Francesco Patriarca • Artist, Italy

Birds by the Hand

Landscape Stories: You have began your artist’s research by using photography. Later on your language has incorporated other medias such as drawing and installation. How did your approach changed in the years?
Francesco Patriarca: After having used for many years photography I later felt the need to develop a different dimension in my work, free from the use of a technological instrument. This step helped to reach a physical relationship with the materials I started to use. From these “experiments” came different series of works in which photography had always an important part and became either a support for drawing or applying materials ( plaster or cellotape for example) or a way to document the work in the studio and outside. Today I see photography, drawing, painting and installation as part of a necessary discipline that allows me to be in touch with the subject matter and the material I use in an equal way.

'Untitled' cotton print with plaster,graphite and resin 80x140cm , 2007 - courtesy by the artist

Landscape Stories: “Migrations” is a site-specific installation that you have created in one of the glass houses of Rome’s botanical garden in the occasion of “After the Crash” (ISWA European Project for ‘Arte in Orto 2011′). The installation is inspired by the migrations of the birds. In this context they represent the fragility of the environment from the angle of the negative consequences of man’s intervention on it.
There are some photographs presented as part of the installation, key elements that live together with drawings and objects (the bird houses for example). Could you tell me more about the use of photography in the installation?

Francesco Patriarca: As the title “Migrations” recalls a movement from a place to another one, the installation in itself represent a movement, a path, both physical and mental. In this path there are both “real things” such as a stone or a architectural model and both representations of the reality, such as photographs for example. As I was saying before I work with photography and with other medias. In this occasion the results of both activities are shown one next to the other and in my opinion, this association creates an interesting dialogue in between the public and the artist, a conversation should ideally be the result of it rather than the request of contemplating the qualities of a work of art as normally expected in a gallery or museum. Besides this element the photographs full fill an important role in the narrative of the work. They narrate the effects of human activity on the environment. They are conceived as small windows that are willing to investigate some tragic aspects of contemporary society.

'Migrations' Installation View - courtesy by the artist
'Migrations' Installation View - courtesy by the artist
'Migrations' Installation View - courtesy by the artist
'Migration Drawing', graphite on wood 50x40cm, year 2011 - courtesy by the artist
'Migrations' c-print 35x50cm year 2010 - courtesy by the artist
'Migrations' Bird House II acrylic on wood 30x30x15cm year 2011 - courtesy by the artist

Landscape Stories: How do you chose your subjects? What are the main areas of interest?
Francesco Patriarca: I use an open structure in which things come and go with no method or order. My discipline is to remain as open as possible and in a state of presence at the same time, a state in which intuition as a greater role than the results and the understanding of the work. I believe that by doing so I can regenerate the creative experience every day without being imprisoned in an intellectual or sociological frame. By living in the countryside the observation of the natural phenomenon has became central for me and, as a result, the work is deeply influenced by the context in which I work. My house/studio is open on the woods and natural light is a constant inspiring element. From this simple observation of what is around me comes most of my recent work.

'Ethiopia Wood Triptych' c-prints on wood 100x340cm year 2008 courtesy Galleria Nicoletta Rusconi

Landscape Stories: Can you talk about your project “The Accona Desert”?
Francesco Patriarca: The Accona Desert is the result of a stay of a month in a monastery located in the Crete Senesi in Tuscany. This project is part of a cycle of works in which I lived and photographed in places that are subject to specific codes and rules and, most of all, closed to the outside, such as a prison for example (‘Fourth Wall’). In these projects I wasn’t interested in photographing as a visitor or as a photographer but in the possibility of living the extreme experience of isolation in itself, both in a physical and mental sense. I wanted to submit myself for a given period of time to such rules and such environments. In the case of ‘The Accona Desert’ it has been a very complicated experience. It is the only project I did in which the human figure has a visual role. In the series there are both human presences and landscapes that are blurred by fog and mist that dissolve the countryside that lies beneath the monastery. The atmosphere was completely strange if not sinister. The figures of the monks portrayed in these atmospheres charged with questions and doubts become ‘subtractions’ rather than figures in the landscape. It is exactly this kind of relationship man-environment that I wanted to investigate also in reference to the tradition that ritualized a sort of funeral for the entrance of the novice in the monastery.

'The Accona Desert I' , c-print 110x110cm, 2004 - courtesy Gossmichael Foundation

Landscape Stories: What are your interests towards science? “Mineral Hemisphere” is one of your projects that seems to deal a lot with these preoccupations, is that true?
Francesco Patriarca: My curiosities towards science are both of a philosophical nature and a visual. I often look at those incredible images that come from the astronomic, medical and scientific research. Despite this fascination I believe we give too much importance to technology and the fact that today nothing is accepted as true if not confirmed by a technological instrument is extremely dangerous. Since the industrial revolution and the more recent technological one, we gained an immense knowledge for ourselves on the one hand but lost a an immense patrimony on the other. For a example the relationship with nature based on sacred rituals of the past as opposite to the way it is perceived today, a resource to measure and exploit. Those are just examples that can be also analyzed in more specific subjects such as for example building techniques, medicine, astronomy etc. In “Mineral Hemisphere” I wanted to talk about the duality of the approach to the natural phenomenon. I used the mineral world as an example to speak about different ways of approaching reality. Stones in fact appear to be solid and still but in reality they are too, as everything else on this planet, the result of infinite movements that can be quantified today by technological instruments. Despite this scientific confirmation, this truth regarding the nature of solids has been present in the human knowledge for thousands of years. There are incredible texts by both eastern and western philosophers and mystics that prove that they have understood and believed this. I think that the installation speaks about this two different approaches to nature: one rational and based on measures and another one, more magical and based on intuition. In the installation in fact there are both “cold” and serious elements together with more playful ones. One of the works is a wood cut that represent a sort of human or animal skull drawn with mechanical lines. A white neon is part of the work too and it illuminates the drawing from beneath by making the structure appear ghost like and difficult to read in one sense as it appears both convex and concave at the same time. This happens because our brain, in these circumstances, uses alternatively the left and right hemisphere and modifies our perception of the object.

" Mineral hemisphere", Ink and graphite on card board, dim 40X30cm, 2009 - Courtesy Next Level Project Space London
" Mineral hemisphere", Ink and graphite on card board, dim 40X30cm, 2009 - Courtesy Next Level Project Space London
"Mineral Hemisphere" Installation View, 2009 - Courtesy Next Level Project Space London 2010

Landscape Stories: What is the role of Landscape as a genre in your projects?
Francesco Patriarca: The landscape is always present in my work. Max J.Friedlander explained that the landscape could be seen as the face of the Earth through the emotions that it generates in ourselves. No matter how terrible or beautiful this face maybe it is still the only thing that we can contemplate. I believe that my work is driven by a desire to understand and learn the language of this relationship.

'Untitled' c-print 60x100cm year 2008 courtesy the artist

Landscape Stories: Can you talk about “Birds by the Hand”, the site – specific installation that you have created for Co/Lab to Art Platform – Los Angeles?
Francesco Patriarca: The installation is formed by a series of drawings and an audio recording. The drawings are quite abstract and they form all together a sort of imaginary catalogue of species of birds. The traces of color left behind by my hand on the white paper has become the occasion to speak again about these animals. The drawings recall the wings, plumes and sometimes the body of these creatures, they have different colors and the texture of the used color has made them organic and lively. Every drawing is realized with one stroke, an action that made me feel the incredible sensation that something light, colored, fragile and poetic was coming out of my hand just as these animals are. The sound is instead made of a catalogue of bird’s sounds, each one being specific to one of the species. There are exactly 96 sounds that are played one after the other. Each sound is played and then it dissolves into a pause, a silence. It recalls a mantra. Listening to the sounds coming and going makes you interact differently with the drawings and the space and it is a way of listening that prevents you from indulging on the beauty of the bird’s sound and forces you to a silent pause, a void.

"Birds by the Hand" - tempera su carta 33x23cm- courtesy by the artist and Colab Los Angeles
"Birds by the Hand" - tempera su carta 33x23cm - courtesy by the artist and Colab Los Angeles
"Birds by the Hand" - tempera su carta - courtesy by the artist and Colab Los Angeles

Interview curated by Camilla Boemio