Ambra Castagnetti


“I think there is no art without mystery”

AT: Where are you from and how/why did you start engaging with art?

AC: I was born in Genova and since I remember I’ve been engaged with art practices.


AT: When did it become serious?

AC: It became serious when I started working with theatre and performative languages when I was living in Bologna, in 2016.


AT: Are there any person who has been significant in your breakthrough as an artist?

AC: Some friends, some older friends, some lovers.


AT: What is your first approach to the work? How would you describe your practice?

AC: It usually starts with an image that pops up in my mind which can be triggered by image references, books, poetry, movies, and I start drawing. Drawing is the first step for me to visualize something I perceived.

Tauromachia, 2021, Bronze fusion, 45x25x20 cm

AT: What do you aim to reach with your work?

AC: I would like to explore reality and different realities, and to express through sculptures and installations inner feelings or epiphanies. It is something that has to do with the feeling of the mystery, or of a research of something above us, or below. I think there is no art without mystery, as it is a very human sensation, and something people always looked for, both through religion and culture in general.


AT: What are your favourite tools and materials for working?

AC: I’m in love with clay and its different stages of preparation, which lead to a very complex and multilayered process, but I also use bee or soy wax both to create moulds for brass or bronze fusion, and as material in itself, which I like for its fragileness and transparency. I also use different elements of reality that I mix up together. In general I like to create an ambiguity for which it is not clear of what material is a sculpture made of.


AT: What do you feel while you work? Do you usually think about the final outcome beforehand?

AC: I never know how the final result will be, eventhough I always start with a clear image in my head. I sometimes feel like I am on a journey, while I’m working, and I don’t know what is going to happen. And surprisingly, sometimes the work comes out alone, as if you were just walking looking for it, and it pops up. And when you start seeing him, you slowly walk in that direction, and things become clear.


AT: How do you understand that a work is finished?

AC: When I finally see it. I think the best works are the ones you could possibly still keep adding or subtracting elements to make it perfect, but you choose not to, so there is always something to dream of.

KLONDIKE, 2021, installation, variable dimensions, resin, steel, plaster, pigment, wax, flowers, wheat, honeycomb, shellac | Installation view at L’Armonia, group show at Manifattura Tabacchi (Florence)

AT: Where does the inspiration for the work come from?

AC: I think you need to have your head empty to properly think about the work. There are moments in which you work so hard and intensely, that you stop thinking, and just go ahead like a machine. Once you have the idea, you can work in a sort of automatic pilot mode, in which you are totally merged into things, and can’t see yourself from the outside. In those moments, you are fed up, your head is too full, and you start repeating yourself. When I am in that mode, I have to stop and empty my head againg, and when there is a better climate, things can start growing again.


AT: Are there any artists who influenced your works? Why?

AC: I was always inspired by movies, more than by visual arts, for their property of showing you their own worlds and realities through moving images and plots. Since my childhood, I was into writing fictions, and this somehow shaped to attitude towards the work, in which I feel like all my sculptures, installations, audiovisuals, are part of the same big narration, which anyway does not have a plot.


AT: How important is the role of social media for you?

AC: It is important and stimulating in a way, but we artists need to be aware of the changes social media brought into arts and aesthetics in general. I think it is anthropologically a very interesting aspect to research on and to somehow embrace, but I don’t think it positively affected our life and work.

KOLYSANKA (Ninna nanna), 2021, 200 x 20 x 20 cm, wax, clay, plaster, metal

AT: As an artist, what is your point of view about the contemporary art system?

AC: I think it should take more care about young artists and art students, especially in Italy, where the art education system is completely helpless. Also it is a powerful and moneyed system but it does not really include artists as a working category. Plus, galleries in general (not all of them) take too much from artists in comparison to what artists give them. I also feel like there is no proper class consciusness as economic power and category between artists, who prefer to keep their priviledges when they reach them, and not really to create a unity within art operators.


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?

AC: Everything is very difficult when you are young and new in the city. No one knows you, but you feel like you have something to say, and want to work hard. It is important to overcome the uncertainties and to keep on doing, even though in the beginning people don’t understand it. The most rewarding part of being an artist is the possibility you are given to mix up in very different situations and projects, which really keep your brain working all the time. Sometimes I feel like I’m doing a different job everyday, which is really enriching. And the very best part is the possibility to meet so many different people that eventually become your friends and family.


AT: What do you do besides art?

AC: Mostly aperitivi.


AT: What are your goals and expectations for the future?

AC: I would like to travel and to do more and more exhibitions and programmes abroad, but also to make some roots in Milan in my new studio, which I share with close artist friends. For me it’s important to have a community around, and to pursue common goals, thus mantaining independent paths.

Le notti (Medusa), 2020, variable dimensions, ceramic, special glaze
"Through different mediums such as sculpture, painting, installation and video, Ambra Castagnetti explores the complex relations between the body and physical and political environment, through a political glance never lacking of an implicit dimension of criticism. Le evocative power of the images helps to penetrate the complex relation between poetic and political, between reality and fiction, creating a fluid imaginary. The attraction for the body always comes with a wider attraction for the living, where the animal, the moutain, water, desert, earth and sky are called to participate in a unitary narration full of intimacy" (Adrian Paci)

Ambra Castagnetti (b. 1993) is an Italian visual artisti currently living and working in Milan, Italy.