All About Italy (USA) - - Content - Paolo Del Panta

Fabio Viale, your life was linked to mar­ble when you were 16 years old. What are the chal­lenges for an ado­les­cent when sculpt­ing such an ap­par­ently hos­tile ma­te­rial?

I be­lieve that it is not so much a chal­lenge, at least at the be­gin­ning, it was rather an in­evitable ap­proach. Some­thing that later I dis­cov­ered to be a tal­ent, an in­evitable in­cli­na­tion. A high school pro­fes­sor asked me to con­sciously han­dle a ma­te­rial. I found it in­trigu­ing, al­chem­i­cal, and since then I have not stopped. Only later did the word ‘chal­lenge’ pref­ace my idea of sculp­ture and mar­ble.

You shape mar­ble to evoke fa­mous clas­si­cal sculp­tures, but the ref­er­ence to Greek and Re­nais­sance an­tiq­uity is not a trib­ute in the strictest sense. Is it a rein­ter­pre­ta­tion or a frac­ture?

Both. Of­ten my works are close ref­er­ences to great, his­toric mas­ter­pieces. That is when they fall into the ‘Sou­venir’ cy­cle, tak­ing into ac­count the will to en­tirely or par­tially own a mas­ter­piece: Sou­venir Gio­conda, Sou­venir David or Sou­venir Pi­età, among the oth­ers. Other times are works with a clas­si­cal form with a less pre­cise ref­er­ence to ex­ist­ing sculp­tures with the same in­tent to cre­ate a shift in sense. A new se­man­tic di­men­sion. Made from poly­styrene or cov­ered with tat­toos, the can­dor of mar­ble, the clas­si­cism of the ma­te­rial, the pu­rity, is linked to a per­cep­tual dis­place­ment that as­so­ciates a cur­rent lan­guage of­ten linked to the world of vi­o­lence. That is the case of Rus­sian pris­oner tat­toos or the Ja­panese mafia, Yakuza: Yours will be our o Kouros, rep­re­sented by fists or busts.

The sur­face of your stat­ues is cov­ered with madonna tat­toos, skulls, pis­tols and other signs that make up the com­plex code the Rus­sian crim­i­nal com­mu­nity. What does this sym­bolic meet­ing say?

The force of dis­ori­en­ta­tion. It is a col­lu­sive com­pro­mise be­tween the sig­nif­i­cance of mar­ble-re­lated mean­ings and the clas­si­cism of cruel vi­o­lence. Ide­ally, art ful­fills its great sym­bolic task of syn­the­sis: through a sin­gle prod­uct, two worlds are con­densed, man­i­fested in a sculp­tural mir­a­cle and the har­mony of de­sign.

The phi­los­o­phy of re­al­ism and con­tem­po­rane­ity de­fines the works of Viale, who segues from draw­ing on clas­si­cal works to re­pro­duc­tion - strictly in mar­ble of ob­jects of lit­tle value, such as SUV tires, and turns them into works of art.

Does the jux­ta­po­si­tion of the sa­cred and the pro­fane still gen­er­ate dis­ori­en­ta­tion?

In a metaphor­i­cal sense, the as­so­ci­a­tion of worlds ap­par­ently in con­trast cre­ates won­der: it is a part of the work. It is not so much the sa­cred and the pro­fane, but rather clas­si­fi­ca­tions of the his­tory of im­ages, of uni­ver­sal icon­o­clasm and of their rein­ter­pre­ta­tion which, cre­at­ing dis­place­ment, gen­er­ate close­ness and cu­rios­ity. The creative out­come of my works has an ab­so­lute char­ac­ter, sus­tained con­tin­u­ously draw­ing on well-known se­man­tic basins, per­pet­u­ally sub­ject to mis­di­rec­tions. Tires for ex­am­ple, a fa­mil­iar and com­monly-used ob­ject, are not only ringed, em­body­ing a vis­ual short-cir­cuit of the In­fi­nite, but they are also de­signed to wear down so they re­main true to their truth. De­con­struct­ing the pre­cious­ness of mar­ble to be­come low-value. In this case, it is metaphor­i­cally in­ter­est­ing to speak of sa­cred (mar­ble) and pro­fane (worn-out ob­ject) syn­the­sized.

In the mar­ble replica of Michelan­gelo’s La Pi­età, a Nigerian boy re­places Christ. Who is Lucky Ehi?

I met Lucky Ehi in a re­cep­tion cen­ter in Turin. He is a young Nigerian Catholic who es­caped per­se­cu­tion in his coun­try. His story of an es­cape and the wel­com­ing of the Mother of God is sym­bolic. How­ever, it is trans­ver­sal to re­li­gions: a veiled woman with a bowed head is vis­i­ble from be­hind the sculp­ture. It is a pow­er­ful and sug­ges­tive iconic plot that drives ide­al­ized con­no­ta­tions syn­the­siz­ing Chris­tian­ity to be­come even more uni­ver­sal. This is what fas­ci­nates me. I shared this idea with the Pog­giali gallery and with the cur­rent di­rec­tor of the Museo Nove­cento in Florence Ser­gio Risal­iti. We mapped out the project in the Mi­lan of­fice, and then launched the first ex­hi­bi­tions in Pi­etrasanta and Florence.

In an­other rein­ter­pre­ta­tion of the work, how­ever, it was the body of the Vir­gin Mary that was miss­ing: only Christ re­mained and fin­ger­prints im­pressed on his right hand. What was the mes­sage of that sculp­ture?

This work is a syn­the­sis of the Sou­venir se­ries, en­ti­tled Sou­venir Pi­età (Christ): Christ is ripped from the Mother. Made in 2007, the sculp­ture evokes the roar of a thun­der­ing ab­sence of one liv­ing with­out

the other. The same for the 2018 Sou­venir Pi­età (Mother), where in­stead, stripped away Christ is imag­ined through the creative gap that I cre­ated. Sou­venir Pi­età (Christ) con­denses what I said ear­lier: my per­sonal chal­lenge to cre­ate a ma­ni­a­cally per­fect, sug­ges­tive 1:1 re­pro­duc­tion, with­out lim­it­ing my­self to this thresh­old. The im­me­di­acy of a throb­bing ab­sence, that of Christ, nur­tures this work’s con­cep­tual di­men­sion: the im­me­di­ate ref­er­ence to Michelan­gelo’s Pi­età gen­er­ates the same in­stan­ta­neous iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of the ab­sence of the Mother, Christ be­comes a Sou­venir ide­ally within ev­ery­one’s reach.

You have al­ways been look­ing for new re­sults, also ex­per­i­ment­ing with the laws of mechanics and physics, with which you gave life to the fa­mous mo­tor­ized mar­ble boat, “Ah­galla”. Is po­et­i­cal dis­place­ment ex­ceed­ing the lim­its?

It is a chal­lenge: a chal­lenge to ma­te­ri­als and a close en­counter with my­self. My tem­per­a­ment to gen­er­ate and ex­per­i­ment with new pos­si­bil­i­ties is an in­ner ne­ces­sity. No en­gi­neer was will­ing to en­sure the suc­cess of the ex­per­i­ment so, al­beit with­out any eco­nomic means at the time, I en­joyed the gen­eros­ity and rare sen­si­tiv­ity of a quarry owner who gave me mar­ble and space to make it, af­ter which mounted an en­gine while docked at Car­rara’s port and set sail with great trep­i­da­tion. In my mind’s eye, I am still sail­ing. Af­ter Car­rara, Venice dur­ing the Bi­en­nale, then Rome, Turin and Gorky Park in Moscow.

Which artists do you feel clos­est to?

There is some­thing to learn from all of them, each ta­lented in their own way.

Is your art clas­sic, pop or punk?

I think clas­si­fi­ca­tion is rather vague and in­ap­pli­ca­ble, but at the same time, all three ad­jec­tives are, in dif­fer­ent ways and times, valid with­out be­ing ex­haus­tive. Per­haps my an­swer is that my art gives us back past mean­ing through co­her­ent, rig­or­ous artis­tic choices that sur­prise me first, draw­ing on the tech­ni­cal rel­e­vance of mar­ble’s so­phis­ti­ca­tion, and an­thro­po­log­i­cal in how ac­tu­al­ity is eval­u­ated — this is why I think it is con­tem­po­rary.


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