Interaction with a line
Filippo Manzini (participating artist in the group exhibition 25 hours a day) in conversation with Angelika Stepken.
Our starting point at the Academy was painting. When did you decide to abandon it and why?
During my first period at the Academy I did abstract work. The next step was the synthesis of the colour palette while maintaining the pictorial support. Later this became the inspiration to start with the work on paper in 2004, three years after I finished at the Academy. Paper is not only a material subtraction with respect to pictorial works and their white supports; in fact, I worked with monochrome canvas, always with colours tending to white and grey. Paper is not simply a choice of support...
How did the transition from one material to another take place? What led you from white to paper? The idea of emptiness? Or perhaps the idea of colour?
The shift was due to an intuition: the idea of finding proportions without the use of colour, just by addressing threedimensionality. With the subtraction on paper I was able to achieve something that is close to painting, close to drawing, but at the same time is strongly related to the material.
To prevent the level of representation in painting?
I have never feel the desire of writing an emotion with my work, I have always been more interested in the relationship that can between my work and my being and my way of seeing the space. The works I exhibited in 2007 at the Galleria Frittelli were born from the study of the surfaces of everything that surround us: the areas of the houses, the plaster, small cracks on the surface, small differences in the proportion that can almost be called bas-reliefs, always because of the strong ties with sculpture.
You are talking about the surfaces of houses, but a house is in itself an enclosed space...
Yes, it is a closed space where from a perceptual point of view my interest is related to what is around me, to the architectural space. The work exhibited in this period displays a two-fold way of seeing space: interior space, that of the paper, and outer space, which is associated with the perception of perspectival depth. Everything is linked to the outcome of the act, the act of working directly on paper, which does not have a descriptive purpose but is more of a casual discourse.
Sometimes you get inside the paper so much that you make a hole in it. One could perhaps speak of moments of iconoclasm, of destruction...
My works are very different from each other: some are very free, produced through a process that becomes an end in itself. The relationship between a sheet of paper and space (which I dominate and control) becomes a way to achieve a total destruction of the paper, through to the point when I decide that the work is done... It is a relation that also exists in painting: when do you decide that a particular work is finished? It is in any case the moment in which you make the decision.
On one hand, you use paper as a material, entering inside it and removing some layers. But if you then look at the paper as an image, its laceration is also an attack on the image...
It is a form of destruction, but at the same time it is also a search for the internal code of the material, something that lives inside it and is trying to emerge. I search for this code, these little signs that are lacerations of the sculpture.
The paper itself is already very thin. By removing thin layers through to the point of making a hole in it, you accomplish something transitory, ephemeral, something that can be compared to a window.
It is a way of entering right inside, of moving beyond the bounds of the space that was given to me, or rather that I gave myself. It is a going beyond this dimension. It is almost an overcoming of constraint, a liberation from the limits of the support.
So the process also becomes dialectical, ambiguous. Usually paper and drawing are very closely related with the artist's hand, with the trace of the body. In your work there seems instead to be a negation of this.
My work is not realized, as in painting, with an expressive purpose or on a decorative-chromatic plane, but in terms of processes. The goal of the work is to provide a temporal scan, a breakdown of the different moments of the material process, which is what becomes visible for the user. The work is never direct, despite its being based on physicality or on the subtraction of matter. It is almost a mechanical process that achieves fulfilment in something light, almost as if it were a single act inside various processes, a reconstruction.
It is like a frame, where the time of the action comes to a halt...
Yes, the action that removes material to create something new, a regeneration.
Is this effect similar to the reproduction in your work on couples?
The multiple works, and especially the diptychs, were produced in the academic period. Some works on etching are close in terms of sequences and form couples, in some cases there are like two horizon lines, two time intervals broken up by different heights and depths.
These photocopied works are in fact more like etchings, but without being physically inside the material, remaining as a pure surface.
The photocopies are the next step. They develop the work on proportion, depth and sign, although in an indirect fashion, by putting my work on the plane of a mechanical transition where there is a gap, a small sign difference that makes the work fresh and at the same time crystallized and locked in a given moment... These small signs on a photocopy are like etchings, and are based on physical contact with the material. I have always been interested in the viewer's perception, the idea of a sign that is not the direct sign of the artist, but which refers to something that has been transformed over time, which has a course. The photocopied works are like travel notes that describe the moments in which my thought rises to the surface and simultaneously pushes towards three-dimensionality. As in the old work, especially in the folded paper works, light acquires a crucial importance. All my works revolve around the same subject.
The importance of light is evident in your photocopied work. Light is also the means without which photocopies would not exist.
n all the works I play with lightness and darkness, with moments of total darkness, black works, where I carve and photocopy the document to get a new and different result. All the works are related by the idea of depth, which I try to overcome by finding new atmospheres.
ou have talked about the temporal process, about light and space. With regard to the photocopied and the folded paper works you talk about architectural space – as a space that opens and does not close, or as the paradox of simultaneous spaces?
They are all works in progress, a process of spaces that are openings and closings in motion. It is a practice that is manifested in the form of a diptych or of multiple jobs, where signs and such like move in space by creating new proportions and new depths in just one sheet.
How did the idea of spaces in movement come about?
There are always two straight lines that meet. These are always present in my work and in my way of seeing spaces. Even in the drawing there are vectors. Two lines converge, meet and transform the space.
However there is in any case a dynamic, whether spaces are architectural or vectors.
However there is in any case a dynamic, whether spaces are architectural or vectors. F.M. The dynamic is given by the light and shadows, shining light that creates shadows producing double signs, which at the same time lend ambiguity to the design, a movement that painting could never render… The next step is thus created: space becomes a dynamic landscape. In these new works, in the landscapes – if we can describe them like this – the horizon line is no longer created by subtraction on paper, but with the superimposing of pigment that comes from a dust spray deposited on the sheet. It is akin to an attitude, which derives not from a process but from the technique I use to allow the spray to get synthetically and minimally into or onto the paper, in this workspace where labile proportions of shadows are created and, in a sense, slip away from the workspace itself.
Is it a technique you discovered by chance or were you trying to find another landscape-image?
Are insights born from a previous job, or a casual work, because I always have an idea, a sort of perception of the finished work that usually is done in a very simple way. In recent works, using the spray was the need to start working with the anything (as I have always done). When I started to stack elements on paper, as a simple act, was because of a desire to add something small, small details... I started to notice that actually what I wanted was achieved, a sort of dust energy, small fragments of pigment forming a line and simultaneously dematerializing the color and going towards anything, towards the abduction, evoking the feeling of a changing scenery, evolving, going downhill. It could be a horizon line of the sea, a dissolution, the horizon line of a volcano crater in eruption, an island behind which is created a kind of absence, as the shots, because the work in sequence could almost be seen as the idea of a film in which there are areas that limited the creation of the movement and the energy, and others that are like the silence of a border in turmoil. In addition, the sensation of a rising energy, that is also a dropping energy, volumes that rise and fall and disappear on the worksheet... It is always a limit that I have that I want to give myself.
It seems to me that the works with the spray like those with steel wire open up to a greater extent to what is exterior to the sheet, to the limited plane of the image.
Yes, it is as if I have first interacted in a room, in an enclosed space, and then I have opened a door, subsequently discovering that the environment leads me back into the work ... The steel wire works are like embryo works that move the creative act towards a more three-dimensional work. They are a transition.
But the shape of these objects is weak – I am drawing on what Pier Luigi Tazzi has written here – and find form only through the tension with the wall.
In some cases my work is directed toward the composition of closed geometric spaces. They are never forms that contract, bind together and create closed space, but they are always forms that open, and as with the steel wire, delicate and ephemeral forms which are, in a sense, weak.
They relate to the time element, to an idea of the temporary. They are hung on the wall, and have a shape, but then when they are detached from it, the form dissolves.
It is a tension that I compose in relation to space. When they are detached from this space, the work becomes mobile and more abstract, in the sense that it can acquire more forms, because they are open forms that have their own freedom. This is perhaps what makes these works unique.
The lines you create with the steel wire are not precise, they are not straight. Two wires are never perfectly together.
They stem from the idea of creating an object that moves away from design, from industry and from specialized crafts, where the wires would surely be straight, perfect, welded and in precise proportions... The idea is to make a more flexible object, bound up with the moment and with the precariousness that binds the wires together. It is a game in which the pieces are reproducible without being identical, that take on life with the act, even if minimal.
The works of the wires of steel and the paper present strong appeals to the art of the 70´s. How important is for you art history?
It has often been a real surprise to recognize in others similar attitudes to mine, as I have never tried to work inspired on other artists reference. In fact I could feel passion for some of them, so I can not see an approach of some of my works to poor art works of the 70s, but my way of working is questioning myself trying to be away from other artists, in a totally spontaneous way. It is as if all of them were entering my work as a citation, but then it totally separates because I can´t find in my work a continuation as I find in their work, my work has no tenacity compared to the perseverance of Manzoni for its achromatic or Castellani with the paper or inverted and protruded canvas.
The two works entitled strumenti (tools) seem to be a bit removed from the context, perhaps because of the title, or maybe because the element of sound comes into play, even if the works are actually mute. I was wondering if they are works from which something new will later emerge?
These two works created new opportunities specially for the use of new materials, works with fragility, flexibility or transparency characteristics. The interaction that the two works have with the title probably tried to be a lack: to have created the tools is perhaps the real limit of this work, maybe the act of being perhaps too much of the tools that in reality are not because of the format, material, interaction with the vibration was a need that I wanted this works to have.
They also contain an option that is expressed only potentially. An instrument usually plays only when it is used. Instead these instruments are to be seen.
I wanted to create a work of simplicity and transparency with invisibility, I admire non-work works, non-object objects, something that describes and does not describe, and that in a sense gets lost. I am interested in the lack of objectivity in work. I am in favour of the enigma that may relate to processes or to the questions that may be asked by the observer about the object or why it was created... I want to express myself and engage more in rendering the virtual.