A TALK WITH GIORGIO ANDREOTTA CALÒ
Photography by Matteo Pastorio
On the occasion of the Venice Biennial of Art 2017, the first edition of THIS IS NOT A PRIZE, which began in 2016 with Artissima and Giorgio Andreotta Calò, ends with his selection made by curator Cecilia Alemani as one of the three Italian artists protagonists of the Italian Pavilion. Mutina, as foreseen by the concept of THIS IS NOT A PRIZE, chose to support it in the production of his work.
Giorgio is one of the most highly regarded Italian artists of his generation. His work focuses on the use of natural materials – like stone, bronze and water – that evoke the passage of time and effectively represent the signs of our physical and mental becoming. With the use of simple gestures or spectacular references, the artist constructs metaphorical and poetic images of existential conditions: being suspended, mirroring yourself and going further, thanks to the power of imagination.
We interviewed him after his visit to our headquarters, to get to know him better.
Let’s start from the beginning. What came before your artist career? Tell us your story.
My story is related to Venice.
It’s where I was born and this city has always accompanied me to other places I’ve lived in: Paris, Berlin, Rome, Amsterdam, New York.
It’s as if I’ve been searching for it all the time and everywhere, even though today is very different from how I lived it before I left. The city changed and I think I’ve always stayed the same.
I did not decide that one day I would have been an artist, it was meant to be.
When I was a kid I went with friends for the abandoned palaces that have now become hotels.
We moved around the city with extreme freedom and the only danger was to fall into the water.
I’ve always been surrounded by water…
What is the meaning of Venice in relation to your private and public existence? How did it influence your art?
Being born in Venice has profoundly influenced my life. It is a city that I love and detest, a city that reflects itself. Everyone knows it and just a few understands it. In a few years it has been overwhelmed by wild tourism for which they produced a picture of the city to be sold easily and quickly without having to go discovering it, understand it, to spend more time in it. For this reason, Venice, in its complexity, is almost unknown to the flocks of tourists grazing.
This place more than others is the paradigm of a process of change in place, or that has already happened in our present. For me it represents an observatory and an inexhaustible source of inspiration.
The city is also its double. The royal city and its reflection in the water. Reflection is a condition of those who live in it, their form mentis. Fluidity of thought, a slow-down time, at times suspended, once dominated by the tidal flow. This tide enters and goes out into the city, changes state, vaporizes and penetrates into the bones, floods the winter’s streets, blurs and stagnates in the summer.
Is this why water has become one of your favorite means of expression? What role do you give to this natural element within your works?
Water is for me at the same time an element and a sculptural agent.
Its action transforms other materials. It is configured with respect to the container that welcomes it, and it has no form, if not transiently. It coincides with the fluid dimension of thought, in its flow. Reflection is therefore not only a visual fact but it is also a mental state. Thinking is to think of the form as the process that generated it.
This process is for me a combination of natural and anthropic action. From a piece of wood eroded over time by water to the construction of the symbolic form of an hourglass.
The concept of time has also influenced many of your work, especially for Hourglasses. What creative process lies behind these works and how are they realized?
For me it is about representing he idea of passing time in sculptural form. This is a reflection on the form, not just visually but also conceptually.
Reflection as a visual phenomenon corresponds to mirroring. These sculptures are, in fact, made up of two identical and specular elements, surmounted on a perpendicular axis to the horizon plane, at the median level of the sea. But reflection is also a disposition of thought. These sculptures are the result of an abstraction, a reasoning about the process that generated them. They are forms that tell us about the crystallization and fixity of a time. The hourglass is a symbol of its measurement. The flow of time is marked by the corrosion that the swinging tide exerts on a piece of wood immersed in the water. These poles of which the lagoon is scattered, are the starting point of the work itself. I pick them up when they get to the final stage of corrosion and make a calico from which I obtain two wax replicas. Transforming wood into wax and then metal is an alchemical process for me.
In wax-wax fusion, wax evaporates, liquid bronze takes its place, solidifies, changes state, and crystallizes time. It crystallizes that wood erosion and makes it immutable. Fixed.
The first meeting with Mutina took place a few months ago at Artissima 2016. You have been selected as the winner of the “This is not a prize” initiative. What can you tell us about this experience?
It’s something I did not expect.
I was not in Turin in those days. Niccolò Sprovieri had exposed one of my sculptures. The work of both of us was rewarded, his as gallerist, mine as sculptor. I went to Turin for the awards ceremony. There I met Mutina and the people who are part of it. I have heard a sincere appreciation from them for my work. Over time I realized that it was a mutual affinity. Collaborations do not always work… I guess it’s a matter of recognizing each other. In this sense, Massimo Orsini has shown that he is able to put people and their talents together with some naturalness and great intuition.
Are you familiar with the ceramic material?
I’m familiar with clay processing, affinity with the sculptural material.
However, I have seen Mutina’s solutions and uses that I never imagined, even though everything starts simply from the soil. I realized I had a lot to learn and to experiment.
You came to visit us at our Fiorano headquarters. What did you bring with you, returning to Venice?
It was a nice meeting. Really. I was at ease, greeted with open arms. I did not seem to get into any business. There is a strong consistency in Mutina, a style. It is something that you already perceive in the architecture of the building which for me could not be other than that. I also understand why Massimo decided to place one of my sculptures there.
After Artissima, your participation to the Venice Biennale in the Italian pavilion was announced. How do you feel about it? Can you give us some anticipation about the project?
This invitation means a lot to me.
It’s my city and my country. It is a space where I worked many years ago.
In 2001, at the Biennale of Harald Szeemann I was assistant to Ilya Kabakov. I was 21 and worked a month and a half in the same spaces that now house the pavilion. In the same tense with Ilya, there was Richard Serra with his two spirals. It’s been 16 years and now I’m back in there. It’s strange. It’s strong for me. I do not know how to explain it.
It is the second Venice Biennale I participate in. The first time, 6 years ago, I decided to work on a symbolic gesture. I was still in Amsterdam and returned to Venice on foot. It was a long journey. I took me 2 months.
This time for the pavilion I had a year to work on the project. It will be a dense work, complex also in its simplicity.