“I aim the viewer regains the time to see my work. I want to question, even before the concept represented, what it is: maybe a painting? A photography?”
AT: Where are you from and how/why did you start engaging with art?
TG: I come from the province of Bari in a family context very distant from art. Despite this, I started to approach figuration because it was the first way to understand the world: as a child I used to draw what was happening around me in order to be able to decipher it. I also had a father who did various wood works and although I was attracted to his workbench, he never allowed me to learn because I was a woman: for this reason I secretly took all his scraps of wood to invent collages. So for me art was the necessary means to face reality, as well as a means of struggle and resistance.
AT: When did it become serious?
TG: From the beginning.
AT: Are there any person who has been significant in your breakthrough as an artist?
TG: There have been several and in different areas of my training: from Fabio Bonanni, my painting teacher, who taught me the discipline and seriousness of this work, to Francesco Zanot, a curator who opened my gaze to a new way of understanding photography.
AT: What is your first approach to the work? How would you describe your practice?
TG: Mine is a constant flow of thought and research. During my daily life I look at many images from any online source: today I am subject to them like everyone else because we live in the social media era, but it has always been my nature even when these did not exist. It’s a process deeply rooted in me, so that to say “I think in pictures”: if I search for a meaning on internet, for example, I look at the results on google images first rather than at the written text. Among the cascade of images that I deal with everyday, I download in my digital archive those that inspire me with new creative possibilities, to then take them back after and follow new trajectories, manipulating them, getting only the necessary parts to create patterns of new scenarios.
Teresa Giannico, Archives of Empathy, 2023 | Installation view | ©Teresa Giannico, Courtesy Viasaterna
AT: What do you aim to reach with your work?
TG: That my viewer regains the time to see my work. I want to question, even before the concept represented, what it is: maybe a painting? A photography? To then accompany the public through the composition, made up of multiple declared stratifications and create an intimate relationship with my prints, revealing the long time of processing and research, not intended as a commitment, but just like a re-appropriation. In contemporary society, for me it has a political and existential meaning, which is essential in my artistic production.
AT: What are your favourite tools and materials for working?
TG: My working corner is made up of a computer full of images, a large monitor on which to work them, a graphics tablet.
AT: What do you feel while you work? Do you usually think about the final outcome beforehand?
TG: When I work, I completely disconnect from the surrounding world and it is such an full immersion that I often call it a “sort of trance”. As soon as I finish I need some time to get back into balance and be with others.
As for the projection towards the final outcome, it depends on the type of project. Up until a few years ago, I was making very detailed cardboard dioramas on which to apply my photographic surfaces, and this required a careful design phase that was not easily prone to modifications. Today I work exclusively on digital also to overcome this constraint, getting much closer to what my concept of painting is: always looking at the image in progress as if it were the first time, because it takes me along directions that I don’t know.
AT: How do you understand that a work is finished?
TG: Here it is difficult for me to answer precisely because, as mentioned before, I think in pictures and it is difficult for me to say in words when this has found its raison d’etre. However, I can say that there are references to the structure that for me come from the history of Western art and that lead me to think about the balance of the composition, as well as personal references according to which the image must have the right degree of ambiguity: if, for example, it says too much, it’s just rhetoric.
On feelings, 2023, Print on cotton paper, 100×125 cm | ©Teresa Giannico, Courtesy Viasaterna
AT: Where does the inspiration for the work come from?
TG: I take inspiration from the miscellany of images circulating on the internet, especially those images (but also videos) that talk about themselves, which make clear the way they have been concocted. The backstage inspires me.
For a long time I have studied the photographic backdrops used at the dawn of photographic portraiture, but also the staging of natural science museums or theatrical scenography. Today in this sense, albeit more devious, political leaders are masters with their desire to steer public opinion through codes of representation quite simple to decipher for the insiders. Once, for Premio Cairo, I realized a re-proposition of the interior minister’s office during an instagram live session.
AT: Are there any artists who influenced your works? Why?
TG: Many. To name a few, Morandi for his composed and poetic painting, Chantal Joffe for the intimacy she creates with her models, the Flemish portraiture of the 15th century for the solemnity of the subjects, Thomas Demand for the meta photography, the first paintings and the last digital portraits of David Hockey for their evocative impact, young contemporaries like Louisa Gagliardi for her incisive digital painting, Femke Dekkers for her ambiguous reality, Lucas Blalock for her captivating colored images.
AT: How important is the role of social media for you?
TG: For me it is important both as a user of informations relating to the work and to promote myself: through social networks I have obtained commissions abroad, I have met collectors and curators. I don’t publish very much and for this reason the algorithm penalizes me in terms of visibility, but I do my best.
AT: What is your opinion about NFTs and their impact on the art world?
TG: I’ve never really looked into this world, but I can express my conceptual point of view on the digital world in general.
I start from the assumption that the world of art today is first of all conveyed in a digital way: we look at exhibitions online even before live, a photographer sells a jpeg file to a magazine, the essence of my work is above all a tiff files, I myself have often been able to see the works of artists who have marked me, only on the internet. If on the one hand this may appear demeaning, on the other it has also taken art away from the usual designated centres.
In the digital age, therefore, it is essential that collecting focuses on intangible assets, whether it be NFTs or more traditional circuits.
I believe that things will then structure themselves over time: I thought I saw a certain amateurism on the “artists” side and maybe rash purchases on the collectors side, typical of a temporary boom: interest has dropped sharply in the last year, the attention has shifted to the other attraction of the zoo which is artificial intelligence, and I have the feeling that in a few years’ time we will look at this world with the same tenderness as we look at the first computer prototypes today.
As far as the connection with the image, however, I believe there is still a need for the physical relationship and this is demonstrated by the success that fairs still have: in addition to the surface, which here can be questionable based on the type of communication that the artist wants, there is the dimension of the work that characterizes its language, not to mention the painting or sculpture which also have intrinsic experiential qualities linked to three-dimensionality. Someone, somewhere in the world, is certainly thinking about how to make digital more immersive, but even here I ironically remember attempts such as multi-sensory cinema: the fascination was short-lived.
I therefore believe that NFTs have not yet had a decisive impact on the market, but that they have laid the foundations for subsequent developments that we will deal with in the next future. After all, popular art teaches: for decades, in the Naples market, people successfully sell to tourists the city’s air in a small glass jar.
Brother’s bedside table, 2023, Print on cotton paper, 90×60 cm | ©Teresa Giannico, Courtesy Viasaterna
Late august memories n°3, 2023, Print on cotton paper, 120×90 cm | ©Teresa Giannico, Courtesy Viasaterna
AT: As an artist, what is your point of view about the contemporary art system?
TG: The art system to which I am connected is a private circuit that is self-sustaining through a long chain of intermediaries. Therefore emerging and settling in these contexts means first of all feeding that chain, not wrongly if we consider networking the basis of any self-employment, but on the other hand it creates a disconnect from public reality. Making art is not the same as defining yourself as a freelancer in any field, it is (or should be) a contribution to the growth of the collective heritage. And this is where the political connotation comes in: what role do cultural operators have in our nation? And what role does culture play in people’s lives? Unfortunately, in Italy the balance between heritage conservation and innovation is a challenge that seems distant to me even with the new policies: just think of the new campaign by the Ministry of Tourism, “Open to Meraviglia” starring Botticelli’s Venus, a mix of clichés like”pizza, pasta and mandolin” that makes us understand the backwardness of the dominant thought. It means that cultural development remains at the antipodes of our society and so the artist, who hardly succeeds in structuring perspectives because the work itself is not recognized as such. Individual private efforts cannot replace active policies in terms of investments and mentality.
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?
TG: I find discouraging the impossibility of creating continuity over time. Unlike any other self-employed business, the connections to keep this business stable are decidedly nebulous. Furthermore they mostly pass through a tiring and long line of intermediaries which cuts off the direct relationships and often makes this world an inaccessible elite. Living as an artist then means doing many other activities in parallel where, if always connected to the creative sphere, exploitation is always around the corner. In addition I am a mother, and at school to get my daughter more stay hours, for example, both parents must demonstrate that they work: I had to say that I am a freelance photographer, as an artist they would not have accepted the request. But I continue to do this work because the creative process, once you acquire it as an existential practice, becomes inseparable from your person. From that point of view, I don’t have a big list of things to say, because that’s really where it’s all based.
AT: What do you do besides art?
TG: I am the mother of a 3 year old girl and this fills all the rest of my time. Before she was born, I worked until the evening, a daily full immersion in the research or production of new series. Now I really thank her for interrupting my working day and dedicating myself to something else, which is just us and life around. This made everything much more sustainable and healthy.
AT: What are your goals and expectations for the future?
TG: I aim to have new connections outside Italy to expand knowledges, experiences and have new exposure opportunities. I also hope to be able to work for some institutions in order to place my works also in more official contexts.
Teresa Giannico, Archives of Empathy, 2023 | Installation view | ©Teresa Giannico, Courtesy Viasaterna
Teresa Giannico (Bari, 1985, lives and works in Milan). She graduated in Figurative Arts from the Academy of Fine Arts in Bari, specialising in Drawing and Painting, while developing a strong interest in set design and theatre before gradually approaching photography. In 2012, she moved to Milan and attended the Master in Photography and Visual Design at NABA (Nuova Accademia delle Belle Arti) and worked as an assistant to photographers Paolo Ventura and Toni Thorimbert.
After participating in Plat(t)form 2015 at the Fotomuseum in Winterthur (Switzerland) she was called to exhibit her work at Fotopub Festival in Novo Mesto (Slovenia) and Circulation(s) (Paris, 2016). In 2015, she was a finalist in the Premio Francesco Fabbri with the series of works entitled Lay Out, and in 2016 she exhibited them in the group exhibition Sulla Nuova Fotografia Italiana (Viasaterna, Milan). In 2018, she was selected among the photographers of FUTURES, a platform for photography curated by CAMERA and, in addition to the Turin centre, she also exhibited at Unseen (Amsterdam). She was artist-in-residence for the Casino Palermo project (Viasaterna, Palermo, 2018) and later took part in the group exhibition of the same name in the Milan gallery spaces (2018). Kaleidos was her first solo exhibition at Viasaterna, followed by group exhibitions at Fundaciò Enric Miralles (Barcelona, 2019), Fotohof (Salzburg, 2019), Photo Israel (Tel Aviv, 2019), and she was among the artists selected for the Cairo Prize (Milan, 2019). In 2022, she took part in Artissima and was the winner of the Vanni #artistroom Price. Archives of Empathy (2023) is her second solo exhibition at Viasaterna.