Interview with the Italian artist who uses the elements of nature to express an inner dimension.
Where does the choice of using natural materials as artistic expression come from? And what is the method by which the creative process of your work develops?
My research is always focused on nature observation. I was born and grow in a little town situated on the sea of Tuscan Maremma and surely my roots are at the base of my innate interest toward the natural world. I’ve always tried to observe the landscape reproducing it in an original and evocative way, without ever being too much tied to reality.
But at a certain point this procedure became restrictive. Therefore, little by little, I began to see with my own eyes the subjects that initially I used to only watch, and to gather everything catched my attention in a spontaneous manner. By now this has become a proper method of working: during walking or journeys I pick up and bring materials in my studio where I let them settle for months until I decide to use them within a series of pieces or a work in particular. It’s as if attracted by certain materialities, I let them suggest me the way to go. So I’ve removed gradually the traditional materials used in painting, in order to use only recyclable elements of natural origin. Besides my interest in surfaces and material arises not only from an aesthetic necessity, but especially from a conceptual need. Consequently the choice is always connected to an existential meaning corresponding to a natural fact. Thus the nature become a means to talk about human being, and his experience in the world. In fact, I deeply believe in the absolute connection existing between man and natural environment, even if our anthropocentric time encourages us to distance ourselves from our real home: the natural habitat.
However the heterogeneity of art forms, together with the use of different kinds of materials, makes your research uniform and strongly focused on two specific concepts which give to it a personal and original mark. Can you tell us about that?
Certainly the two threads that make my artistic path homogeneous are the site and time concepts. Each collected material, and subsequently each art work that comes out of it, is always related to an existential moment of which I want to talk throughout a determinate material attributed indefinitely to a specific site. For this reason I could define my work as site-specific and time-specific. Using this method is really stimulating. In fact it connects me to the site and present moment, and allows me to work paying attention to everything surrounds me and to every instant of my life. I believe it is a personal way to celebrate my experience in the world. But it has also inherent in itself the hope to approach to many other people’s experiences.
Another significant aspect concerning your artistic conception is related to the “walking” word. How is this kind of intimate and introspective experience dominant in conceiving your creations?
Walking, besides being the title of Henry D. Thoreau’s book that is a reference point for me, is the action by which all of my work is generated. While I’m walking, I reflect on, think, imagine and visualize shapes and colours. While I’m walking, I observe the surrounding world and I pick up some samples: soils, leaves, branches, minerals, forgotten and anonymous materials, destined to dissolve in the environment. So walking is a sort of meditation and intimate experience that on one hand puts me in contact with the nature, on the other with my existential experience. On the contrary the subsequent and real phase of creation takes place in my study, where the ideas and the materials transform and get together by means of the artistic product. Moreover, walking is a bit of a metaphor of my way of doing art, of my method: I create while I’m living, therefore I walk in the existence while I’m creating.
How is this simple and handcrafted figurative style, typical at the same time of unconventional tendencies such as abstract art and informal practice, a means of shaping streams of memory and consciousness?
Definitely, in a first phase, my work deals with the streams of memory and consciousness, and in any case with something purely irrational. But this thing occurs just in a first phase. Successively these first instinctive inputs are little by little listened, understood, metabolized and told through the work. Each creation bears with it a sense, a concept, a connection between the natural sphere and the human sphere. In fact, I like thinking about my research as a meditative procedure: the elaboration of an instinctive flame turning on inside of me but that needs time, listening, attention and reflections before it reveals in a tangible, concrete, meaningful way. The resulting pieces are derived from the union and exchange among the inner sphere and the external world, as if the intimate experience was totally in harmony with the flows and cycle f the nature that surrounds us.
So which are the aesthetic references that have influenced your research?
If I have to think to some artistic references, I surely think to Art Povera, minimal art and analytical painting. Undoubtedly these are my roots that I feel close to what I do. Actually, despite I’m working in an age far from those aesthetic expressions, however I’ve still found them really current and worthy of a closer examination.
In many of your works white seems to represent a cathartic element, of vital transformation. What symbolic value does it take?
Over time my palette has become more and more brighter, and for some years now, I’m working around white and all its warmer or colder variations. Even if I still use earths and other natural pigments, white is always intentionally predominant. It’s a color that represents me and what I want to talk about for the better. It is a color non-color which philosophically carries the concept of purity, it represents that moment when everything is possible, the beginning of everything. I use it to regenerate the materials I find, almost like trying to purify them, cleaning and bleaching them from the earthly dirt to make them closer to an ideal world, more spiritual and eternal.
In 2018 there were two important experiences for your career. The artwork Like a tear was selected for the collective show “Transformation” at the Gallery MC in New York, while Corrispettivo Naturale was a personal exhibition dedicated to your works, set up at the G.A.P Art Gallery in Rome. Can you tell us how these two projects came to life and what characterizes them?
My personal exhibition Corrispettivo Naturale was born thanks to the planning proposal of the young and promising curator Davide Silvioli, after having seen one of my works exhibited at the Pecci Center in Prato within a collective exhibition dedicated to young emerging artists from Tuscany. Two years after the show I was involved in this project to which I worked enthusiastically. I studied in Rome and exhibiting in this magical city is always an honor for me. Regarding the collective show at the MC Gallery in New York, in October 2018 my work was selected in a public call advertised by the international organization Re Artiste of New York to which I had participated. I have to say that it was a great satisfaction, as well as a fantastic experience of exchange and sharing. I personally took part in the opening, which turned out to be an international event, during which I was able to get in touch with many artists from all over the world. On this special occasion I could literally visit and fall in love with the Big Apple, where I hope to return soon. I also wish that such stimulating experience is only the first of a long series.
Instead how does the installation Ubuntu (Let your tower bloom) come to life in 2019?
Ubuntu is an installation I particularly care about because it is the first job in which I inserted living natural elements. More precisely, sixteen species of succulent plants from southern Africa and Mexico. In sub-Saharan African culture, Ubuntu symbolizes a fundamental philosophical principle: the essence of what it means to be human. From a conceptual point of view, Ubuntu indicates benevolence towards the neighbour. It is a rule of life based on compassion and respect for others. While from the formal point of view the wooden structures of the installation evoke the idea of a tower intended as individual closure. These towers, however, have no roof and from that space develop the different species of plants, and in the beauty of their growth and diversity, they coexist harmoniously. This precisely by virtue of the fact that nature is diversity, harmony and peaceful coexistence. This installation was born from the need to face certain issues regarding recent news reports, with the hope of raising awareness and making the viewer reflect on those universal human values that we are completely losing sight of.
Your next project uses fabrics to recall the theme of affections and memory. How did this idea come about?
In the last few months I have thought of undertaking a new project which I have called “tessuti affettivi”, but which is still in its early stages. The idea is to collect material such as old fabrics, unused clothing, linen, etc. that have an affective meaning and that is of natural origin (such as cotton, hemp, linen). If so far in my work collecting materials has always been an intimate and solitary journey, this time I am interested in engaging the public that, by donating these materials, can actively participate to create a fabric of existential connections. With the material collected I would like to create a large installation focused on remembering, memory and affections. In fact, these cloths represent not only a simple fabric for people, but an affective witness of a certain moment or event of their life. At the moment there are already so many materials that people have donated me from many parts of Italy: old sheets belonging to parents, nightgowns of their trousseaus, fabrics that have an intimate emotional value. I called people to participate in my project through a call on social media and I have to say that many have already joined it with enthusiasm. I hope to create the great installation “tessuti affettivi” in 2020. For now I’m still collecting the material. So I take advantage of this interview to invite anyone who wants to participate to donate their own emotional tissue by contacting me at my email firstname.lastname@example.org. In conclusion, through this installation I would like to let people’s memories, experiences and moments of life out of the closets and old drawers that smell of mothballs. I would like to regenerate these materials and give them a new life as a celebratory act, as a tribute to important memories, but also to the little things that each of us keep safe, sometimes risking to forget them in the wardrobe of the past.
Biography: Samantha Passaniti was born in Grosseto in 1981, she works and lives between Monte Argentario and Rome. She graduated at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, in 2015 she attended a post lauream course at the Slade School of Art of London and, both in 2018 and 2019 she was finalist of the Arteam Cup prize. Moreover in 2018 she was selected from the international organization ReArtsite for a collective at the MC Gallery of New York. From 2019 all her artistic production is catalogued in the national register CeDrac for the promotion of the young contemporary art. Her artistic research is close to the minimal art and Arte Povera, and is focused on the experimentation of natural materials picked up in the environment, reflecting on and examining the complexity of human relationships and existential experience. Her works come to life from a continous relation, dialogue and exchange between internal and external, intimate world and natural environment, existential experience and natural cycles.