A dialogue between Matteo Chini and Giacobbe Giusti
M.C. Could you trace your major turning points? When did you meet up with art in your life journey and when did you begin to realize your first works?
G.G. I began painting again – an activity that I nurtured as a young boy – when I was finishing my studies at the University. I completed my studies in Economics with a personal collection of books that was not comprised of textbooks, but only of art books. So then I began to paint large scale works using an expressionist technique. I painted quickly and I finished the paintings within a few days if not within a few hours. They were trial works before moving on to something more concrete. It was a very matter-based type of painting. From large canvases, after a short time I moved on to using large panels of shaped wood made more matter-based with the use of polyurethanic foam. Then the whole piece would be painted quickly. Therefore, the transition from matter-based panels to the three dimensions of sculpture was very brief. I realized in fact that it was the thing that suited me the most.
M.C. Which artists or movements influenced you during this period?
G.G. I really liked German Expressionism: Kiefer and Baselitz in particular. I found them to be more committed with respect to their colleagues of the Transavantguarde movement. But I also became interested in American artists like Schnabel, who utilized big fragments glued onto the canvas which he painted in an expressly rough manner. However, after a trip to the United States and to Europe, I realized that my technique was already antiquated and had already been surpassed. At that point, I decided to dry and “clean” the neo-expressionist color. I did so in a drastic manner, moving on to metal. At first, it was welded steel with thick joints and painted with industrial color applied with a spray gun leaving the surface of the underlying metal to shine through. On second thought, I decided it would be better to leave it the color of brilliant steel.
M.C. What attracted you about its shine?
G.G. I don’t know, probably the fact that the surfaces were reflectors better expressed my new interest for sculpture because I felt I had overcome the chromatic violence of the past. It was a way to pass on to something that stood in opposition to the dark and sullen colors of expressionism. It was the shine of the metal…as if from the black dust of expressionist color, after the fire and soot, there remained the shiny metal.
I think that aluminium is the material which is best suited to the work I want to create because it’s a metal that is easy to work with and is very malleable. Its shine moreover, makes it unique as a metal to use in sculpture. In fact, it is not a traditional material. We are familiar with it for example through kitchen ware, however, the notion of seeing it used in sculpture contradicts the rules of tradition.
Having lived in the most inland area of Tuscany, I feel that classical art is a part of our culture. It is important to know it and to draw from this heritage, to have some good roots anchored in the past. But then we must explore new ways and launch ourselves into the future.
M.C. Do you consider coherence in your art important? Or do you think that freedom in art allows betrayal and the betraying of oneself without contradiction?
G.G. Personally I feel that a large part of aesthetic experiences can have a certain worth. As far as I am concerned however, I find it more fitting to follow a coherence, a logical sequence. At times of course, one will try anything to cause a sensation….
M.C. When you are looking for creative stimulus, are you more likely to turn to figurative art or to movies and literature?
G.G. Granted that I try to draw especially on my imagination, I feel that today movies are one of the most valid expressive media. After all, my studio is in a former movie theatre and I grew up in this setting since childhood because my family owned a small movie theatre in town. I would also like to express myself through film, something I have already done in the past with a group of friends, producing some short footage films. But now I am experimenting with digital videos that I will soon include in my art shows. I will create an atmosphere made up of lights, sounds, videos, and naturally of sculptures, somewhat of “another world”. I am also very interested in literature. However, in contrast to a movie, it’s nice to just own a book without reading it. It’s there, and its presence is already a help to you, then maybe the day will come when its help will prove to be more concrete, because it seems that each book we read is able to change something within us…
M.C. In a number of images you have showed me, you place some of your works inside suggestive landscapes reminiscent of extraterrestrial places. To what do you attribute the need to view your work in this light?
G.G. I was only trying to experiment. Given that the material I use is very shiny and reflecting, sometimes it actually gives the idea of a work manufactured in aerospace. And this way I wanted to try to give it a more fitting environment. It’s an experiment.
M.C. Some of Luciano Fontana’s observations came to mind. Man who goes to conquer space will not hang pictures and sculptures to walls, instead Art of Space will be from space. Likewise, I saw in your attempt the idea of projecting your works throughout time, in a possible future.
G.G. It could be that these are images we would like to find in space, a squalid space when compared to Earth, when perhaps we may have to migrate if we continue to mistreat our planet. Even a fascinating journey if we only think of ourselves as a small point lost in the vastness of the universe. Consumed by our every-day consumer society, we seem to forget that we have a cosmic origin. Perhaps if we realized more fully that in some way we belong to that sparkle we see shining at night above our eyes,…then maybe we would feel less lonely. Certainly nonetheless, we are in the era of technology and I feel it is only right that art that is born in the third millennium bear clear witness of this fact.
M.C. Can we interpret in this way also your strange metal flowers that grow out of rock? Normally nothing grows out of rock, yet this type of fantastic vegetation is born out of stone. It reminds me of a science fiction story where a new life was proposed to take form from the chemistry of silica rather than of carbon. It thus seemed a reflection on new paradigms of science and of technology applied to the ecologic environment that surrounds us. New species are born out of genetic engineering, the nano-technologies are invading the human body and even our personality is controlled with strong medications. Your sculptures seemed a reflection on this new horizon of the natural….
G.G. The entire universe is comprised of few elements, with regard to both human beings and – for example – stars. And who knows that even rocks have a soul! They could be living matter just as we are….after all they have universally taken on a symbol of the sacred from ancient times. Think only of Stonehenge or of the ancient menhir. Therefore, maybe my work consisted in wanting to bring human beings or plants closer to other elements that may in appearance seem to be inanimate, but in reality they are not.
As to the possible alterations – we’re talking nowadays of transgenetic foods and of genetically altered organisms – this is an aspect of today’s reality that disturbs us somewhat because we were accustomed to think of science as a tool useful to man, and of technological progress as undoubtedly useful to humanity. Instead, what it seems to discover especially now – in the third millennium – is that not only it (science) is not capable of resolving the numerous problems that still disturb us at a planetary level, but it brings with it a non-positive aspect that is found in the idea of progress in general. Toxic waste, climate changes or transgenetic foods are examples of such.
M.C. In fact there is also a strange beauty, almost sickly, in these flowers. Because they are born out of stone, out of diamonds from which – as the song goes – nothing should be born and yet they are metal flowers. It’s understood that they are technological flowers that come from a parallel dimension. Instead, in works that have more or less circular forms there is always a hole in the middle, space circulates as in the space notions of Fontana which want to send us back to a farther dimension beyond sculpture. I don’t think it’s by chance that you then place them in that dimension. Do you have this perception of sculpture as an alteration which inexplicably enters into the play of life?
G.G. Yes, you hit it on the nail. Personally, I feel that reality is very complex and its outlines escape us. That which we can perceive and comprehend, we can only understand in a fragmentary manner. My works are in fact fragments, sedimentary matter that has an unconscious origin, fragments of matter fallen from space. A fragment is never complete, it can’t exist on its own. But belonging to a larger reality or coming from another world – as meteorites fallen from the sky – we often see it indented as well as punctured.
These forms may appear to be completed because the fragment has already had its own life like rocks smoothed over by a river and because they refer to images from the unconscious. Man’s walk has arrived at several stops throughout the millennia, however the sedimentary symbols in the subconscious more or less remain the same. The deepest human conscience has remained unaltered by time and therefore from the analysis of that which is deeper, it’s possible to rediscover a more authentic reality.
The holes could make us think of an eternal dimension and prove to free us from a limited version of space and time,…a little like the “hedge” of Leopardi. And the flowers seem to be ill, maybe because our planet is also ill… Sick from hunger, wars, holes in the ozone layer, imbalances between rich nations and poor nations,…they will get well on their own when Planet Earth gets well.
M.C. One last question I had with regard to the opening of these forms and to your need to place them in the midst of virtual or real scenarios (installed in a location, a fortress, a garden). I seem to read into all of this the will to open the ivory tower of art to reality.
G.G. The artist should not withdraw but he should live the society and express it. My works are often placed in outdoor areas so that they can be more accessible and so that they can interact with the external environment. Art has meaning only when it is given a place. Only if it interacts with its surroundings. For this reason, my works have holes, indentations, and are open in space. I am happy when I see that my works are appreciated by an audience of common people and especially by children. As to the function they are to assume in present-day society, it’s not a simple matter. In the past, we knew what the function of art was to be: the renaissance artist expressed society to which he belonged.
In contemporary society, the role of art is probably to explain better to us a reality which is far more complex, a critical function that is expressed however in a fragmentary way, in the sense that artistic hypothesis are varied and numerous. My work is an experiment or an attempt based on the idea that art can help us stop and think.