Packaging & Dilemmas – Interview with Andrea Zucchi by Silvia Fabbri
Silvia Fabbri.In this new cycle of works significantly entitled Doppio gioco (Double-crossing) there’s an evident deviation from your previous work:emerging on your canvases with strongly emphasised colours, a swirling of fluorescent, almost pop colours, and the unexpected appearance of 3D works, with abstract shapes, created using packaging from electronic appliances, hence the name Imballaggi (Packaging).Are these two currents in your work that you consider independent of each other, each with its own distinct origin and creative path?
Andrea Zucchi.They are two independent, opposing cycles of artworks that I developed simultaneously and which I decided to merge only subsequently.The only common denominator is the range of colours, which to my mind is that of a whimsical Mannerist who has revived the Bollywood look rather than being fluorescent-pop.While embarking on this “nineteenth century break”, in order to fully unleash my predisposition for everything that’s out of time, I felt the need to compensate for this deviation with something a bit lighter and more Modernist.Truth be known, at the start I was thinking of presenting Imballaggi under a pseudonym, and perhaps without that after-thought, which allowed me to treat them with a certain detachment, I would have aborted them immediately.
S.F.In the course of your work, it’s been said that there’s a recognisably constant element in the matching of discordant elements, that function as compositional features that screen and create disturbance:in your paintings from the early 1990s, for example, these were stencilled lines laid over a twentieth century figuration. In the late 1990s, in the zoological series and the “polar paintings”, they were geometric, coloured, abstract square or rectangular elements, whereas in the works of the early 2000s they are horizontal and vertical white demarcation lines, laid over the image. Do you think that the Imballaggi are an installation-oriented, functional evolution of these compositional elements, with a similar stylistic role?
A.Z.The various screens that I laid over on my paintings were attempts tore-focus attention on the underlying images, in a period in which, because of their overabundance, these had become rather irrelevant and interchangeable.At the same time they were also a form of self-criticism and negation with respect to what I felt were the limits of that kind of figuration.But it was an artificial procedure that merely added a few discordant notes to a background sound that was already too saturated.
In a certain sense the Imballaggi are a spin-off of those elements, which I’ve slowly eliminated from the paintings and which have appeared again on their own in order to live on autonomously.And they can easily expand with potential as an installation that I would like to keep reined in for now.Before multiplying them I’d prefer to assess their capacity for resistance as individual entities.
S.F.In the Imballaggi series the shapes always form abstract compositions, with strong interaction of full and empty spaces, and with a colour palette that is very close to that of the new series of paintings.But in your works from the 1990s regular geometric forms, true sections of abstract composition, were already appearing next to the figures, which recalled the Neo-Plasticism of Mondrian, Kandinsky, Klee, Delaunay and geometric abstraction, and the objet-trouvé tradition…How much power and influence has studying and contemplating abstract painting had on your work?
A.Z.They were important parts of my Avant-Garde imprinting, which I did however remove rapidly in favour of a mistreated figuration, because I am slightly inclined to join forces with minority forces and lost causes.I find it again poetic and enchanting that abstraction has nowadays actually regressed to a marginal position.Furthermore I am slowly moving back to a “theosophical” vision of the cosmos, which is at the source of the philosophy of the first abstract artists.
S.F.Your interpretations, like your art history background, are very varied, ranging through art history, sci-fi fantasy, philosophy and comic strip… just as your fascinations with artists and movements were varied and complex. How much have these various currents influenced this new cycle of your art?What are your references and who are your masters in this sphere?
A.Z.I have to say that I haven’t read comic strips since I was 16 years old, even though I really loved Moebius and I believe that its influence has surfaced in the biro drawings I’ve been working on in recent years.I’m certainly no scholar. I’m a curious amateur interpreter of the history and philosophy of humankind in general.The most extensive nucleus of my interpretations, in part a little Greece, India and various esoteric beliefs, nevertheless converges in the nineteenth century.As my Master I would choose Goethe, and as friends Baudelaire, Flaubert and Dostoyevsky.
S.F.How does an Imballaggio take shape?What are the criteria, in any order, with which you select the shapes, colours and dimensions of the Imballaggi?Do you consider each piece a standalone unicumor do you associate them according to formal and compositional order, following a creative and conceptual path that attributes a particular meaning to the group or series? Does the choice of using “low value” thrown-away materials like packaging have a certain pop value, or is it a conceptual reinterpretation of Duchamp’s ready-made,or is it indeed merely an occasion or a pretext for finding strange, unusual forms?
A.Z.Above all it is created by happening to find packaging in the communal bins of a condominium… All the forms are already within them. I never invent anything. I tidy up what I find and sort what stimulates my scant imagination.Only the colours come from me and so I have the somewhat arrogant belief that I am an excellent colourist.As I was saying earlier these are works that I develop individually on the spur of the moment, and I would like them to be compositions in their own right, even if they are too easily suited to serial elaboration.I don’t reckon that I’ve ever had much to do with Pop and Conceptual, whereas I would be quite comfortable with a Dadaist lineage, in this case with plenty of Arp, and Duchamp partially included.
S.F.You once wrote that “wanting to give meaning to things is something that we generally do with hindsight.We justify what our instincts lead us to do with thought”.Do you think that we can also talk about Imballaggi with reference to a somehow “instinctive” process, a sort of interplay between shapes and colours or is it a strict relationship of a shapes and volumes bench study?
A.Z.The interplay only becomes interesting with a conscious union of instinct and rigour.
S.F.Do you consider the Imballaggi a departure point for another study that may also yield unexpected results or do you nevertheless see them as an added experience of painting, which remains your preferred expressive medium?I mean, can we expect a Zucchi who does installations, or even a sculptor in the future?Are you an abstract or figurative artist all told, or have you not yet resolved the dilemma between your two inner beings?
A.Z.I’m simply unable to resolve my dilemmas, but I manage to live with them perfectly well, by breaking them down into trilemmas, pentalemmas, dodecalemmas… as closure of the exhibition, as a bridge between two work cycles, I am adding in sculptures of painted drapery, dumped on the pavement, with shapeless, almost abstract forms.As the Hindus teach, it is the mental illusion which breaks up and separates reality, which is the connection of everything with everything.