In a spacious studio crowded with books, colors and works of art, Oscar Giaconia, one of the most promising artists of his generation, introduces me to his work and allows me to enter his hybrid, uncontrolled, and metamorphic world.
I would like to start with the most challenging question: What is art for you?
Historically, the origin of the word “Art” lies in the practice of making, which includes manufacturing, technique, and skill. It is a fact that we all do something. Technique has the original ability to hide by replicating itself, just like a virus. Leaving any possible hermeneutic or philosophical interpretation aside, if I knew exactly what it was, I would instantly lose my interest in it. I am interested in art, in its failures and excesses. I use a whole “bouquet” of pathologies, teratological dysfunctions, misunderstandings and regrets which are inextricably part of language. I call these data the “dark matter” of painting; they are the equivalent of sensation and its unpredictable logic. Art, just like animal or plant species, is trapped in an oxymoron that brings into unity what is instead an uncontrollable proliferation of multitudes. Hence, what we consider art could be a surviving superstition, a survival of primitive habits in the genome of apparently changing states of things.
How did your adventure as an artist begin?
I'm afraid there is no history, no beginning, no end. I work within the region of an alibi, of the circular recurrence of staging and fiction, as if there were ventriloquist prompters to help with the drafting of an imaginary autobiography. I sabotage myself, both willingly and accidentally, to protect myself from prepackaged freedoms. I respond to my body and its unbearable burden of genetically memorized and self-inflicted ties with a biological need for illusion. I'm in the game and I play with the game itself. There are schizophrenic periods in which the painter is a player and the player is a painter, staying in and out of the role. The goal is to create and preserve parallel dimensions in which the unreal acquires the same density as the real. Despite being potential “machines for thinking”, painting and play stop reasoning and they finally get rid of each other. They dance in vain in a perverted circle from the mistica to the mestica, which traps and keeps at a distance at the same time. Play and painting, like language, are intervals, still images, evolutionary puzzles which cannot be solved.
The philosopher Felice Cimatti defines your works as "figural". Could you clarify what he means?
“Figuration” is both a lure and a simulacrum. It is an escamotage, a trap that acts as a refrain, that is to say, an attempt to return to its missing center, a recursive counterpoint in the research process. In one word it is an allodoxia, a false recognition and, I would add, a false problem. At first, figurativeness might seem an “anchoring”, a “functional” consequence of the production process. However, the game of misunderstandings soon gives way to the lack of messages, narratives, and symbols. The “figural” is not a choice, it is a condition, it implies “sticking to a fact”, in a way that reminds of a parasite lurking and waiting without expectations.
What does your imagination feed on?
Mostly monsters. For me, the use of oil in painting is as monstrous as that of wax for an eighteenth-century ceroplastic. Both are traps enclosing ghost flesh. The monster is the skin, the excess of presence, it leaves traces that will remain. As Tolkien rightly wrote, myths come and go, monsters remain. The psychic dwelling of the pathological is imagination, which is a spongy membrane between the symbolic and the real. It works as a plastic connection between irreconcilable poles. I play with the idea of an imagination of which I am both a suppliant and a persecutor. Imagination is the area in which worn-out visions are stored, like waste oil which conveys its memory. Painting is like “cesspit painting” in those images arise as a result of composting; it is “off-road”, like a war machine, a forerunner, a raider in search of obstacles and handicaps; it is like wrestling, a competitive cage to activate improper hand-to-hand fighting with hardly tamable raw materials. Inside that wardrobe-cesspit, I also cram animals, parasites, cryptids, to support the metaplastic potential of the image, and exterminators, shepherds, sentinels, villains and other doubles, as restorers of roles that can no longer be enlisted. Theory of games and catastrophes as gameboards of one’s own artificial and portable battles. Objects as reliquaries-symptoms of unknown past activities.
Your painting is also an investigation into matter.
The essence of my visual thought lies in the materials I use: oils, fats, polymers, protein and synthetic binders, gaskets, leathers and inorganic supports, which work together so that the martyr-matter can be embodied and healed on the shroud-support. Those substances imply a sort of athletic counterpart of muscular gestures which can be translated through the pass granted by language. I call this escalation the "polar transition from mistica to mestica”, passing through mnestica. The symbolic transcendence of language (mistica) mixed with the real and irreducible immanence of the substance (mestica), mediated by the spongy tissue, by the filtering and pathogenic memory of the imaginary (mnestica). Mistica, mestica, mnestica are the equivalent of the three Lacanian psychic places.
Any notes on colors?
Alchemists were great fans of waste products. They founded a heretical science capable of making the silent, muddy, sick and excrementitious colors, that they used to call "fetid earths", emerge from the ashes, scum and various residues. They burned and calcined the remains of their samples, thus producing color, but it would be better to say the non-color of death par excellence: the caput mortuum, “dead’s head”. The ultimate purpose was to reach resurrection through the search for putrefaction. It is a phenomenon that I have seen in dessert wines or cheese-making process (the mysterium casei and its dark cellar-sanctuary of transformation). To make them delicious and sugary, the raw material is subjected to three forms of natural treatment directly on the plant: freezing, drying, and decomposition. During that treatment, as they fermented and become corrupted, they rejuvenate and resurrect. I am always worried about the creeping possibility of losing control within non-colors. Their muddy, livid, moldy, rotten and earthy colors are not a choice, but a physiologically irreparable condition. I accept this entropic state of achromatic, degenerate, vegetative, virulent colors, which are absurdly overloaded with life. A waxy, sticky material emerges, in which the agglutination entangles and cancels the scrap, it traps the ghosts and cancels the name.
Can you describe a work and/or a project you are particularly fond of?
I am thinking of Green Room (BACO - Bergamo, 2016) which can be considered to be more than an exhibition. It is rather a receptacle of overlapping elements incorporated within a single ceremony: filmic visions, prosthetic make-up, game theory and pictorial recycling. Personal affections do not matter; what matters is painting in its brutal immanence, even before the transcendent process of judging one’s intentions. My painting is casual, incontinent, it emerges from competition, and it is subjected to a crisis that concerns the reversibility of what is inside and what is outside. I am obsessed with exhaust pipes, fittings, gaskets, holes and plugs. To sum up, painting can be regarded as a sewer alembic. In etymology, the word sport indicates an activity in which recreation and “deportation” coexist. I perceive the same restless coexistence in the practice of painting, which is trapped in a conflict zone between nomadic and sedentary acts, between exclusion and inclusion, between distancing and approaching. The creator is thus an “emotional athlete”, in Artaud’s sense, as vital as he is mortifying. I'm particularly fond of materials and substances that can hardly be named: while using them, the operator translates them and therefore he betrays them. I miss that inorganic dimension in which things are and "will have been" completely unrelated to language. Perhaps painting is the biological answer to something that is not biological.