‘I am interested in making things that prompt a sense
of the complexity of the present.’
Marco Cianfanelli is an artist who works across the public and private realms, thinking of the world more in terms of systems than discrete objects or fenced off territories of engagement. Constantly looking to realise art where one doesn’t expect to find it and testing the possibilities for artistic intervention in the public realm, he has been involved in a wide range of projects involving art, architecture and public space.
Cianfanelli’s work embodies a vast variety of media and materials, from burnt mielie skins and sculpted sea sand, to laser cut materials, masked glass and digital imaging. He thrives on taking applications and using them for different functions. Although he uses computer-aided design and technology in the production of his work, he also engages with the more visceral organic aspects of the material he works with, experimenting with physical acts like the slinging of muddy pigment or the branding of animal hides. Marrying the application of data to more expressive gestural acts, he aims to set up a tension or dialogue between the controlled, accuracies of the digital realm and the uncontrollable realities of being human.
Key to his practice is an attempt to give shape to the convergence of multiple kinds of data, knowledge and experience, asserting the interrelatedness of all things. His work explores social hierarchies and channels of consumption as they relate to aspects of human desire, value, beauty and material relationships.
Collapsing the categories and conventions that sort our experience, he strives to invent forms that bring together thoughts in relation to economics (statistics, values and economies of scale), geography (resources, place and ownership) and emotion (self, psychology and chemistry). Human forms superimposed on a graphical index track personal narratives in relation to seemingly unrelated empirical data. The silhouettes of human figures appear repeatedly in relation to other shapes or forms that point to unexpected connections between social forces. In other instances, statistics are translated into physical forms, so graphs become landscapes, affirming the idea that nature, culture, landscape and politics are inextricably interfused.
For him, the idea of ‘place’ refers beyond fixed geographical co-ordinates. It is an emissary from the past as well as a construction-site of invention and re-invention. Place, or its absence, points to our intellectual and emotional desires for location, which are as much about the construction of Self as they are about a sense of community or even nationality.
In Cianfanelli’s forms one becomes aware of images and shapes that are, in a sense, made apparent through omission. Aspects of the object may not be entirely visible. Parts may be hidden or simply missing. Sometimes it is as if the works are remainders of images that used to be or images that have been replaced, obscured or erased. Cianfanelli is drawn to the expressive possibilities of blank space, and the aesthetic patterns that result from obscuration and omission. Yet his work has little to do with the pursuit of purely formal abstraction. The images or references within the artworks are quite specific, even though they have been visually obscured or omitted.
Scale is pivotal. By reinterpreting numbers and playing with measurements, Cianfanelli repeatedly interrogates the mysterious connectivity between microbes and planets.
From the smallest maquette to the immensity of a fully realised public sculpture, his figures and forms allude ambiguously to landscape, the human body and microorganisms. His spheroid sculptures, in particular, refer simultaneously to microscopic, visceral and celestial forms. Our desire to grasp our own humanity is precariously formed from an engagement between our sense of individuality and our location within a greater species, on a singular planetary body.
For this, his sixth solo exhibition, he embarks on an adventure in search of forms that prompt subtler responses to the complex natural and built environments in which we find ourselves.
Text by Alex Dodd
Marco Cianfanelli was born in Johannesburg in 1970 and graduated, with a distinction in Fine Art, from the University of the Witwatersrand in 1992. He has had five solo exhibitions and has won numerous awards, including the ABSA L’Atelier, which culminated in a residency at the Cité des Arts in Paris, and an Ampersand Fellowship, which took him to New York. Fiercely committed to testing the possibilities for artistic intervention in the public realm and engaging with other professionals from diverse fields, he has been involved in a wide range of projects involving art, architecture and public space. Currently, he is a member the design team for The Freedom Park, South Africa’s national monument to freedom, situated in Pretoria. His work can be found in public and private collections in South Africa (Sasol, Absa, Didata, Bloemfontein Art Museum…) Europe and the United States.