Space for Thought

How much be detracted from the form of an object before it becomes unrecognisable? These are three of the sculptures from Spazio by Gianmarco Donaggio.

Gianmarco Donaggio, the artist behind the exhibition Spazio, displayed in Galleri Neuf from October 30th to November 4th, encourages us to contemplate. The exhibition featured six hand-crafted, geometrical sculptures made of chalk. Through a process of detraction, they sought to inspire the observer to see beyond what we usually take for granted. 

Text: Cecilie Lilleaas
Photo: Gianmarco Donaggio 

Regarding me from the other side of a huge cup of tea, he starts to explain the conceptual background of the exhibition. 

-By depriving an object of one of its components, I seek to underline the actual essence of the object. I hope to invite the audience to reflect on what is not present, what is missing, and thereby make them realise the intrinsic nature of the object. In other words, at the limits of absence lies essence. 

Donaggio’s sculptures play with investigating how much you can detract from a known concept, before it becomes unrecognisable. If it is still recognisable, the brain will fill in the gaps of what you believe to be there. Perhaps this strikes you as the kind of artistic language that most people insist gives them a headache – but please bear with us. It is both simpler and more difficult than you may think.  

Things that we take for granted can be worthy of scrutiny from time to time, but more important still is a conscious engagement in the act of consideration. 

This process of perceiving is not only in the observer, nor simply in the object itself. It takes place in the synergy between the two, where you gain consciousness and awareness about the world, Donaggio claims.  

Engaged and gesticulating, he continues: 

-Whatever the object, after engaging in that process it’s no longer what you expect, no longer an illusion stemming from presumption. That means you’ve gathered control of your own mind and perception, creating an awareness. And if you get beyond that, focusing on the emptiness, something wonderful happens; the mind slows down, the body relaxes, and emotions expand. 

He tells me that as an artist he wants to be a messenger of emotions. The artworks are not intended to be products, and so he ascribes them no material value.  

-This relation between the audience, the sculptures and myself as an artist is a connection elevating the artwork to a higher value, or purpose, which is inspiration. The medium doesn’t matter, the importance is in the communication and transmission of emotion. 

The sculptures are context-based, in the sense that they belong to the audience and would mean nothing by themselves. When the profit is taken away, they can communicate and transmit feelings and a true experience. 

-If the message is lost or unintended, it becomes either egotistical pleasure or production, neither being art. Lacking communication, it’s just craft. 

I ask him what message he would like us as students to take away from this? For a few seconds he looks thoughtfully at the teacup, before continuing in a somewhat quieter – though more intense – voice than before. 

-The world is busy. Our brains are busy, constantly buzzing with impressions. We are rarely here, we’re distracted. 

Few of us can argue with that. 

-What happens if we stop and focus on what isn’t there? If we can see through, instead of looking at, then what do we find? You will find you. The loss of distraction enables meditation. It’s a matter of how you want to live; present or passive, sleeping or awake, conscious or unwitting? Do you want to live to produce, do you want to live by instinct? Or do you want to be aware

The invitation Gianmarco extends through art is something we could all benefit from. Ideally, art should be a field everyone can engage in; a bridge between classes and fields or a medium to create discussion and empathy. The media reports, academia inquires, politics seduce. Art is ultimately a democratic life-boat capable of fusing together emotions, knowledge and ideas. Art exists to inspire curiosity.