Filippo Minelli is an Italian artist whose bold projects are rarely contained within the walls of art galleries, from coloured smoke bombs in the city, to graffiti in poultry factory farms, and a month-long boat journey from Milan to Mali. Though his work often occupies busy city streets, or remote faraway landscapes, it’s captured in thoughtful photography which has been displayed in galleries worldwide. Minelli’s work was featured in the 2010 Venice Biennale, and in the last year, he’s had solo exhibitions in San Francisco, Seoul, Munich and London, as well as a residency in St Petersburg. The creative documentary impulse permeates much of his practice and life: in 2010 he was diagnosed with blood cancer, and documented the treatment process with hundreds of photographs in his Chemotherapy Update art project. Having survived the illness, his prolific practice continues to span the globe with its bright colours, statement graphics, and incisive questions.
How would you describe your practice?
I work analysing and interacting with landscape, and I’m very interested in the relation between landscape and identity, and human practices within spaces and aesthetics.
Whereabouts are you based? Can you tell us about an average working day in your studio?
I’m based in Barcelona, but spend six to eight months a year travelling for projects or research. Most of the time I don’t really need a studio if I have my equipment and laptop - I spend my time exploring places and interacting with them, or organizing the archive of collected material. I try to read as much as I can during the short available breaks.
What was your path to becoming an artist?
As many in my generation I started by painting graffiti, then went to an art school, and then graduated at Brera Art Academy in Milan. I studied New Media Arts - it was pretty stimulating to keep up with a multidisciplinary approach.
Let’s talk about the postcard you’ve made for the Art on a Postcard lottery. The smoke clouds at the bottom of the work have been part of your ongoing Silence/Shapes series since 2009, which photographs coloured smoke bombs set off in various landscapes or architectural settings. Can you tell us a bit more about the project? It was great to see it drifting through London at the Venturing Beyond exhibition at Somerset House this summer.
I was inspired by political demonstrations, where smoke or teargas chokes participants and hide landscape. It looked like the physical form of silence invading the scene to me, so I went searching for specific environments that could communicate better this romantic and disruptive feeling to other viewers. Performing it at Somerset House with curator Rafael Schacter was a privilege. The contrast between the formality of the building and the atmosphere created by the smoke was impressive.
The built environment also recurs in your work. Can you tell us about the architectural references on your postcard?
I’m studying how landscape and anthropised environments reflect human identity and how politics exploit landscape to impose an ideological identity. VDNHK in Moscow was built in 1939 as a pavilions-park for the world expo - it reflected a Soviet aesthetics parameter and was planned to be destroyed but it’s still visible. Being a replica of an urban environment, it’s an incredible setting for my practice; this thin line between entertainment and totalitarian necessity is priceless.
Your use of assemblage and collage on the postcard also seems to echo your Bold Statementsstructures– what draws you to combine disparate visual entities in this way?
Contemporary landscape is a mix of various architectural necessities, urban plans modified by ideological strategies (or post-ideological, which is an ideology too), temporary and fragile settings, religion, advertising and digital landscape mixing with emergencies. I’m just trying to portray this schizophrenic moment of history.
How did you get involved with Art on a Postcard?
I was invited to take part to the project in a very spontaneous way - I received an email and was very happy to help out. The art world can be very self referential sometimes, it feels good to do things for others.
Can you talk a little about your own experience of the combination of art and illness?
I was diagnosed with a lymphoma in 2010 and spent almost 2 years in a very precarious situation because of chemotherapy, so most of my creation possibilities were restricted to the use of a smartphone and I had the chance of using it as a creation tool for a while. It was quite funny in that context.
What are you hoping Christmas and the New Year bring for you?
Hope is not part of my personality; I’m a quite proactive person.
Do you have any exciting projects coming up in 2017?
I’m planning a research period in Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Iran for next spring, if all goes as planned I’ll travel there for 3 months.
Filippo's card forms part of our UltimART Golden Ticket - to be in with a chance of owning this original postcard sized artwork click HERE!