Francesco De Molfetta: Where Classical and Contemporary Art Collides
Bold and adventurous, Francesco De Molfetta provocative work with titles like “SNACK BAR-BIE,” “Under The Influence,” and “Virgin Mary” taps into the viewer’s unconscious by questioning the validity of contemporary society. Acting as an arbiter between classical art and contemporary culture, he experiments with new materials and technologies serving us with a cunning sense of humor in a venerable attempt to bring new life to contemporary culture, history and arts finest antiquities.
Q: A curator once referred to your work as “a way to hit the visitors’ unconscious.” How can your critics and followers tap into your unconscious? What would it tell us?
A: In total honesty, I think that if anything hits a visitor’s unconscious it’s because it has hit something that lies within them: in either their imaginary or in some untied existential knot or even as something irritating and disturbing that concerns them directly or indirectly. This is when I feel that a work has really accomplished its suggested purpose – when it “shakes” something in the spectator. I don’t really want to speak up for myself-I am not really interested in what I have to say, but I am very interested in what others can say to me in relation to my work.
Q: Questioning the validity of society, your work features overt statements that serve as an arbiter between classical art and contemporary culture and their various iconographies. What are your views on classical and contemporary society? Where did they come from? And, how does art allow you to express this?
A: I see myself as a contemporary nostalgic. I really feel like this. I am a decadent romantic in a fast launched revved world, struggling to keep record of what we derive from. One hand clinging on the past the other grasped on to the future. I am in the middle, trying to resist from being torn apart! My Art stands in the present, in the presence of both hyperboles (past/future). I am very fascinated by old masters, enchanted by their imaginaries, the talents that were always physical, beauties given birth just from two hands. However, I look into new futuristic methods too, the techniques and chemical materials we have nowadays can be very inspiring and challenging. I am never happy of the way I work today, I always want to find a better solution, a better matter, a better finish for a piece. I am always in this dilemma when I finish a work: “Could it have been any better?” Like Michelangelo, the sculptor who was never happy about his masterpiece Moses sculpture and kept on chiseling on the piece till he got so angry and inveighed against him: “You are so real so why can’t you speak?”
Q: You said of your “Virgin Mary” piece once on display at Isola del Gran Sasso in Abruzzo, Italy, that the sculptures purpose was to “denounce a society based on the cult of appearance through the use of a brand that represents the search for ephemeral happiness.” How do these two ideas that of appearance and happiness, play a role in your work? Are they your personal views?
A: The “Lourdes Vuitton” (this is the actual title of the piece) was first exhibited at the Biennale d’Arte Sacra in Abruzzo in 2009. It made a big bash at the time. It was totally unexpected. There were pictures of her everywhere, in web, on the newspapers, journalists called me night and day to ask for reasoning. People fled in town just to see her. I had messages and menaces from all over the world –it was simply incredible that a sculpture had been such a provocation causing a hubbub. Most artists invited to the exhibition made very classical and iconic Sacred Art with no modern rendition or personal feel to it. Instead, I thought it would be a real challenge to give a contemporary touch to the most classical woman in Art history, the Madonna. I had imagined her wrapped up in the glamour of an LV veil with precious golden details, make up and nail varnish. I had purchased a real Church Madonna from the 1800s from an antique salesman, sanded her down completely and re-sculpted her with my style and vision. There she was: a new icon, which reminded of the classical Lourdes Madonna statue but with that chic aesthetic backstitch that upgraded her. A new alchemy made of the conjunction of history with the modern era. I don’t think it has anything to do with happiness actually. Its fashion related veil enclosing her is actually as or more eye-catching than her figure! In this cult of appearance oriented society which of the two is noted more-the figure or the branded dress? The work would like to be an incarnation of this paradox.
Q: Your artwork seems to address the viewer’s personal circumstances and their attitude in, and to, a particular cultural landscape. How do you see yourself in this landscape? And, how do you see others in it?
A: I have always been interested in people, figures. I am fascinated by details in faces, in ways, in attitudes, in lifestyles. Whenever I am sitting at a bar or at a restaurant table I can barely keep my eyes on the person sitting right in front of me because passers by, the waiter, happenings in the great theatre act that surrounds us always catch my attention. Everything can be a great inspiration, a splinter of unexpected poetry. I see myself as a researcher sometimes, barely ever judgmental, just contemplating and keeping record of. Morality isn’t much appealing as a parameter. In my work I condense the results of my observations, with the aid of irony, tradition and the symbols of our time. My vision may seem funny at a first glance, but it’s actually very dramatic and symbolical in its latent intent.
Q: Name four key characteristics describing your artistic style.
A: Figurative, refined, kitsch, metaphorical.
Q: William Hazlitt, an 18th and 19th Century English writer and literary critic, once said, “Rules and models destroy genius and Art.” How do you unravel this? Can you relate to it? If so, how?
A: I think that there isn’t really a precise definition of what Art actually is. Hence there isn’t a way to teach it. Art academies have tried to give guidelines and criteria in order to render it a job. But there is a great misunderstanding in this; Art is not something you do as a full time 9-to-5 job. In the sense that it isn’t something you get out of, or leave to get home. It’s a condition, it’s a state of mind, it is something that you HAVE to do, and not something that can (just) give you an income. It’s difficult to explain and perhaps pointless to find logical reasoning. Models are important, they give you the first hints. But you have to leave them at some point to encounter who you really are and what your expressive needs are. Sticking to rules and reproducing learnt techniques don’t make you a good artist at all. Perhaps it could make you a good craftsman. I see there are many out there that have outstanding skills yet nothing vibrates in what they portray. It all sounds cold and formal. Where is the twist? Where is that plus value, that genius as you refer to in the question that upgrades a modest piece of canvas to a head turning masterpiece? Nobody can teach that. I had a splendid Art teacher, Dennis Cooper; I am still in contact with him today. I loved him, he was a real asshole, extremely demanding but there was pure genius and inspiration in him. He taught us rules and yet was checking out to see who was the first that would subvert these. There isn’t “a method” that can be issued. Art is merely an illusion, just like capturing a snowflake: you believe you’ve caught it in your hand but if you open your palm it’s disappeared. When you get a glimpse of it you have to contemplate it respectful of its intangible and inexpressible nature. It’s a mystical conjunction amongst life, philosophy, aesthetics (which again are subjective) the ephemeral and the profound with a sparkle of intuition and dare. I am very respectful of its great mystery.who was the first that would subvert these. There isn’t “a method” that can be issued. Art is merely an illusion, just like capturing a snowflake: you believe you’ve caught it in your hand but if you open your palm it’s disappeared. When you get a glimpse of it you have to contemplate it respectful of its intangible and inexpressible nature. It’s a mystical conjunction amongst life, philosophy, aesthetics (which again are subjective) the ephemeral and the profound with a sparkle of intuition and dare. I am very respectful of its great mystery.
Q: What are your favorite social causes?
A: I am actually a vegan and extremely straight edge person. I don’t smoke, don’t do alcohol, always hated drugs, fixation for health, etc. I am sensible to animal rights and respectful towards the planet, although this may seem a contradiction because I use plenty of chemical and extremely toxic materials for my sculptures. But it’s for Art’s sake, and that’s the only justification I give myself.
Q: To date, what have been some of your most exciting events or collaborations?
A: I love doing brand related work. I did some collaborations with Nike and with Bench street wear UK, with Henry Cottons & Moncler and Tom Rebl haute couture just to name a few. I have been designing an entire collection of eyewear for an Italian brand named ArtFrameTotalArt. I loveto work in parallel with the fashion industry and convey my ideas in order to be an inspiration for fashion stylists. However the biggest visibility is brought to me through Art fairs and institutional exhibitions like the big Pop surrealism and lowbrow show at the L.A. MOCA a few years ago or the Italian Biennale. I am currently working on a very stimulating new project that I have had in mind for a while and it is now finally taking form. I will be having a solo exhibition at the 2017 international Bologna Art fair. I am building full size traditional Circus tent scenery to host a series of new sculptures relating to the theme of human nature seen in the perspective of classical Circus characters’ roles. I have imagined a spooky vintage freak show, like the ones that had all sorts of distortions put on display, ages before the advent of the web. Metaphors of our society as seen through the lens of a parade of consumer icons, pop idols and decaying ideologies of the western culture. This project will be happening in January and I am doing this in collaboration with my representing Italian gallery “Il Mappamondo.”
Q: What three (3) things bring you the most happiness?
A: My dogs, a good book, The Rocky Horror Picture Show…
Q: What musicians, songs, and/or musical genres inspire you?
A: I am actually a musician myself! I play the bass guitar. I am surrounded by music throughout the whole day. It enhances my work and inspires it much as well. I react to extreme and glam heavy metal music, but well played not just a jungle of awkward sounds. I like sounds that can be either painful or soothing and relaxing, I hate medium range genres like “indie rock” or “reggae.
As a creative director, marketing manager and fashion editor, Kyle has
developed brand identities and creative strategies for a variety of
businesses and written on a variety of fashion topics for ODDA and Lab
A-4 magazines. With his background in advertising, he helps his
clients understand complex ideas, motivates them to action and
cooperates with media outlets to carry out successful brand
strategies. But the madness doesn’t stop there. He is also a recipient
of numerous international industry awards hosted by AVA, MarCom,
Hermes and GDUSA, and a judge of several international awards
competitions where he competently utilizes his passion for meaningful,
quality design to give constructive criticism and insightful design
advice to his peers.
As a creative director, marketing manager and fashion editor, Kyle has developed brand identities and creative strategies for a variety of businesses and written on a variety of fashion topics for ODDA and Lab A-4 magazines. With his background in advertising, he helps his clients understand complex ideas, motivates them to action and cooperates with media outlets to carry out successful brand strategies. But the madness doesn’t stop there. He is also a recipient of numerous international industry awards hosted by AVA, MarCom, Hermes and GDUSA, and a judge of several international awards competitions where he competently utilizes his passion for meaningful, quality design to give constructive criticism and insightful design advice to his peers.
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