Italian artist Francesca Pasquali creates innovative sculptures from everyday objects, concentrating on the semantics behind the very materials of her work. Perhaps best known for her structures made from household straws, her multi-media contributions to the art world evoke and inspire a plethora of responses. We talk to her about the ordinariness of her subject matter and the evolution that the objects take to turn into art.
A: You utilise very ordinary and everyday objects in your works, could you talk about the relationship or the tension that occurs between recognisable objects and conceptual art?
FP: These objects are at the core of my research. Matter is the absolute protagonist of my work. I think of my entire body of work more as a tautological statement about the making of art. Each object is de-contextualised and assembled, taking on new form while always remaining recognisable. It acquires a new structure, the material invading the space with its overwhelming presence. This creates a direct relationship with the spectator, who contemplates the materials and the infinite possibilities of transforming an object. Through imagination everything can change. Drinking straws, broom bristles and rubber balloons transform until they become intriguing and sensual textured surfaces.
A: Your works are very textual and include fascinating amounts of detail which move across gradients and levels – how far do you think that your work inherently employs a sense of movement and fluidity?
FP: The materials I use have intrinsic power. My eye selects them because their characteristics capture my attention! An object or a type of material (a drinking straw, a rubber band, a piece of neoprene) might not appear to have any particular aesthetic value but if it is carefully observed and assembled, juxtaposed to thousands of the same elements, it is revalued, taking on new form and power that make the matter come alive. The object is not in itself kinetic, it’s the audience that through its movement activates a virtual movement that makes the material vibrate. We are no longer passive observers of the artistic process, but become actors of the work itself, which comes alive before our eyes.
A: How do you think that sculpture and installations cohere in a world of technology and virtual reality?
FP: My whole research stems from the concept of Nature and Artifice. The artworks I make using artificial plastic materials recall natural and biomorphic elements and their ephemeral character. My latest research has led me to experiment with technology, because I am convinced that an artist should always be able to “welcome” the world around him. This constantly stimulates me to re-evaluate everything I have made until today! Through the use of kinets, sensors, projectors, but most of all thanks to the public’s interaction, the inert works come alive and become animated with colours and sounds that we ourselves are activating with our bodies.
A: What is it about the physicality of works that fascinates you, and in extension, your audiences?
FP: I love art that makes people feel at ease. I want the public to engage with matter at 360 degrees – it’s my invitation to come closer, to feel, to touch and not just to look at a work but to live it! For me, this is the only way art can be understood, it’s the only way to overcome the detachment that we often feel we stand in front of an artwork. Besides, isn’t it by using all of our 5 senses that we discovered the world when we were children? In the same way, to understand we have to let our instinct guide us.
A: How do you see this evolving in the future?
FP: Evolution is constant – as I was saying before, I want to emphasise the inherent kineticism of my works through the use of technology. This process means that everything is transformed, that the work changes. I can only plan the more technical aspect and the stages of making the artwork, but the final effect is left to the public: it is the spectators who through their intervention create something new. In this way, the three-dimensional aspect of the sculpture is exacerbated beyond the confines of the artwork.
A: In a way, your works are very inclusive of the senses, with bright colours and shapes that seem to move in unison as a force of energy; how do you begin to map these out? Is it a meticulous process or is it something that unfolds almost unconsciously?
FP: Often a work starts with the environment in which it will be installed: the space indicates the shape of the work. It’s important that matter penetrate the surface of the space for the shapes to be harmonious, rigorous and logical. Everything is thought out in minute detail, nothing is left to chance, to the point that the works look as though they were born and grew there! The idea is to create something that is harmonious and natural despite the bright colours of the plastic materials. These new shapes evoke the softness of organic forms.
A: How many of your works are site-specific? Is this something you enjoy doing?
FP: Site-specfic installations are the most stimulating part of my work. Most of my wall-pieces pieces are born out of the research I undertake for a new installation. As I was explaining, each material has its specificities, each place its own history and both converse and exist as one.
A: Is there a particular mood or tone that you think develops across all of your works or are they all individual?
FP: I want my work to be coherent and easily recognisable. Each work has its own distinct personality, upholding the concepts of grace, balance and order that I feel are closest to me.
A: What are your future plans/projects?
FP: For the summer we are planning a major exhibition at the Magazzini del Sale di Cervia near Ravenna – old storehouses where they used to store the salt collected in the local salt works. A place in which history is still felt today in the smell of the salty, acrid air of the past. I am working on new in-situ works that will engage with the industrial architectural setting. But the most important project for me currently is the restructuring of my studio, which will be done by the end of the year. It will be a new space immersed in greenery and nature, a reserved and isolated setting, a refuge for the mind and for the soul.
Francesca Pasquali _ Metamorphoses will be at Tornabuoni Art 29 June-17 September.
1. Francesca Pasquali, Skyscrapers (2016). Courtesy of the artist.
2. Francesca Pasquali, Spiderball Cloud (2015). Courtesy of the artist.
3. Francesca Pasquali, Bread Frappa (2015). Courtesy of the artist.