“My work is a constant attempt to answer questions ranging from precariousness to poetry”
AT: Where are you from and how/why did you start engaging with art?
DS: I am originally from the Venetian countryside but I live in Turin since a couple of years, after doing some experience abroad. I started working in the artistic field, after my studies, and thanks to the encouragement from some great artists I was lucky enough to meet as professors.
AT: When did it become serious?
DS: When curators and critics began to recognise my research, between articles and academic classes, I realised I could think responsibly and treat it as a real job.
AT: Are there any person who has been significant in your breakthrough as an artist?
DS: I believe I owe a lot to those people who never believed in me. They developed a spirit of revenge which is reflected in my work. Besides, all the knowledge has brought me something that shaped the way of looking at things. I had a couple of mentors. It never ended in a good way so I prefer not to mention them.
AT: What is your first approach to the work? How would you describe your practice?
DS: For this reason, my practice is mainly conceptual and I leave the doors open to any type of media. This amuses me as I can learn from companies and craftsmen to work on different materials. Therefore, my work is methodological; I start with my suggestions-which also compose my archive – then I develop research in the direction I want to elaborate on and then it reaches the final shape. I would say that the creation phase of the finished object is the least demanding, reasoning with images and by subtraction: is very simple to process the finished work. The most complicated phase is probably to overcome one’s self-criticism after digging and expanding historical awareness.
“Parappaparaparapappapara (906G1HAGP4OD) (921B1HAGP4OD)”, m&m’s on cotton sheet, 60×30 cm each, 2019 | ph. Jacopo Belloni | private collection.
AT: What do you aim to reach with your work?
DS: My work is a constant attempt to answer questions ranging from precariousness to poetry, thus entering into conflict and creating visual or conceptual paradoxes. I simply find an alternative language that gives me answers I normally don’t find in complex life situations.
AT: What are your favourite tools and materials for working?
DS: I don’t have any favourite tools or materials, but I prefer an horizontal mode. Most of my work starts when I’m horizontal and ends up in a state of verticality. It is as if the active part of me is materialised into a vertical object. I am fascinated by the paper, but I don’t use it often; let’s say that paper is fundamental for everything that comes first. I really like to touch it, as I like to touch fabrics and metal alloys leaving traces of my passage.
AT: What do you feel while you work? Do you usually think about the final outcome beforehand?
DS: While I work, I am very focused and I squeeze myself to the exhausting point of alienation. It usually lasts no longer than four or five hours. I am a very dispersive person and I struggle to find a constant concentration. That’s why I was talking about the method. In this way I know that when I am not concentrated I can devote myself to mechanical works such as that of the archive or to apathy. Although my works are minimal, there is always a constant importance dedicated to the absence of the body; this absence is nothing but the burning of apathy. I often think of the forms in the end. It is something that comes by itself after a series of assimilations, between contents and archive images. In fact, I rarely dedicate myself to a long series of works, because the ideas were born from images you meet elsewhere and that are reflected in some way in the theoretical interest of your research. You could potentially be bombed by it. This is why self-criticism is very important, producing less to make better. It is also the only way to combat the economic depression.
AT: How do you understand that a work is finished?
DS: When I want to destroy it, means that I got rid of the need which in turn becomes a feverish memory.
“A kind concession to disorder (ass), (feet), (forearm)”, sculpture variable dimensions, 2019 | Installation view at Fondazione Spinola Banna per l’Arte, Poirino (TO).
AT: Where does the inspiration for the work come from?
DS: It’s all one reflection on different psychophysical states and their main social causes. Apathy, burnout, psychological violence, a trauma that something helps myself reflecting and making them indispensable. But then, I demystify all the latest by treating them like funny puppets. And boom! they collide creating my narration.
AT: Are there any artists who influenced your works? Why?
DS: Especially in the beginning, many artists have influenced my work. I believe, above all, for aesthetic and conceptual factors of the research. I have never been very interested in commercial aesthetics unless this was an intrinsic choice dictated by the concept itself. I am very fascinated by the evocative power of the object, of the action or of the composite image. For this reason, perhaps I‘ve been inspired by the research of artists such as that of Bas Jan Ader, Rachel Whiteread, Gino De Dominicis, Bruce Nauman, Francis Alys, Doris Salcedo, Tracey Emin, John Baldessari, Chris Burden etc. etc. if I have to think of some Italians I believe I can mention Roberto Cuoghi, Massimo Bartolini and Liliana Moro.
AT: How important is the role of social media for you?
DS: I always find myself in great difficulty when I think of social media. I believe, for an artist, it is a double-edged sword that feeds the visual confusion and entropy of the images. For the rest, I use it like everyone else, even if not everyone has the courage to admit it. On the one hand, it is just ruthless self-promotion. On the other one, there are dynamics that an artist must know and handle today: it is a contemporary language and as such must be known.
“Una cosa divertente che non farò mai più”, 2018 | Installation view at Rita Urso Artopia Gallery | ph. Natalia Trejbalova.
AT: As an artist, what is your point of view about the contemporary art system?
DS: Even the art system like the artist rose has its flowers and donkeys. I usually seek dialogue before accepting any proposal. Based on the quality of the dialogue, you can understand if you can work happily (therefore your work has more chances of being respected) or not (this is a very important lesson that I learned from my mentors). Mainly, I want to protect my work and my research, so I am very consistent in the choices I take and are always reasoned. I am not saying that I’m never wrong, but I try to surround myself with genuine and non-toxic people. Fortunately for us, we are still many, even if not very well supported. Speaking of the world of donkeys, I find there is a visual rudeness unfortunately spreading. The problem arises when you get used to social media and to fast images. The speed of viewing the images no longer leaves time for reflection and in doing so you lose the ability to read anything (one of the reasons why the figurative is so strong). I’m talking about visual apathy of thought very often disguised as poetic feelings or “belly” choices.
AT: What do you find to be the most challenging or daunting thing about pursuing art? What is the most rewarding part of working as an artist?
DS: The most daunting part is the lack of national recognition and protection. This is a shame even if talking about it in this tragic period makes no sense. Instead, I find exciting that an artist works potentially 24 hours a day and continues to store and archive information and images in order to transform them according to their needs. It is extremely gratifying when people are reflected in the works, perhaps with different readings. I stop in front of the work, that moment that you take for the comparison with yourself I still find it fundamental (despite the answers of the previous question).
AT: What do you do besides art?
DS: Mainly I am unemployed; sometimes I work when something comes up, but in short, this is the situation of many artists, and it’s right that it is reiterated that we need more protection.
AT: What are your goals and expectations for the future?
DS: Can we afford to have goals or expectations? I do not believe so. I hope that after this unprecedented crisis, everything I have built so far with hard work will not collapse. I hope empathy and the approach to dialogue will return and, only in this way, can we save what remains of our contemporary culture. My dream is to live and not to survive.
“So long, and thank you for the fish”, iron, juta, velvet, 170x200x130 cm, 2019 | Installation view at Société Interludio, Turin | ph. massimostileph.
Davide Sgambaro (b. 1989) is an Italian visual artist currently living and working in Turin, Italy. Sgambaro’s work investigates those fractures of human existence that constitute the basic archive of each narration. Together with the phenomenal reality, Sgambaro looks at the heterogeneous postmodern literary experience, conceived, in this case, as a complex and problematic elaboration of conceptual matter. Stories are narrativized through the use of disparate means and elements, substantially materializing in precarious forms.