Welcome to the second episode of Insights of an Eco Artist, today I have with me the Italian artist Samantha Passaniti whose practice focuses on natural materials she gathers from the environment around her, this material becomes the center of investigation and observation.
Samantha shares some insights into her practice, the art world, and the problems we face navigating current situations.
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1. You have said in your statement that “My practice is a symbolic act”, can you elaborate on that?
Yes, I consider everything I do a symbolic act, because through every gesture and every material I use I express a thought, a concept and a precise message.
I am also very interested in studying and exploring the symbologies linked to the various cultures that have followed one another over time, such as those of medieval art, and I like to find analogies and connections in my work. I like to think of artistic expression as a continuous thread that unfolds throughout the entire span of man’s existence through the symbolism that lies behind every work of the past and present.
2. You work within the relation between individual, nature and material. What pulls you to work within these concepts?
The decision to work on these three themes, which form the basis of my research, came about naturally; I simply followed my inner need, an internal and profound desire linked to feeling. The fact that I was born and still live in an uncontaminated natural environment in close contact with the sea and nature has certainly had a profound influence on me. I am in love with the landscape around me and with nature in general. Observing only as I did at first was no longer enough for me, so I started to collect, touch and work with samples of materials that I take from the environment.
3. Can you recall an artwork that was so powerful it changed you or was a steppingstone to your evolution as an artist?
It is difficult to answer this question because I think that any work I have done so far, has in some way led me to the next step and then to growth. Certainly, there are some artworks that I feel are a bit more important than others, but they all have an important value for me. Certainly, the first canvas I made with natural materials after returning from a trip to Morocco 7 years ago was very important. It was the first in a long series of works where the material collected in nature was not just a material but the work itself. The first site-specific installation in Venice, also seven years ago, has the same value, and then I would like to talk about the last major environmental installation that I made this year, “Il tempio del crechio”; it is my latest work, the largest I have done, and is set in a very brief natural landscape in Tuscany, measuring almost 50 metres in circumference. Moreover, from an aesthetic and conceptual point of view, I think it represents all the main points of my all research
4. What are your insights into the importance of art as a tool to raise awareness of social or ecological problems?
I believe that the arts in general have a strong power over the people who have the sensitivity to listen to it, every artist is in some way responsible for the messages they send to the public. In this very delicate moment in history, I believe there is a great need to make people aware of certain social and environmental issues, and art is an extraordinary means of doing this. It is no coincidence that many artists in recent years have been attentive to these causes, even if the natural sphere has always interested artists; although we often forget it, nature is our home and for this reason, it must be respected and safeguarded, but above all loved; Perhaps we have lost our awareness of and union with the natural world, perhaps returning to consider it and love it would then lead us to respect it more. this is what I would like to reflect on through my works, without entering into political themes that are not part of my research.
5. Regarding your last project “Confidence in the Uncertain” can you speak a bit about it? What are the motivations behind it and why the choice of materials?
Confidence in the uncertain was my last solo exhibition in Rome in a gallery called Curva Pura. it is a site-specific project created for that specific space around the theme of uncertainty; uncertainty is at the basis of every individual’s existence, especially for the generations living in this moment even more uncertain because of the pandemic. with this project and a series of installation, sculpture and painting works, I wanted to convey this feeling of living without certainty, trying to adapt to less comforting situations. In particular, I would like to mention two installations made with discarded wooden material salvaged from the family carpentry shop: one is an unstable staircase, a sort of rickety and unsafe staircase that rises from the floor to the ceiling, and the other is an uncertain floor, an unstable blown-up floor that seems destroyed and difficult to walk on, but from which a plant sprouts, and with it hope. Both works urge us to take a path upwards or towards the future despite the difficulties, in search of a goal without ever losing hope.
6. Can you tell us about your daily routine? How does a day as an artist looks like?
I don’t know how other artists live, but my daily routine is very simple; I wake up very early in the morning, have a leisurely breakfast and go for a nice run or walk by the sea.
Then I dedicate the whole day to work, often at the computer to design or in the studio to create; I am lucky enough to work in a very large industrial shed that was my father’s old carpentry shop. I spend a lot of time in the studio, often also reading and studying. As soon as I have the chance, I go to the big art cities in Italy or abroad to see exhibitions and meet people: I would never be able to live in a city, I need contact with nature, but it is very important to visit them often to maintain important contacts and to find new stimuli.
7. What is your relationship with curators and galleries? Do you think you have grown as an artist and individual with these connections?
It is very important to create a circle of people and relationships that are stimulating and gratifying, because as we grow as people, the depth of the works we create automatically grows; the continuous exchange with artists, gallery owners and curators is truly fundamental, just like the work itself. All this is important for human growth and also for more practical and professional growth. Having chosen to live far away from the cities, I initially had difficulty creating a network of contacts, but thanks to the internet and the trips we often make, I have gradually managed to increase my knowledge, but I have had to make an effort to do this because I certainly prefer to stay in the studio and work, but this alone is not enough if you want to achieve results.
8. I have seen that you have done quite a lot of international and regional exhibitions, what skills do you wish you knew before starting exhibitions? 10 What advice would you give young artists starting out?
What I would recommend to young artists who want to start is absolutely to look for opportunities (exhibitions, events, etc.) by talking to people in the fields of art and looking for opportunities on the internet: there are thousands of them, always try to participate in many calls and never get discouraged. In addition, it would be important to be able to do some residencies: residencies are unique opportunities to grow in your work from a technical and conceptual point of view because there is plenty of time to be able to fully concentrate on your work.
for all the other things that are more bureaucratic and logistical, I recommend at least a year’s experience as an assistant to an artist who is already established, so that you can learn a lot and grow very quickly.
9. Can you tell us a bad/good experience you had when doing an international exhibition?
With regard to international exhibitions, I would certainly like to mention the one held in New York four years ago. It was one of the most beautiful experiences I have had so far. I took part in a call for entries on the internet and was selected by reartiste, a contemporary art organisation for young artists from all over the world, and so I was chosen to take part in a group show called Transofromation with a work made from roots, earth and handmade paper.
I had the opportunity to go personally to the opening in a gallery in Manhattan where I met the curators with whom I am still in contact and artists and people from all over the world. The next day we all attended a conference where we talked about our research and the work we were presenting, it was a huge growth experience that I will never forget, it was like a dream come true.
11 As an artist what would you say is your biggest accomplishment?
My greatest accomplishment as an artist, but above all as a woman, is waking up every morning happy to be doing the job I love most. I’ve always dreamed of doing it, but I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to, but instead, working hard, with determination, with seriousness and humility, I see that I am succeeding. this is my greatest joy which I wish everyone to get in their own life.
12 What is for you the biggest challenge we face as individuals and Environmental artists navigating the current state of things?
I believe that every artist is influenced by the era in which they live, and each period is characterized by specific problems of that time, I am thinking for example of the art made during the great wars. The art if we look at it from afar is nothing other than the fruit of the intuitions that some people have had through the specific experiences of their time. We who live today are called to take care of this because it is a necessity that many feel, it is true it is a challenge but perhaps more of a mission. So we just have to keep doing what we have already started doing.