Federico Tosi


 “Perhaps this is the origin of Art in my mind. I wanted to become an atom, even if I didn’t know what an atom was, to travel back and forth”

AT: How/why did you start engaging with art?

FT: I have always been an artist, like most children. I might have been more avid than others, spent more hours drawing than anything else, grew up in a province with little character and few friends, but had the luck to have a nice family who always supported the things that suited me. To all of this add the grit towards an innate and inexhaustible curiosity that pushed me to go in this direction. I’ve always wanted to look at how things are made. What is inside a dead animal, how small is the smallest thing, how cool is a city behind the moon. Things happened gradually and often randomly. I enrolled in Art school for two reasons: the small amount of mathematics required and for a girl I liked enrolling there too…


I also distinctly remember the feeling that swept over me the first time my father showed me a book about the Big Bang. My parents have never baptized me; they have always told me: believe in what you want. When I saw those illustrations, I was about five years old, I understood that I wanted to understand the Big Bang in my own way, without being a scientist, to hear it, to go there and see it in person. Perhaps this is the origin of Art in my mind. I wanted to become an atom, even if I didn’t know what an atom was, to travel back and forth.

“Ariel (sky and send)”, variable dimensions, concrete cast, 2018 | Courtesy Monica De Cardenas, Milan.

AT: How would you describe your practice?

FT: If it were a movie it would be the bad character who hopes the protagonist will die. If we were in the Paleolithic it would be a neanderthal man programming a robot. If it were a love story she would be a sweet girl who likes very bad things.


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?

FT: I’ve always been scared of the way people spend their time. I have always feared those full time jobs. The hierarchies of the world of work, the lunch break … I have always tried to stay away from any occupation that would impose its time on me and in which I would have to bend my time in its favor. Not out of arrogance but out of lucidity: we have little time and many things to say to each other. Art is generally loved by human beings. Sometimes it is safe to say that you are an artist in order to have wide-open doors, basically everyone is an artist. Almost everyone stops and enters a functional world where you have to work for rent, bills, food … forgetting that time is short. They forget that time is yours, it is a short but intense period, it is good to be alive. Being an artist is in itself gratifying. I can claim my time as mine , I follow the rhythm of the sculptures or drawings that take me whole nights, but I am following me, my biorhythm. In addition to time, there is space. I can go where I want, I can study what I want and I can process it as I please. I can go to distant countries and my profession guarantees me a pass to enter people’s cultures and souls. Artists can remain invisible like ghosts and eat information. Every place is perfect for an artist, every landscape and every conversation. Everything is study material, everything is a source of inspiration for a new idea. Being an artist means being your time and your space; the time that will be and the space that will become. I think this is the most rewarding thing about this job.

“Baby (ear)”, 7x36x6 cm, carved bones, 2017 | Courtesy Monica De Cardenas, Milan.
“Baby (aztec)”, 4x33x6 cm, carved bones, 2017 | Courtesy Monica De Cardenas, Milan.

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

FT: I like various techniques that I have been trying to perfect over the years. I love both modeling technique and cast technique. I learned the basics as an assistant to Gavin Kenyon in 2016. I love meticulous sculptures and drawings. Drawing and every technique that comes with it I love and is welcome. The latest drawings show an endless series of galaxies made with felt tip pens on paper in formats ranging from A4 to two and a half meters. Madness. The light of the stars is given by the white of the sheet, the pictorial work is around it by creating layers of veiling, it is a very long process , but if I think about how long it took to make real stars I am heartened. Speaking of mold and casts, I was always interested in the idea of taking the shape of objects and simulating it with new materials . I like the ephemeral side of this technique, a sort of superficiality that creates the conditions for an interior life of the object while in reality it shows only the outer skin. Deliberately lying. For a few years I have been perfecting a technique that I discovered studying fossils. These are cast sculptures obtained by working directly on the negative. The negative is clay and can be reused hundreds of times. The clay is modeled “in negative”, as opposed to how the sculpture should look. It is a beautiful technique because it takes me away from the completed form and forces me to invert the shapes in my head before creating them. These somehow escape the direct mind-hand-object thread. They are charged with a sense of autonomy that makes these sculptures independent from my hand, as if they had always existed. I have a lot of fun with the modeling but I always try to be careful not to trip over formal virtuosity. Well, it depends, sometimes I love to let myself be dragged into virtuosity but often I tend to hate the final object. When they lack incompleteness, objects lose magic. I always want to be on that limit.


AT: What do you do besides art?

FT: It is very difficult to think of a reality “outside of art” for me. Sometimes I do sport, but not a lot. I usually watch movies but I watch them while I draw. I travel a lot drawing and planning new sculptures while I do. I love cooking, especially in those periods when I have no ideas for new works. In those days I’m often experimenting with new recipes, it’s a good way to not fall into depression… I went to a lot of parties in the past ten years but now hangovers are getting more demanding and the commitments have increased tenfold, so I have to stay focused. I would like to buy a Playstation 5, I think it would do me good.

“Principe”, 240x27x32 cm, olive wood, 2018 | Courtesy Monica De Cardenas, Milan.
"I am interested in bringing different and divergent aspect of existence on a single visual plane changing the order of past and future, combining places and times in a continuous magma that seeks balance between opposite elements, mixed in a visual syncretism that ranges from religions to physic, from art history to Hollywood fiction, passing through anatomy studies, anthropology, zoology, comics and video games".

Federico Tosi (b. 1988) is an Italian sculptor currently living and working in Milan, Italy.