Fonderia Artistica Battaglia presents the Second Edition of Battaglia Foundry Sculpture Prize – BFSP this year, an international award for bronze sculpture fusion for young artists.
The winner, Marguerite Humeau, announced at the end of October, will stay at Fonderia from January. In April 2018 she will open an exhibition dedicated to the winning artwork realized at the residence at Miart, the International Modern and Contemporary Art Fair in Milan.
We interviewed Camilla Bonzanigo, sculptress and Culture and Development manager at the Fonderia, who is on the international jury of professionals which evaluated the projects of this second edition, together with Martin Clark, director of Bergen Kunsthall in Bergen; Stefano Colliceli Cagol, curator at Trondheim Kunstmuseum in Trondheim; Michelle Cotton, director of Bonner Kunstverein in Bonn; Alberto Salvadori, curator of Established and Decades sections at Miart – International Modern and Contemporary Art Fair in Milan; Thomas Thiel, director of Bielefelder Kunstverein in Bielefeld; Moritz Wesseler, director of Kölnischer Kunstverein in Köln.
Thanks to her background as an artist and sculptress, Camilla tells us her experience at Fonderia, the artist selection criteria and her perspective on the use of bronze in contemporary art.
C.M: How can someone be innovative by transposing an old tradition that brings with it technical limitations tied to the unforeseen and the mistake?
C.B: The innovation is not so much about updating the technique, which has been refined over thousands of years of fusion, but rather about its potential recognition and application. So I wouldn’t call them technical limitations, but rather an opportunity to experiment. Beyond the firing temperature, the molds’ thickness and the behavior of bronze after the fusion, there are countless possibilities to put new ideas into matter, and to convert surfaces of any material, organic and non-organic, into new bronze “skins”.
So it’s about interesting synergies between the constant adaptation of the conception of art in relation to time, and its potential translations into bronze.
C.M: How does the history of this technique progress in contemporary artists’ artworks?
C.B: It’s about reading the past and the future of a material from today’s point of view. Each work realized by an artist is unique, and every fusion represents a different approach to the project. The process of contextualizing (or decontextualizing) the artwork changes every day, depending on the contemporary artistic languages. For example, “investment casting” (also called lost-wax casting), is not a new technique, but is increasingly being used by young artists. Melting materials and organic and non-organic forms (fabrics, plastics, plants, animals, ...) ignoring the first step of the conversion into wax means entrusting the material itself on the evaporation process, and this results in a margin of imprecision and uncertainty which always shows new surfaces and behaviors of matter, once it is converted into bronze.
C.M: In the city of Milan and in the world, what is the purpose of this award?
C.B: BFSP's purpose is to encourage further researches on bronze fusion. Its aim is providing young artists the opportunity to challenge their inquiry by using an ancient alphabet and learning its language. Time is a necessary part of this process, since it helps to understand your way of creating forms at all stages. This is reflected in every part that makes the form an almost timeless object.
Moreover, the structure of BFSP was set to build bridges between different cultural institutions and to make production environments less sector-specific, keeping them open to new exchanges and new potentials for an interaction between all the projects that work in support of new artistic languages.
C.M: Circulation of artworks represents the synthesis of shared views among people who organize, curate, set up… and believe in things. How did the meeting with this year’s sponsor happened?
C.B: The collaboration with different institutions has been for years our line of development, in order to make opportunities more interesting every year and to provide greater ones. This year, we have the support of Banca Generali, which for many years now has been supporting contemporary art projects and helped us to have a more substantial Award and a broader development perspective.
C.M: The award makes tradition a global thing by transmitting it through artworks which talk about the past, present and future. Is this concept of Fonderia Battaglia as something that can have a future a symptom of the need to reinterpret the sense of fusion, highlighting new potentials and possibilities?
C.B: Though bronze fusion has never lost its sense, and this is evidenced by the fact that this technique has been used for 5000 years and that we’re talking about this now, the opening up to cultural research – not just to technique – is a way to read the language of this ancient and contemporary time line differently and to bring it into the future, not only as an indestructible material, but also as a testament of the current artistic language.
C.M: The jury has a curatorial role that is instructive in a way, since it brings within the responsibility for choosing who and what will testify this period in the history of art. Bronze is "everlasting", therefore the artwork becomes eternal, then selecting the winner is really important, it plays a major role and takes place in a long period of time that will affect the future too. Hence the spontaneous question: how do you choose the winner artists of the award?
C.B: This is precisely the focal point of BFSP#02: giving consciousness to the conversion of a current form that will live long. The artists selected were requested to identify a theme or a quality that represented the current situation in the world, and to recreate it with bronze, by undertaking a very in-depth study into the method and the possibilities offered by traditional lost wax casting. I have to admit, it was not easy to select the winner, given the high quality of the projects submitted, and this is why we take advantage of an international and varied jury of professionals, in this way we have a view as objective as possible to decide which artist deserves this opportunity.
«Innovation is not so much about updating the technique, which has been refined over thousands of years of fusion, but rather about its potential recognition and application. (...) Beyond the firing temperature, the molds’ thickness and the behavior of bronze after the fusion, there are countless possibilities to put new ideas into matter, and to convert surfaces of any material, organic and non-organic, into new bronze “skins”.»
C.M: Fonderia is also a gathering space for artists with very different experiences, knowledge exchanges, ideas, dynamism and innovation we were talking about. Fusion is a complex process that requires a team of experts who supervise and realize the production process step by step. How do these experts act? Do they check or direct the project development, from the sketch to fusion?
C.B: I think Battaglia is very cutting-edge in this. Once the artist has the idea, there are a lot of meetings during which the project is examined and discussed in depth together with artisans, in order to find the closest technical solution to his/her idea, to face its boundaries and to open it to a wide range of stages and possible readjustments. We offer all the necessary attention and time to arrive at increasingly interesting results, that are the product of cooperation between parties.
C.M: In the history of bronze sculpture, the “mark” is irregular in the presence and absence, considered an error in ancient times and an added value in modern sculpture. How can we recover it nowadays in the contemporary artworks’ creation process?
C.B: As I said before, the experimental use of direct merger opens a parenthesis of interesting "mistakes". In the era of technological extra-perfection, the human track is definitely an added value, and each product of fusion is a unique piece. Thanks to our research and cataloguing on patinas, we’ve also broadened the debate on bronze oxidation and its transformation over time.
C.M: Bronze selection itself is a meaningful process to an artist: there’s the will to last, affirming its importance in history and giving it a specific value also on the basis of the strong relation with public space that changes over time instead. Can we tell that there’s a strong correlation between material, the artwork’s size and architectural character, in terms of both space and time?
C.B: Even the concept of “monument” is different today, maybe because we don’t look back as we used to do before, paying more attention to the present intended as an effect of memory. In every sculpture, the space that surrounds the artwork is almost as important as the artwork itself. Two examples relating to bronze comes to mind: the wonderful “Power and Pathos”, the Hellenistic bronze exhibit held in Palazzo Strozzi in Florence (2015), where there was the same sculpture made of marble and bronze. In that case, the impression of the two materials and their echoes in space was absolutely clear. On equal terms, therefore, material selection creates totally different situations, including as regards the relation between the user and the artwork itself.
I remember another experience too, a Henri Moore exhibit at Gagosian in London (Britannia St, 2012), where there were few sculptures on a monumental scale in the white cube, so that the voids and the lack of matter embraced the architecture of the structure by framing it.
In my view, sculpture and architecture are in close connection, halfway between positive and negative, and the view's position in space and in space denial (presence of form).
C.M: Modern sculpture generally has another important feature: it lives together with spaciality and architecture, it tackles the "place" issue in order to relate to the space “it is in” without forgetting what “it is” on its own. Could we say that Fonderia is intended to be not just a work place, but also a place of discovery, for both artists who are temporarily living somewhere – a place to customize - and those involved in the artistic process during the stay?
C.B: Sure, I wouldn’t underestimate the vibe of creating in a place of technical experience too.
C.M: Still on the subject of space: where do the various stages of studying, preparation and fusion of artworks take place? Are they always the same places or do they vary with the artist’s way of working and the material he/she needs during his/her stay?
C.B: We have a studio intended for the model making stage and the whole factory when the production begins. Adaptability (of both the artist and the foundry) to the specificities of each kind of work is a fundamental characteristic for a place like Battaglia, since we do not build cars but works of art.
C.M: There are sure to be several objects or odd waste from artists’ works: what’s the strangest item you stored at Fonderia?
C.B: “Strange”… it’s a forbidden word at Fonderia. There hasn’t been a day that anyone don’t comes up with different ideas.
There is no "waste" because all the materials are involved or recycled in the final piece of art, and the model stays with the artist as the original artwork.
We have the leopard-skin shoes of Nicolas Deshayes, from the last edition of BFSP, they’re totally worn out and literally hung up: I wouldn’t call them waste, but we store them as a talisman for the next editions!
We melted eels, aloe vera, bark, anatomy, faces, straw, palm trees, crucified Christ, devils, extinct pinnae nobilis and Russian monuments, prestigious pieces of design and huge camels, and a whole lot more. We have left the molds, negatives and stolen forms, we take care of them waiting for a new fusion. We live in the lost space in order to shape eternity.