Interview: Matteo Volonterio
Luca Curci talks with Matteo Volonterio during CONTEMPORARY VENICE 2021 at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.
Photography. Photography is the departure of my work, the media which I explore and record sections of reality becoming part of my palette. Photography is a sort of mental exercise in which I must broaden my visual sensitivity, exploring and capturing shapes that I recognize as mine. A sort of sub-conscious hunting that enriches my artistic baggage. The locations where I practice are woods, mountains, hunting shacks, abandoned buildings and other remote and lonely places of my city, where humans and nature make interesting shapes together.
Print and digital painting. My artistic research on bi-dimensional plans consists of pictorial digital collages. All prints are created by photoshop cause I think is the best media in the XXI century to create aesthetic images. I covert my photographs with web images and digital painting to create a canvas with eternal attributes. I believe the digital file has divine attributes in our society, it is one and multiple, it’s eternal, does not decompose like organic matter, it hasn’t a material body, but it can materialize in multiple forms. For this reason, my scenarios have mystical attributes, they are scenes of a hybrid reality between dream and network, pictures of a sacred narration generated by the excess of image regurgitated by web and media. When the painting is completed usually I print it on cotton fiber, sometimes with gum-printing, sometimes with laser printing.
Symbiosis. My work is focused on the Anthropocene relations between human productions and natural productions that generate hybrid structures, aesthetic, social and political. The spaces I build are materializations of the Oikos, intrinsic flow of human and natural forces. My passions arise from the history, culture and geography of Bergamo, my city. His mountains and hills are full of ancient hunting shacks called “Roccolo”; the firsts of them appear on Bergamo’s Alps in the XIII century. The structures made by wood are covered by climbing plants becoming hybrid constructions that blend in with alpine habitat. These shapes inspiring my consciousness since I was a child, when my grandfather, who practiced Roccolo-hunting, showed me the remote paths of the hills where he lived, full of medieval ruins and rural legends. These are my sculptures, spaces of human and non-human nature: the Oikos. When I started diving I discovered a new world of hybrid shapes, coral witch wrecks, spoon on sunken statues, a strong sense of aesthetic balance pervaded me. I wondered how I could bring art down there? So I focused my graduation project on an underwater art installation, I decided to build a Roccolo (Hunting shack) on the seabed with Bergamo diving center. Not a shack to hunt, but to hybridize with marine habitat, coral, spoons, seaweed and fishes. A new form of land art testimony of the symbiosis that art ad humanity can recreate with his habitat.
Luca Curci – How did you get to your current artistic practice?
Matteo Volonterio – I think it is difficult to define the beginning of my artistic production with a particular date or period. The creation of forms and spaces is part of me and has grown with me through the stages of my life. I have been drawing, designing and building for as long as I can remember, it is a necessity for me. Observing, metabolizing and producing are activities inherent in human nature, which determine the creative capacity of individuals. Fortunately, I’ve always had an unbridled curiosity, which has imposed on me the expressive channels through which I metabolize external inputs. It’s a necessity, of course, but a playful one. A sort of evolution of the childish creative exercise. Even if it is full of challenging themes, my current production remains for me a playful practice. If it weren’t so, I wouldn’t have the irrepressible stimulus necessary to carry it out. Certainly, the Academy has been fundamental for the maturation of my work. Before it, I limited myself to drawing, believing that technical growth could be the only objective of an artistic career. Writing, on the contrary, was the form of expression with which I could deeply express myself. Entering the Academy I realized what art really meant: not the portrait from life, the easel painting, or the charcoal drawing, that was the art of the nineteenth century. It was the most complete and free form of human expression since man began making things with his own hands. “Ars” with a capital A. From cave graffiti to Reichtag wrapping, from the Valley of the Kings to Joseph Boyce when he tried to explain his exhibit to a dead hare. The most utterly complete form of human expression, or rather, the most human of forms of expression. More than the institute, I owe much to my teachers. Learning about art from teacher-artists is different than doing it from art historians. I was followed step by step in my academic productions and projects. I believe that without Salvatore Falci and Liliana Moro as professors, I would not have produced a third of what I have created. Observe, metabolize and produce. It applies to the experiences we live, but especially to the people we surround ourselves with. They are our product: the synthesis of our experiences and stimuli. This is how I arrived at my current artistic practice, acquiring as much as I could from every person, practice and experience that came my way.
LC – What are your thoughts while you paint? Do you have any habits or rituals while you work?
MV – I am usually extremely focused on the realization of the work. Piece by piece I assemble the components trying to determine what form the sculpture or image will take and this allows me not to think about problems outside the aesthetic sphere. There is no difference between my work and the work of an artisan in his workshop or of a graphic designer in an office. The concentration is totally dedicated to the realization of the work: visualizing the final result and dealing with the complications that accompany the realization.
LC – Are your artworks focused on a specific theme?
MV – I get seriously off-topic sometimes, especially when I experiment with a medium different than the usual ones. Symbiosis is a major theme lately. After my dissertation on the Anthropocene read through art, I try to create relationships between opposing themes within the works. I am very attached to my cultural identity, to the history of my city, Bergamo, and its valleys. It is a province with a very stratified history, starting with the first Celtic settlements, then Romans and Langobardics. Its forests and mountains often conceal ancient architectural evidence of the past. It is easy to come across medieval ruins half swallowed up by the forest or shrines of the late Middle Ages in the middle of the woods. These settings have fascinated me since I was a child. They contain the austerity of the passage of time over matter and man, but also the redemption of the biological life of the wilderness. They are living cenotaphs to human history. In them, human life and flora and fauna become one. A symbiosis that overcomes the dualistic separation between man and his nature. This is the theme that is closest to my heart today. Analyzing and witnessing the biological symbiosis between living species, including the human one. The environmental issue is the most important challenge ever faced by human civilization. In our hands lies the choice between the survival of living species and the resilience of an unsustainable system of consumption. It is a responsibility that art too must take on, like every organ of human culture to raise awareness, spread and change.
LC – Do you use art to express something in particular? Is it like your medium of expression?
MV – Art is an expression by definition, not a medium, but ‘the’ medium. So much so that other forms of expression borrow the word to define their own expressive characteristic (theatrical art, cinematographic art, etc.). As already mentioned, my artistic production is dictated by the need to externalize the experiences and knowledge that I metabolize. Consequently, the issues that are closest to my heart are those that I address more in my works, not necessarily expressing my point of view, but offering accurate analysis through the aesthetic experience that I propose. Art is not one-sided, otherwise, it would only be graphic. It does not impose a unique and unequivocal reading, but a series of possible interpretations linked by a red thread, which is precisely the conscience of the artist.
LC – Where do you find your inspiration?
MV – As I have already said, every external input influences my production. Aesthetically, I find rural settings more stimulating, places where time has left traces of its passing. The province of my city is precisely the place from which I have drawn the most inspiration, because in addition to being beautiful, for me it is part of who I am. At the same time, traveling always gives me new stimuli. Every place I visit gives me something to metabolize and with which to increase my creative palette. The ruins of the temple of Luxor, the orthodox churches of Transylvania, the cliffs of Salento, every place I love offers me indelible inspiration that will remain part of me and therefore of what I produce.
LC – What do you think about the concept of this festival? How did it inspire you?
MV – I think this is a crucial reflection for a contemporary artist. Art is a reflection of the relationships that make up life, between people and objects. Society is the dense interdependent network that orders and coordinates these relationships, and only through art can we obtain a truly deep and human analysis.
LC – Can you explain something about the artwork you have in our exhibition?
MV – “Plaga Templum” is a temple built during the quarantine in Bergamo. Its structure is inspired by the medieval sanctuaries built during the plague of 1300, in particular the Romanesque Basilica of Santa Giulia di Bonate Sotto (BG). On the pediment of the sculpture, there is a print of the famous “Danza Macabra” di Clusone, also evidence of the plague in the province of Bergamo in the twelfth century. “Introspective Urbanism” is a sort of habitation which, with its windows, attracts and intrigues the observer’s gaze. Every room, every corner incites you to investigate. The voyeurism practiced by the observer transports him to the internal dimension of the structure; a kind of external introspection. The house, with its rooms and its floors, is an aesthetic transposition of the human psyche.
LC – What do you think about the organization of our event?
MV – I was pleasantly impressed with the number of people working on organizing the event. I always received immediate responses and was followed step by step by the staff. I am glad that despite the pandemic and restrictions we were able to open the exhibit.
LC – Would you suggest a collaboration with us? What do you think about our services?
MV – This is my first show with you, but I felt very cared for and at ease, so yes, I would gladly suggest it. As mentioned I was pleasantly impressed with the organization and services.
LC – Do you think ITSLIQUID GROUP can represent an opportunity for artists?
MV – Because of the pandemic, it’s hard to say, it’s my first time with you. Certainly, for me it was, and I am very satisfied with it.