Lightness and refinement – vis à vis Francesco Ardini

Often, when thinking of the different means through which artists express themselves, people tend to forget about pottery. Yet pottery not only is one of the oldest forms of art, being widely explored all around the world since ancient times, but has also being used in modern times by several prominent artists such as Lucio Fontana.

WoMA team had the honour of interviewing a worthy representative of the field. Francesco Ardini is a young artist from Padua and graduated in Architecture of Landscape, but soon decided to devote himself to pottery. His artistic intent is that to “achieve a sense of lightness and refinement in the visual appearance and material essence of his sculptures and installations”.

Francesco Ardini exposed his works in many solo shows and recently in a collective exhibition “Vivi Dream” at the ClayArch Gimhae Museumin Seoul.

WoMA: First of all, I would like to start from your background. At university, you chose to study architecture, in particular landscape architecture. How did your interest in pottery develop? Which were the main obstacles you faced as a self-taught artist?

It happened by chance, as in true love stories. I was almost done with university and I felt the need to express myself, to communicate something that I felt living within me. I wanted to do so in a way that was both personal and autonomous. Ceramic is a material that is complex and sensible, as it responds immediately to the actions and moods of whoever is modelling it. Yet, as in any relationship, it never gives up itself immediately. It must be respected, understood, hated even, and finally loved. It will be stubborn and hard to deal with, as a shy lover, but it will always make you feel emotions. I suggest to devote time to it, to love it beyond expectations and results… The first trials will be disasters, but the aim must be that to establish a long-term relationship.

Francesco Ardini - ManufattoVissuto_Tavolo, 2014

WoMA: You consider yourself (and is considered) an artist. Pottery however is often associated to artisans. What makes you different from the latter? Do you believe that your art confers to you a role in the defence of the figure of the artisan that is somehow disappearing?

It may be due to my architectural background but, when I have a new idea, I first design the rooms inhabited by my works. I often include people in my drawings. It is important to imagine the fruition of a place, to measure the density of the space. I thus have an overall view but also an extremely personal vision of the details. I am naively honest in my art. I do not care about the formal appearance of a structure or object in itself, which is instead the objective of the artisan, who looks for perfection or focus on the execution. I am involved in the imperfection, in the apparent chaos, in the fragility of things. I get emotional when I see a part of me in front of me, alive in a sculpture, in that timeframe but also outside of it. I start feeling like this when the material is still raw but alive. My aim is not to valorise the ceramic in itself. In “Stige” (2015), for example, I spoke about the territory of Nove (VI) and Bassano del Grappa, using ancient moulds of chalks from over nine firms of the area. They were tables which moulders used for over sixty years, utensils left to the dust accumulated in the locked firms… All elements that remind us of the craftsmanship which developed along the Brenta river.

We are increasingly forgetting the importance of making, of our history. I hope to inspire in someone the curiosity to know those places.

WoMA: The influence of the classical myths is clearly evident in all of your artworks, starting from the names of your exhibitions: “Circe”, “Stige”. Myths that talk about transformations, rebirth, invincibility for some, but death for others. What do you want to communicate through such a choice?

The word mythology has in itself the meaning of “speech, tale, narration” (from the greek word mythos).The main characteristic of the word is its social connotation: a myth is a collective tale that is referred, through gods and heroes, to the social thread and to the relationships between people from everywhere in the world, and to the concepts of nature, of knowledge. I use this scenery as a base and then I change it completely. I never choose famous and popular myths, rather I focus on secondary characters, on stories that have often been distorted, are ambiguous and marginal. Circe is a witch who charms travellers with her figure and with food. I transformed and related her to technology which, through images and product, charms the viewer. They are characters that enclose tensions and as such, emanate beauty.

Francesco Ardini - Venere storpia, 2015

WoMA: It seems that there is a common thread in you art, that is, the evolution of the universe as a catastrophe. If you believe the world is decaying, why do you make such a phenomenon so fascinating and beautiful?

We live in a fragile world. Social relationships are fragile, as well as those values we thought to be immune from the passage of time. Uncertainty teaches us how to survive. In “Stige” we can perceive the burden of history on our generation. Some sculptures are made with objects that were originally conceived to smooth, but then I turned them into sharp blades. The result is of distorted beauty. Each epoch, especially the most tragic one, is rich of it.

WoMA: We live in a world in constant motion, in which individuals have had to learn how to be multi-tasking. Some of your works, like those shown at the exhibition “Stige”, seem to contrast to this frenzy that permeates everyone and everything; on the contrary they remind us of the uncertainty of life, as opposed to the immortal existence of those objects which seem to turn into motionless fossils. What is the reason behind this “rebellion” against modern values, this invitation to stop and reflect?

I believe that, to understand the future, we need to look at the past. Our roots are our future and this is not only true in art but in every human field. With “Stige” I wanted to make artworks which had an anthropological value, signalling the ability of Italian handicraft, which is losing its shine in dust and time. Today I notice more than ever that, maybe due to a quick and short-lived learning process, people only look at the surface of things, they do not explore, investigate, they do not dig in order to know more. Yet, it is only in the depth of knowledge that we can find ourselves. Having, as we do have today, so many sources of information may be harmful, or perhaps a great luck. It depends on us, on how we use them.

Francesco Ardini

WoMA: You recently exhibited some works in the collective exhibition “Vivi Dream”, in Seoul. Which were the most important and significant experiences there? How important do you believe such an experience is for an artist’s growth on the international scene?

My stay at the ClayArch Gimhae Museum was an intense experience, which lasted 90 days. I met a culture that is at the same time distant and warm, that has a particular relationship with pottery and a deep relationship with the local nature. I worked with ancient artefacts like roof tiles from past centuries which had been found therein, with textiles and porcelain, because there the word pottery is a synonym of porcelain. Experiences of this kind are first of all life experiences, because they make it possible to focus on our inner self and on our research with a clear mind, in a new place where everything has to be discovered. The exchange of knowledge and the friendship with other professional are some of the greatest treasures to bring back home.

Anna Aglietta