Interview: Gianni Depaoli
Luca Curci talks with Gianni Depaoli during VENICE INTERNATIONAL ART FAIR 2021 and all the three appointments of BORDERS ART FAIR 2021 at THE ROOM Contemporary Art Space.
Gianni Depaoli is a self-taught material artist who was born on 04 March 1961. He lives and works in Candia Canavese, in a former cold store renamed Museo Menotrenta, the exhibition rooms are the former cold rooms. Since 2007, he did exhibitions and installations on social and environmental degradation, itinerant projects supported by museums and institutional bodies: Black Sea Museum of Bergamo, Allarme Ambiente Science Museum Genoa, Rossomare GAM Genoa, Italy-China Biennale, Venice Biennale Italian Pavilion, Foundation Piaggio, Monaco Embassy, Museum of the Port of Portofino, site-specific work, GAM Rome. Numerous museums and institutional bodies host his works. The new experimentation has led him in 2012 to use an organic material that ennobles transforming it into works of art, skins and ink of fish and cephalopods, which he selects in Asia and Northern Europe where he gained experience. Awarded in numerous events including the Asolo Biennale, GemLucArt Montecarlo, Turin Science Museum, Montecarlo Biennale, Montecarlo Film Festival. From 2020 following the events suffered, he returns to treat with much more force and anger the issues that have been dear to him since the beginning: the wicked behaviour of man and the consequent environmental and social deterioration, now also representing the consequences on man. In his relentless search for marine organic materials, witnesses of the time, he discovered “the hatches of overture” fascinating agglomerations that evoke the meaning of Life, now part of the new works.
Luca Curci – What’s the art for you?
Gianni Depaoli – It is the maximum expression of verbal and non-verbal language. I think I understood it from my father, in his attempt to externalize with invisible truth, in the logic of listening and looking at how it is possible to give shape to moods or sensations without the help of words. He told me “draw what you want to say”. The rest came from the great masters, Alberto Burri in primis. I’ve been struck by his artistic testimony through common materials. From me, using organic substances destined for the landfill, I celebrate a nutritional element, its corporeality, its morphological qualities, extraordinarily sinuous. A performance that does not end with life.
LC – How did you come to your current artistic practice?
GD – It all started in September 2007 when an intrepid director like Marco Valle of the E. Caffi Museum of Bergamo, after seeing one of my projects still in the draft phase, decided to dedicate an entire exhibition to me: “Black Sea”. That small number of works, just seven, represented my first public release. That rather lucky debut has involved many other museums. These days, my “Observations” – so I call them and not “complaints”, as they are tangible situations – are exposed in many museums and institutions. The Gallery of Modern Art of Genoa was the first to welcome me, managed by Maria Flora Giubilei, with whom a certain bizarre idea was born: ‘polluting’ the museum by combining irreverent works, such as mine, with the masterpieces of the exposure. A great satisfaction. Job creations referring to disasters caused by man, the neglect of our own nourishment. Hence the expressive need to dignify the waste of a primary element such as fish, and make it immortal, permanently fixing color and shape. My studio is a former cold store, now renamed Museo Menotrenta, once used for fish processing. The exhibition rooms are former cold rooms, my studio a former laboratory and the offices are now used in part for the reception but above all, they are a treasure trove of past, future or inconclusive projects. Since 2014 I have been using inks and skins of cephalopods treated to maintain the livery thanks to a method that I have patented to manipulate them surgically with the aid of needles and scalpels. The aim is to protect the material, stabilize it, also play on the randomness of the shapes and give it back its primordial beauty. “From the edible that nourishes the body to the art that nourishes the spirit”.
LC – Where do you find your inspiration?
GD – From an instant, from a word, from a sentence, from an image and if it is the right key, the idea and the project open up in front of me.
LC – Which is your creative process?
GD – My parents worked in the fish industry so I have always been surrounded by this decorative element. I first experimented with every material, from acrylic to mould, from rust to resin, then I literally went back to basics. I wanted to be a painter without a brush and a sculptor without a chisel to identify my aesthetic. An Artisan-Alchemist who fixes a rhythm, a colour, a shape, a volume in irregular compositions, stopping on the decorative data that same organic process manages to give back. Mine is figurative research, a sculptural one where the skin is the primary aesthetic data and then there is the pictorial one given by the identification of a chromatic graphic already present in nature, I try to transfer it to a surface that is that of the painting by replacing it to the pictorial activity. I simply take it to give it that aura, that artistic dimension that places it at the centre of attention. Behind it, there are experiments, projects and storage at controlled temperatures to keep the natural colours and their indefinite beauty.
LC – Which is the message linked to the work you showed in this exhibition? How does it relate to the theme of the entire festival?
GD – The messages that the works convey are linked to the pandemic period we are experiencing and the pains suffered in a physical and psychological way. The Pope in the word “SOLO” runs along the slope that leads him from the square, once crowded with faithful and now deserted, towards salvation and redemption. The path is represented by his reassuring words just spoken. The work “From emotion to reason” evokes a passage from Manzoni in “The Betrothed” that warns of the need to return to reason after abandonment, to the emotion that leads to following the instinct shouted by the most troublemakers. “… Since, when one is on the path of passion, it is natural for the blindest to lead”, is a passage referring to ‘gut’ decisions, taken on the wave of emotion and not reason.
LC – Do you agree with our vision of art and what do you think of the theme of the festival?
GD – Yes, it’s a futuristic vision and open to new perspectives; the festival, structured in various titles and inaugurations, gives the opportunity to express oneself with different languages, has a long period of exposure and can be visited by many people given the concomitance with the Biennale, in this case of architecture.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP could represent an opportunity for some artists?
GD – I think so because it’s aimed above all at foreign visitors and therefore, in addition to the Italian panorama, it can deal with different schools of thought and with many collectors.
LC – Did you enjoy collaborating with us?
GD – It was the first experience and it seems positive to me for the professionalism of your organization.
LC – What do you think of the ITSLIQUID platform?
GD – Effective, dynamic and international.