There are visions in the paintings of Cristiano Menchini that seem to allude to the lust of nature, to her personality at times capricious, other times impetuous, and that convey at last a foreboding sense of attraction. How do you capture that vision, that moment in time and space that now appears in the overgrown garden, now in the landscapes that rush in the window of a train?
In the works of Cristiano Menchini, we can see the signs of a dilated gesture, a flowing gaze that rests on a nature in perpetual motion. In the complete absence of straight lines, even the gaze of the observer wanders in a confused manner in search of a point of reference. Perhaps what we have in front of us are the traces of intuition, the remains of casualty…
WoMA: The presence of nature pulsates and shouts in every piece of work. The natural phenomenon of reproduction translates into proliferation through your technique and stylistic research. What kind of lure does nature have for you? And what relationship do you have with her?
There is a profound connection between what I live and am in relation to what I represent, I tend to have a symbiotic relationship, of active curiosity. I spend a lot of time on the mountains, on certain streams and generally in natural environments; drawing and painting are knowledge tools that allow me to discover and understand what surrounds me.
All the images I’ve represented are the outcomes of walks, memories, studies from real life.
Other than this, I believe that one must think of nature as the set of all the things in the world, including cars, industries and man productions; even a city, a concrete pier and rusted pieces are part of the natural phenomenon…
WoMA: Your painting is at times descriptive and simulative, other times contemplative and evocative. How would you describe this fluidity of images and thought?
They’re different approaches, on one hand the analytical and descriptive one that resumes my detailed graphic attitude, typical of drawing; on the other hand there’s that of watercolors, which tends to be instead more rarefied where, through open and humid backgrounds, I can be more evocative.
At the last solo show I had at Pietrasanta “The Wind from Nowhere” at Eduardo Secci Contemporary Gallery, curated by Eugenia Delfini, we tried to run the show playing on these different techniques because I think that if related altogether, they can allow me to be more incisive.
WoMA: To purely define you as a landscape painter would be quite reductive. Each piece of work reveals visions and narratives that, charged with a psycho-emotional strength, recall scenarios of another possible life. Where do you draw inspiration from? And which are your personal attitudes?
Over time I realized that the best opportunities and intuitions appeared to me where I was not searching for.
What I mean is that when you’re in the research phase of new subjects or ideas, the best attitude is that of a firm research but not excessively aimed at something.
Travelling often by train in the route that goes from Tuscany to Milan, I always observe the landscape that appears outside the window, how it transforms from the coast to the North, passing over rivers, through mountains.
I happened to see from the train an abandoned station with a dead palm that I was interested in painting.
A couple of weeks ago I went there and found it cut, as I returned back feeling a bit annoyed I came across a small pond full of marsh straws, it was around evening and there was the sunset that lit them from behind, almost setting them on fire, they were swaying rhythmically inclined downwards, while I was observing them a hawk glided through the branches, like an apparition.
It was just a moment but it was worth it.
WoMA: Before being an artist, you’re also a spectator of the most unique creation that is nature. In the guise of observer, how do you grasp what presents before you?
As I mentioned earlier, I think that curiosity represents the best way to discover and understand, it’s an attitude that leads you to probe multiplicity in depth.
Usually it happens that I’m attracted by a plant or rock; at that point, I start to study them, to ask myself how they’re made, trying to find out the differences in growth of the plants according to the light, how the rocks change shape according to the wind, the temperature, the water that flows through them.
WoMA: The shimmering yellow and bruised purple are predominant, in particular in your Typhograpus series. At our last encounter, you confessed that you grew tired of this chromatic choice. In which way do colors relate to a specific period in life?
I work a lot by series of paintings, where an idea, a concept is developed with a series of images that eviscerate the multiple formal and narrative facets.
In this sense, the use of purple offered me certain chromatic and evocative possibilities, which in that moment I believed they were what I needed.
Now I’m considering other variants, without denying what I did but nevertheless trying to find a continuity.
WoMA: The artist always starts with a white empty canvas, from which then arises an image that becomes at last a work of art. Which feelings emerge in you as you witness this birth dilated over time?
When I was studying at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Venice, I met a painter named Goran Gocic. He argues that when an artist begins a painting he or she makes a deal with the canvas, and from that moment onwards a dialogue and relationship is established…
This means you must be receptive, understand which direction it is taking. Even if you may often have a very clear project and idea in mind, you always need to be able to understand what to change, take away or add.
In my work, time is very dilated, both the concentration and tension need to be long lasting in relation to the sedimentation of the image that takes shape.
This approach is partly due to the watercolor and acrylic technique on canvas that I make use of, where errors that have been committed cannot be erased or aren’t stackable.
WoMA: During the encounter, you talked about your latest science fiction experimentations, anticipating also your future participation to Carta Canta, an artistic residency where you will bring forward your research on carvings. Could one say that you find yourself at a crossroad in your artistic path?
More than a crossroad, I see an expansion of possibilities, an opportunity to introduce and develop new images. In this case, speaking with the curator Samuele Menin and Ivan Pengo, owner of “Foglio”, we thought that carvings could be the best medium to represent a cycle of works dedicated to some science fiction stories that I’ve long meditated to do.
It’s something new, I’m nevertheless trying to maintain a continuity of form with respect to what has constituted my research until now.
At the solo show by the end of the residency, which will be towards the end of September, in addition to this series there will also be other carvings dedicated to the landscape as I’ve seen it till now, in order to offer a general and wider insight that can represent my research in its totality.
Thanks to Eduardo Secci Contemporary Gallery‘s collaboration.
See more works by Cristiano Focacci Menchini here.