Interview: Art 'quality or nothing,’ Tiziano Bonanni, says

T. Bonanni

FLORENCE -- A maverick experimenter, Tiziano Bonnani is widely considered to be one of the most non-conformist figures of contemporary Italian art. His research ranges from the restoration of ancient techniques to the assemblage and ready-made, in a surprising mix which is composed of layering objects and materials that give life to a new style of depiction. He is a Florentine who defends the value of restoring old art in an unstable, incoherent and paradoxical period of time, which has buried quality under mountains of trash.

Question: It is said that Florentines suffer from a sense of omnipotence and scepticism that is almost innate. What are your thoughts?

Answer: Anyone born in Florence is met by Giotto, Masaccio, Brunelleschi, Leonardo and Michelangelo as soon as they open their eyes. They are born in a city made according to the same harmonious criteria that, even now, tell a story of absolute beauty. So a greater propensity for a critical sense is understandable (and perhaps excusable!?). It can be interpreted in a misleading manner, like a sense of superiority or snobbishness. As for myself, I am a rather modest type, who tends to lie low.  

Q: The majority of your work creates a clear sensation of being watched, your preferred subject is portrait or the human figure …

A: Man has always been the cornerstone of every revolution in understanding, he has his fate in sight. My artistic research started around 30 years ago with the fall of the Berlin Wall. It signified the assertion that one’s identity has a value above anything else, an identity that I was always able observe, up until the process of globalisation in the second millennium, where “being” has become optional in relation to standing out. Now we are just an alphanumeric code in a Google account, but we still have time to rethink.

Q: In your work, contradictions seem to be the main ingredients: logic and chaos, form and the abstract, brilliance and trash … why?

A: I believe that man is a strange alchemy, a wonderful imperfection capable of creating perfectibility. A shining example is the creation of artificial intelligence. Artists are the most susceptible beings in the world, contradictions are their daily bread and it is thanks to this anomaly that they manage to transform reality into something never seen before; even vile material, something that the majority of people would define as ‘trash’, transforms into something unexpected and of worth. Although the ‘trash’, in my opinion, is far beyond the landfill that we commonly recognise.

Q: Recently you’ve created a style that you define with a strange name and that often uses waste material in a kind of virtuous recycling throughout the arts. Artists have made use of recovered materials in the last 50 years, could you explain why, in your case, there is something unique?

A: The strange name is GENS, an acronym that defines a style of layering that, by means of a series of sequential actions on the materials, returns a series of pictorial and plastic solutions, structured so that the vision breaks down and rebuilds according to the point of view of the observer: with respect to the artists of the neo-avantgarde who have used similar methods, I do not pile up or bundle recovered materials on the surface, nor do I approach them in a linear and descriptive way,  I don’t even use waste as a pure signifying element, but I render it part of the work, a transformed element that acts as a connection between thought and action, between aesthetics and function, in such a way that the work of art is no longer classifiable as a painting or sculpture, but as a tangible “transition” of a thought that can be physically touched. The results are very different from everything that has previously been, not only in appearance but in its conception, it is a multiple that is structured in a single form and can no longer be separated.

Q: Contemporary art is not easy to understand, often people are unable to appreciate the real value of an artist or of a work of art, it is disorientating; could you suggest something as a resolution?

A: Paradoxically, contemporary art, in its intention to communicate at all costs with an ever-increasing public, has become incomprehensible, competence has been set aside in favour of abstract excesses and temptations. Personally, I believe that true art is a weapon of communication in the hands of the few. We could compare it to a pistol, just to give an effective example: there are many gunslingers in masks with toy guns, but few real killers with a 44 magnum! A toy pistol can hit you with a rubber projectile that, in the worst-case scenario, can bruise your skin a little. A 44 magnum pierces you. When it hits you, you notice a different power, you will never be the same again.

Q: Is there no sort of classification too ruthless in your definition?

A: At times I risk being excessive, perhaps, but the distinctions are necessary to understand the real appearance of things. There cannot be any value in approval. Duchamp expressed the view, in the early 20th century, that everyone could be an artist, in a process of clearing the sacred values of art that has caused harmful misunderstandings propagated to this day.

 I think that a value is popular creativity like a sacrosanct right to self-esteem. Something else entirely is the awareness of being an artist, where “to make art” inevitably involves expertise and talents at differing levels of awareness. Art is quality, or it is nothing. It is assuming responsibility and standing up for something, the rest is simply words.

 (translation by Patrick Middleton) 


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