Matteo Pugliese is one the most appreciated contemporary Italian sculptors all over the world. Some of his sculptures have been beaten by the most important auction houses – Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Pandolfini – always achieving considerable success. His works are permanently exhibited in important galleries in Italy, as well as in the main cities of the world: New York, Hong Kong, London, Antwerp, Lugano. He always take part in the most important Italian and international art fairs, such as Hong Kong Art Fair, Art Miami, Tefaf Maastricht, Arco Madrid, Fiac Paris, CI Contemporary Istanbul.
«I think that one of the best things that can be made in life is to be able to achieve a dream, or, at least, do everything to achieve it, to put it into practice. The limits that we have in achieving our dreams, often, if not always, are walls that we have created ourselves … walls that thins… you gain confidence and power. Once you cross that wall, it ceases to exist.»
– Matteo Pugliese
Matteo Pugliese defines himself as a sculptor “for need”: a deep and intimate need for expression but also for refuge.
His vocation, although it can be said innate, did not show immediately. Before starting dedicating himself to his art, in fact, Matteo Pugliese carried out – as he says – many jobs during the years of university in Milan, from the call center operator to the sales agent of advertising spaces. Then his destiny and his talent opened him the doors of the art world, fulfilling a previously unexpressed desire: in 2001, when he was thirty-one years old, Pugliese organizes and self-finances his first exhibition and, since then, his success has been unstoppable.
It’s no coincidence that the sculptor’s works therefore often express the theme of dream: a desire to be that is waiting to emerge. Dreams are thought to belong to another world, but for Pugliese they belong to our reality: they are rooted in it and they take their strength from it.
Here the ingredients for Matteo Pugliese’ sculptures: classicism with special effects, extremely material but, at the same time, intimately symbolic presences. In his art we can find the sculptural lesson by Michelangelo, Mannerism and Bernini in dialogue with the imagination of comics, cinema and ancient myths.
Pugliese could certainly share this reflection by Gustav Mahler: “Tradition is to guard fire, not to worship ashes”. Thus the artist protects the archetypical essence of modeling and sculptural act, with their symbolic power, but gives to his works a contemporary soul.
Among the artist’s works, we must mention his most famous series: the one of the massive Guardians, which look like warriors but made for protecting people; the series of Extra-Moenia, tormented and mighty bronze creatures struggling to free themselves from the walls; and finally the Beetles, insects-amulet with a more pop style.
In these sculptures the anxiety and discomfort of contemporary man are evident but also find peace and purification. If the walls of the Extra Moenia series are above all limits to be exceeded, the armor of the Guardians and the shell of the Beetles are symbols of determined strength, tradition, memory and intimate tenacity.
The Guardians are tetragone, massive, majestic presences: with a playful and finely ironic intuition, Pugliese gives materiality to a warrior but deeply spiritual figure, who represents the idea of intimate protection and security.
Like the Lares or Penates, the household’s guardians for the ancient Romans, they instill fear and reverence: they are guardians ready to defend without using violence. The sculptural act is then a slow, meticulous, meditative, almost maniacal process: every Guardian is a mandala, which requires weeks of work, bolt after bolt.
Pugliese’s Guardians, whether Assyrian, Indian, Egyptian, American Indian or Samurai, protect and guarantee an inner and existential peace.
In 2020 the artist created an amazing ceramic edition of the “SAMURAI Guardians” , in six different colors: red, black, blue, grey, white and metal.
“I am here, I protect you.
I guard your walls and the warmth of your home. I want to prevent that world crossing the threshold of your home. I watch over you so that you are not short of anything necessary but above all so that the superfluous is never essential for you. I can offer you this: a controlled strength ready to set into motion. Decisive, not arrogant. Determined, not violent. Impressive, not aggressive. I will stay with you and watch your world take shape in front of you. We will end up in different homes, some of us will perhaps cross the sea and end up in places that nobody could ever imagine.We will be a dispersed army, united by the people who have chosen us, who will have been chosen by us. Listen to our silence. I am here, I protect you.”
«The feeling of a contracted force is the first emotion that captures the viewer in front of Matteo Pugliese’s Extra Moenia. Looking at those bodies bearers of absolute and yet painful beauty. Soon after, the mind goes wild in a series of free associations. They start from Greek statuary to get to Michelangelo, and from Bernini’ Santa Teresa to arrive at contemporary photography. Pugliese is classic, yes, but up to a certain limit.»
– Alessandra Redaelli
The Extra Moenia depict men attempting a painful rebirth through a struggle with a wall-matter that imprisons them, that prevents them from living, growing up, expressing themselves.
The classic origin and the tribute to Renaissance plastic are clear: the lesson of Michelangelo’s Prisoners cannot help coming to mind.
Figures trapped inside the matter and the sculptor’s task is to discover them, to free them. However, the innovative spirit of Pugliese emerges, whose works are distinguished by being extraordinarily current and contemporary, in the fragmentation of the subject into several parts and in the interaction with the wall, which becomes a structural and narrative part of the work.
Pugliese in fact somehow goes beyond the Master, managing to free those bodies, making them come out at least with a step, a forearm, a hand, from those walls. In his trapped bodies you can feel their emotion, their will and the spasmodic desire to be and above all to be free.
The “Escape from the walls” is emphasized by an almost epic physical and spiritual tension, which also recalls the mythological archetype of the hero’s birth. The shadows created by the physicality of the work, also become a magical expression of the soul feelings.
«The instinct to stretch out the hand to crab the one that, stretched in effort, comes out of the wall collides with an inevitable loneliness. The loneliness of the hero but also the loneliness of man in his tireless daily struggle. Ancient and very modern. Timeless and perhaps without redemption.»
– Alessandra Redaelli
Pugliese does not like to indulge on the themes of decadence, death and defeat. The vision he proposes in his works is rather a positive and vital look, even when his figures appear suffering or violently stretched in space.
His works are contemporary, fragmented subjects, but also homini faber, who try to fight for their own destiny: as Pugliese did in 2001. The spirit of the artist, as well as his features, are evident in every figure. The faces are autobiographical simply because, in this meditative artistic act, the only model always available is the artist himself.
«If I want to make a concerned expression I look in the mirror and even if I change my hair or nose or mouth in the end it’s always me.»
SMALL BEETLES AND MONUMENTAL ARTWORKS
Matteo Pugliese’s Beetles are pop amulets, to bring about a step back in time towards the happiness and carefreeness of childhood. The sculptor says that he took the subject from a memory of when he was a child: a summer in Sardinia, spent together with his cousin playing with dung beetles. Matteo Pugliese’s art offers proof of a great hunger for research and experimentation. His production, original as recognizable, is a point of reference in contemporary artistic literature, a representation of new languages expressed with unpredictable results.
Pugliese has created works of completely different sizes and of varied materials. From marble to terracotta, from tiny Guardians to monumental subjects, higher than two meters.
During summer 2016 more than thirty-five sculptures by Matteo Pugliese were exhibited in Marina di Pietrasanta for a solo exhibition curated by Philippe Daverio. Extra Moenia and Guardians of monumental sizes, together with Beetles and some recent sculptures made of marble and blown glass were exhibited at Villa La Versiliana and in its park.
On show, there was also “Die Mauer“, the sculpture of over six meters high, which belongs the Extra Moenia series, that the sculptor presented in Milan in 2009 for the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall.
From December 15, 2016 to March 30, 2017 Matteo Pugliese was protagonist of the exhibition Spiriti Ostinati, in La Porta di Milano, at Milano Malpensa Airport (Terminal 1), exhibiting five monumental artworks of the Extra Moenia and Guardians series.
«I like spending time in my studio, with my music and with my times, and abandon myself leaving my hands and my head on their own»
We suggest you to take a look into the artist’ studio and breathe its atmosphere, by watching the video “A portrait of a studio”.
Matteo Pugliese was born in Milan in 1969. In 1978 he moved to Sardinia with his family: here he lived for the following 12 years, developing, during this period, a strong attraction for drawing and sculpture and starting to create, without any artistic study, his first sculptures made of clay. After finishing his high school in Cagliari, he came back to Milan for attending university. In 1995 he graduated in Modern Literature at the University of Milan with a thesis upon Art Criticism. In 2001 encouraged by some friends, he organized and self-financed his first solo exhibition, renting a private exhibition space in the center of Milan. Only eighteen months later, his works will be exhibited for his first “official” exhibition in a gallery in Brera, Milan, and a few months later his artworks will be exhibited in a solo show in Brussels.
Today Matteo Pugliese is one the most appreciated contemporary Italian sculptors all over the world. His works are permanently exhibited in important galleries in Italy, as well as in the main cities of the world: New York, Hong Kong, London, Antwerp, Lugano. He always take part in the most important Italian and international art fairs, such as Hong Kong Art Fair, Art Miami, Tefaf Maastricht, Arco Madrid, Fiac Paris, CI Contemporary Istanbul. Some of his sculptures have been beaten by the most important auction houses – Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Pandolfini – always achieving the best results. In 2018 he exhibited in a solo show at the Boise Art Museum in Idaho, United States.
Among his most famous works there are the Extra Moenia, tormented and powerful bronze creatures struggling to free themselves from the walls, men who attempt a painful rebirth through a struggle with a material-wall that imprisons them; and the Guardians, men’s protectors looking like warriors. Whether Assyrian, Indian, Egyptian, Indians or Samurai, they protect and guarantee an inner and existential calm. Matteo Pugliese lives and works in Milan.