Interview: Benedetto Pietromarchi
Benedetto Pietromarchi’s sculptures fuse intricate craftsmanship with the aesthetic of the everyday. This is clearly seen in his collection of beautiful lightbulb-like objects currently on show in Edel Assanti’s exhibition Objet Dada, which addresses the legacy of Marcel Duchamp’s readymade in contemporary art.
Celia White caught up with Benedetto to discuss these works in the context of his wider practice, and to ask about the personal impact of the readymade’s legacy on the artist’s work.
Celia White: Could you begin by describing the work you have on show at Edel Assanti, and how it fits into your wider practice?
Benedetto Pietromarchi: The work on show is the conclusion of an adventure. The various bulbs have been made at different times as part of constantly evolving research. As you move along the shelves, you can see that the structures enclosed within the glass vary and become more defined and clean in the way they are manufactured. I have put them together here as a single piece to show how they evolve from beginning to end in a single journey. Placing them on shelves helps the viewer to witness their continuity and their change.
CW: They seem to strike a balance between incredible heaviness, in the glass, and delicacy, in the intricate wire structures within them. Your work has often explored the capabilities of different materials – do you find that exploration is central to the work, or are you seeking a different conceptual/aesthetic experience in varying your materials?
BP: The idea of creating balance and a contrast between materials is a recurrent theme in my sculpture. The best example would be a meteopathic work that I made by attaching a heavy lead weight to a glass buoy and submerging it in the sea, allowing it to find its own balance. The contrast between the two materials created a delicate balance, a hovering object. I use different materials as a means of exploration and seeking new ground. It is a fundamental part of my practice to enter personal unexplored territory, whether it be mental or physical. The materials trace this necessity and help to discover new arenas for creativity.
CW: This exhibition, Objet Dada, is a homage to the legacy of the readymade, supposedly initiated by Marcel Duchamp. How do you consider this legacy in relation to your own work? You clearly respond to everyday objects, but you edit these in a way that requires craftsmanship as well as simply choice.
BP: The idea of the readymade object is something that it has taken me a long time to digest. The idea of an object as an artwork in itself has found wide acceptance and common use within contemporary practice. The readymade’s legacy is extremely important in providing the opportunity to broaden the meaning of the object. As an artist I regard it as an extra colour on the palette to be able to use; the possibility to create three-dimensional collages.
For me the idea of craftsmanship is fundamental. As such, the creation of the object is part of my own process, but the ideas behind my work do derive from the readymade, for instance in my use of everyday objects such as lightbulbs in this case. The structures within the bulbs have all been handmade and welded, but the glass is a prefabricated object which I redesigned to host the sculpture within.
CW: Your work in the past has often responded to ideas of itinerancy and psychogeography. Is this something that generally feeds the philosophy of your work, or do you see elements of your sculptures as deliberately symbolic of this? I’m thinking for instance of the ladder-like structures that you often return to, which carry with them ideas of traveling and ascension, but often lead back into themselves like the pathways of the mind.
BP: In the case of this work on show in Objet Dada, the representation is deliberately symbolic. The structures within the glass are derived from the safety ladders and fire escapes visible outside and attached to buildings and along railway lines. The idea of itinerancy in this case is encapsulated within the glass bulbs, and in being enclosed the ladders become, as you say, pathways of the mind. The ladders are each individual passages of thought, which is why I refer to them as ‘structural thoughts’.
Objet Dada runs until 20th August 2011 at Edel Assanti Project Space