“It is a sort of dialogue, which leads to a balance perhaps, or maybe more a struggle, I could not still define it”
AT: Where are you from and how/why did you start engaging with art?
MN: I was born in S. Donato Milanese (MI) on July 13th, 1982. I grew up in a place called Martesana, located in Cernusco Sul Naviglio – Milan area. From Elementary school to University I studied in Milan. During the last years of Art school, I realized that the disciplines I liked the most were those related to drawing and sculpture. Thus, I carried on with my studies at the Art Academy towards this direction. I approached contemporary art when I was 18 years old. While I was attending my lessons at the Brera Academy of Arts, reading and visiting private galleries in the city, I started to show up to openings and exhibitions in gallery and museums across whole the country and as much as possible. The art world has always given me a certain dose of adrenaline!
AT: When did it become serious?
MN: I believe that a certain passion came out from certain types of encounters, such as those with some high school teachers like Marco Cirnigliaro – who is also an artist himself- and Luca Doninelli – writer, philosopher and journalist. I remember when I went to Giovanni Frangi’s studio in Milan at the age of 17. He was painting with these huge oil-painted trees and the paint was so layered that it became bark itself. There was mason’s spatulas encrusted with colour scattered here and there and a strong smell of wood and turpentine. I decided to go for the same stuff: being an artist would be the right way of living for me.
Then, between the 2nd and 3rd year at the sculpture class, I started to work with Professor Gallerani very often and I realized I was developing works that, to some extent, were beyond the simple academic thematic response. I started thinking that it was time to exhibit them publicly; I was around 22-23 years old. I did my first solo show titled “Motor-Power-Engine”, in Via Comelico, accompanied by a small catalogue and a text written by the art critic, Marina Mojana, friend of mine.
AT: Are there any person who has been significant in your breakthrough as an artist?
MN: Among my most significant meetings, I certainly think of the one with Giovanni Agosti. I worked with him on some projects, such Piccolo Paesaggio in 2006 and the installation at the legendary Obraz by Loris Di Falco, in Vicolo Lavandai in Milan. The thing that always fascinated me was his simplicity and imagination in looking at my production. He also strongly launched the very concept of the work that I had in mind, as an (apparent) imbalance necessity between doing and presenting my own work – which has gradually become mine over the years and sometimes even the work itself.
Exhibition view Piano Piano, curated by A. Fiz with an essay by Lorenzo Bruni, Genoa, ABC-ARTE, 2016
AT: What is your first approach to the work? How would you describe your practice?
MN: I have always been attracted to materials. I believe that sculpture belongs to me more than anything else. This is precisely because of the sequel and aftermath of certain kind of sensations and intuitions, when they come to me from the very material. Many times I had a project in mind. I have been blocked until I found the right material. After that, I found what seems most appropriate to me and the initial project results distorted. It is a sort of dialogue, which leads to a balance perhaps, or maybe more a struggle, I could not still define it. Then, the image of the sculpture fascinates me a lot. What haunts me is the image deriving from each art.
AT: What are your favourite tools and materials for working?
MN: I have worked a lot with stone, ceramic, steel and resin. Lately, I have been working with glass, aluminium and photosensitive films. In recent years, I have created a series of wall works that interact with the public with mirroring films. They would be supposed to alter the colour and to dialogue with the space outside the work. I am happy when I can produce something that was not there before.
AT: How do you understand that a work is finished?
MN: I do not know.
Theophilus Crater, 120 x 150 x 6 cm, acrylic, graphite, dichroic adhesive film on brushed aluminum curved foil, 2019
Admetus Crater, A vojage on Janus, 50 x 70 x 1 cm, graphite and adhesive film on fuchsia cotton paper, 2018
AT: Are there any artists who influenced your works? Why?
MN: I am fanatic about other artists, I really like art catalogues, like the big ones from Moma’s monographs, and small other little paperbacks. I used to cultivate an art library for years, as a way to get to know long-distance stories and to see works that you can’t reach alive, perhaps. Between my eighteen and twenty years, I was accustomed to look at Italian Renaissance sculpture. I became fond of English sculptures and during my studies, I admired T. Craggand for years. I had a soft spot for Young British Artist, with Hirst – “Uber alles” – Saville and other, which asphyxiation I betrayed firstly with Burri’s works and then with Kounellis’. Now, I am looking at Sol Lewitt and the Minimal Art a lot, even though I can’t deny I have a thing for the kinetic art and the programmed art in the various Groups from Italy. As an artist, what is your point of view about the contemporary art system?
AT: How important is the role of social media for you?
MN: It is an instrument like any other. I prefer real life, it’s much tastier.
AT: As an artist, what is your point of view about the contemporary art system?
MN: A confused view-point.
Wide-city, 50 x 50 x 18 cm, iron chromed and lacquered, 2018
La Milano che vorrei, 75 x 75 x 18 cm, iron chromed and lacquered, 2018
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?
MN: The worst thing is to see that some galleries “dress” with the search for artists without really understanding or experiencing art, characterized by a rampant and low-profile commercial opportunism. In my view, selling works is always magical and it is a privilege. The relationship with buyers has an ancient flavour made of esteem and trust. It sounds a bit like jumping at two with a single parachute. It is not always glowing, but I am honoured to have collectors who follow every step of my research and who, after 15 years of work, still support my labours and madness.
AT: What do you do besides art?
MN: I am married and have 4 daughters, the eldest is 11 years old. I like swimming.
AT: What are your goals and expectations for the future?
MN: Resist, resist, resist.
Exhibition view ANTIRETORICA, curated by Lorenzo Madaro, Galleria Monopoli, 2019
Matteo Negri was born in S. Donato Milanese (MI) the 13th of July in 1982. He currently lives and works in Milan.