Sculpture and site-specific installations are the artistic expressions of choice for Stefano Canto (Rome, 1974), who frequently focuses on the use of selected materials sourced from the world of construction – such as concrete – placed in dialogue with elements found at the opposite end of the spectrum, such as water, ice, plants and organic elements.
Carie, is a solo show by Stefano Canto, curated by Giuliana Benassi at Matèria gallery; in Roma. Canto presents a new body of work, the result of a research process begun in 2009, which embodies the backbone of his entire artistic practice. The title of the exhibition is borrowed from botanical terminology and refers to the decomposition of plant tissues due to the action of fungal parasites, called “Carie”.
All photos: Installation views of Stefano Canto’s solo show “Carie”2021.-Courtesy of the artist and Materia Gallery, Roma.All photos by Roberto Apa
CB: Your works are conveyed through the poetry of ‘place’ and through the social themes residing in the relationship between man and architecture. How did you start your artistic practice?
My studies in Architecture brought me progressively closer to the world of contemporary art. The work produced by architects such as Mies van der Rohe, Scarpa, Eisenman, Gehry, Hadid, Koolhaas, Ando, demonstrate how architecture can be something else and can free itself from the burden of function; this view and approach has influenced the structural way in which I think, and has always pushed me to view things in differently.
My artistic practice has developed through an extended timeframe and can be defined as a slow process of awareness rather than a traditional identifiable beginning. While studying architecture, I started building objects that questioned the language of industrial design and subsequently moved to a larger scale by dealing with buildings – destabilising their construction principles – which resulted a hybridization process that probably withheld the founding principles for what I would work on in the future.
How do you start a project and what are your cultural influences?
When approaching the design of a building, one starts with an analysis of the natural and urban context. Each place has its own precise identity made up of multiple levels of information, it is up to us to choose which ones to highlight and utilize. These are the notions I apply when starting a new project, independently of its final result; whether it is a sculpture, an installation or a two-dimensional work.
My cultural influences, as previously hinted, come from the field of architecture and are combined with equally important ones of my lived experience. A clear example would be my city – Rome – that has been instrumental in my keen interest in archeology, or my family’s contagious passion for modern art, alongside the different cultures I encountered when traveling around the world, which allowed me to enrich and add a diversified cultural outlook to my traditional academic training.
Installation view StefanoCanto “Carie” 2021. Courtesy of the artist and Materia, Roma. Photo by Roberto Apa.
CB: What cultural experiences changed the way you see the world?
Studying architecture has had a profound influence, not only in the way I interpret the world, but also in the way I approach it. The most important lesson I was lucky to draw from designing buildings, was to see problems through the lens of opportunity.
The unevenness of the building lot, the fact that stream passed through it, limited construction budgets, constraints of all kinds, are all problems which – if correctly interpreted – can become a feature of the building rather than a flaw or an impediment.
CB: What is art for?
Art allows for the adoption of a different viewpoint, making it possible for us to go beyond.
CB: How does it relate to architecture?
Their relationship is one of dialogue. As with a married couple, a healthy dialogue is paramount.
Stefano Canto_Ca 16, Ca 17, 2020-21. Courtesy the artist and Materia, Roma.jpg
CB: Has and will this new Matèria gallery make such an intrinsic contribution to Roma’s cultural system?
One of the main focuses of the gallery and its director – Niccolò Fano – is precisely to enhance and further the practice of artists based in the city, as well as promote the collaboration with young professionals from different creative sectors, which form the gallery’s extended team. Currently, the gallery represents 3 Roman artists including myself, and actively collaborates with many others by working on group exhibitions, publication projects and talks. Moreover, with a larger and better positioned new space, the gallery can enhance its dialogue with the neighborhood and city while maintaining a high end program of international fairs and events, tailored to showcase our work to a wider audience.
CB: What can you tell us about your solo show Carie at Matèria?
I am leaving my reply empty on purpose, because emptiness is precisely the lens through which I invite the viewers to experience the exhibition. For a wider context, Giuliana Benassi – curator of the show – has written an extended text that I am very pleased with and that I encourage your audience to read. The full essay will be available soon on the gallery’s website and can always be found at Matèria accompanying the exhibition. I am also happy to share that we are working on a special publication with book designer Fiorenza Pinna and the end of the exhibition is our target for its release. This publication is my second one with Fiorenza and marks the midway point of a trilogy of publishing projects that illustrate my solo shows at Matèria.
CB: I’m still thinking about how aspects of architecture can open up your awareness of things that you otherwise might not think about. I’m really fascinated by your use of entering in dialogue with elements found at the opposite end of the spectrum, such as water, ice, plants, and organic elements. Do you see this idea manifesting in your other shows? Can you tell us more about that? How do you work with this feeling of evocation traits in your installations?
Indeed, the idea of diverse and contrasting materials emerges in many of my exhibitions.
I choose my materials very carefully and I pay a great deal of attention to the expressive content they are able to convey.
A clear example can be found in “Archeology of the Ephemeral”, a body of work where I favor the juxtaposition between a durable material such as concrete, and an impermanent one such as ice. This union activates a process of transformation that affects both materials, quickly leading to the construction of a solid form similar to that of a stone fossil.
With this type of action, my intent is to reconnect with the points made by Bauman on contemporary society in “Liquid Modernity” and by Marc Augé, in particular when he claims that today’s society “does not aim at eternity, but at the present: a present, nevertheless, unsurpassable”; “It does not yearn for the eternity of a dream of stone, but for an infinitely ‘replaceable’ present ”.
The sculptures I make revolve around this exact sense of precariousness, of the permanent yet ephemeral lasting transience that characterizes our age.
Camilla Boemio is a writer, researcher curator and university consultant. Her work focuses on interdisciplinary systems from an intersectional feminist perspective, with a focus on social systems, and the ethics of ecologies. She has written and edited books; contributed essays and reviews to other books, journals, art magazines and websites. Her book As Brilliant As the Sun was published by Vanilla edizioni, in 2020.
One of Boemio’s essays is included in ROAR, a publication edited by Rosanna Greaves and Marina Velez. The book explores how artistic and aesthetic strategies address notions of sustainability. ROAR invited a selection of artists, curators, writers and academics to respond to broad issues around sustainability, such as the Anthropocene, ecology, land and borders, human and non-human relationships, notions of work, energy and time, and the creation and distribution of knowledge.
She is the editor of The Edge of Equilibrium; which weaves a dialogue of many voices, instead of making a fixed statement, offering a wider picture of art communities, alternative land-based, low impact ways of living, that address these issues and dilemmas.