightness, darkness, sounds and scents—play in your practice? 

AR: I am hugely influenced by my environment—the architecture, sculpture, furniture, scents, music, and design. I’ve been fortunate to cut hair in some truly inspiring showrooms in Paris during fashion weeks—beautiful concrete rooms adorned in art and dark fashion. I’ve taken these experiences back home to Melbourne to shape my own cutting space and provide a unique environment for my clients. This minimalist landscape is hugely inspirational to how I work.

Andy Restuccia by © Anushka Restuccia, courtesy of ANDY.R

KC: You always cut hair dry, allowing its natural state and balance to re-appear. How did you come to develop and prefer this method? 

AR: My father taught me this technique and I developed it further whilst training for Vidal Sassoon in London. Over the years, I’ve experimented and explored this approach of dry cutting in order to truly embrace the natural movement of hair.

KC: In honour of each client’s individual narrative, you begin each consultation with a conversation on life, ideas and curiosities. From there you begin the journey with each client, scissors and comb in hand. Do you feel that getting to know a person’s inner nature is as crucial to your process as knowing the shape of their jaw line, or the texture of their tresses? 

AR: Getting to know a person’s nature allows me to assess how far to take their haircut, how comfortable they will be with a change, and [also] how confident they are in themselves.

KC: In a recent interview with Fucking Young! magazine, you candidly shared your thoughts on how many men, particularly in Australia, are hesitant and perhaps afraid of being poetic, or feminine. Do you feel as though the rebalancing of masculine and feminine forces within us all are key to becoming comfortable within our own skin? 

AR: An appreciation of masculine and feminine forces brings not only self-confidence but greater harmony in society. Whilst I do think Australia historically has a strong alpha male culture, it is refreshing to see more men, particularly in Melbourne, connecting with their feminine side. I think the younger generations will be and already are more accepting of diversity, which is promising for our future.

Andy Restuccia by © Anushka Restuccia, courtesy of ANDY.R

KC: Speaking of getting in touch with our inner feminine, many poets throughout history, from William Shakespeare to Lord Byron to Charles Baudelaire, have written of the beauty and allure of hair in their prose. What do you think it is about hair that can make it so mesmerising? 

AR: Hair is [just] like clothing; It is about the person, their energy, their confidence, their attitude. That [is what] makes it so much more beautiful.

KC: You also operate a gallery space, designed to display selected projects that embrace immersive, multi-disciplinary and experimental trajectories. Can you tell me more about the role art plays in your world?

AR: Art plays a significant role in my world. I use different art forms—such as sculpture and painting—as a way to push the boundaries of my cutting practice and to seek inspiration. [In the past] I’ve used performance art as a way to explore different approaches to hair. I once cut hair for 24 hours straight in a performance to see how mentally and physically intensive environments [and situations] impact my cutting skills. In a separate performance, I cut the hair of three models simultaneously to the sounds of a cellist [playing nearby], using chance techniques. And more recently, I cut hair in an abandoned mental asylum in London in a performance which explored the notion of control.

Andy Restuccia by © Anushka Restuccia, courtesy of ANDY.R

KC: Incredible, the element of raw invention married with your innate inquisitiveness would definitely push the boundaries of your practice, taking it to places that transcend the sensation of sitting in a traditional salon. Speaking to environment, since its launch your gallery has become a space that allows creativity to flourish uninhibited; a landscape that accommodates the freedom to feel lost in a moment. What was it that inspired you to create the space, initially?

AR: I wanted to create a space that was more a gallery than a conventional beauty salon. I know a lot of people [who] feel uncomfortable walking into salons, myself being one of them. There’s also something about the visual [unsettling] noise that mirrors create. [So] my space is basically a concrete shell, a blank canvas which is continually changing. Recently, I created a large scale black sumi-ink concrete sculpture which sits at one end of the room. The piece was inspired by wabi-sabi, a traditional Japanese world view centred on the concept of accepting beauty in imperfection. Essentially, I want people to come in, feel at ease and appreciate the well-curated space.

KC: As an artist, what truly charges your own creative drive?
AR: [Engaging with] other creatives. Whether listening to Ben Frost live, or seeing Rick Owens’s latest collection, viewing a gallery of Rothko’s artwork or being inspired by the interior designs of Oliver Gustav. The beauty that others create fuels my own creativity.

By Kathryn Carter

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