Awaiting Venice Biennale 2024: Michele Bubacco

We met Venice based artist Michele Bubacco in his studio on the island of Murano.
by Lara Morrell
Lara Morrell
Michele Bubacco

Let’s start with your genesis as an artist and your background…

I was born in Venice and grew up here as a child. A enjoyable and experimental relationship during my primary schools years. Venice offers a playful relationship with architecture, a gentle form of vandalism, like playing football against the facades of churches. You grow up with a tactile experience, which eventually instills a respect for the forms that one is beginning to understand and metabolise, a relationship with form and history which is not purely scholastic and institutional, but I’d say more sensorial.

When I actually finished high school, as a spectator I tried to understand, via music, sound as a possible balance between composition, harmony, noise, political responsibility and everything becomes fluid and is often unbalanced. This non-equilibrium interested me because generates an immediate reaction in a spectator, without intermediarie of critique or school.

Around the age of twenty, I started painting as a self-taught artist. I remember walking through Venice and seeing a poster on the street for an Arnulf Rainer retrospective that was being held in Bologna, curated by Peter Weiermair. The poster was a photo overpainted with pastels and it stirred up interest – the translation of sound and noise into image, so it connected with a path that I was navigating in that period.


After that I worked as a ghost painter in a small painting shop here in Venice, where I was asked to create paintings for an artist who didn’t actually paint, even though I was at odds with myself as to how these paintings then developed onto path within exhibitions and galleries. I felt a little separated precisely at the origin of how they were executed, on commission yet with a different signature to he who physically executed the painting. But I was young and in any case it had been a sort of informal apprenticeship. What’s more, it took place in Venice, so it was alright for me because that way I was able to resist living here and to live an experience that was becoming more present in my daily life.


I was then called upon a more personal experience with painting, to then rent a studio and develop personal trajectories of painting which can at times be translations of personal imagination, or the sum of drawings made by pen in a notebook and therefore I developed this pictorial diary in my personal studio in the following year.

What are the recurring themes or motifs in your practice?

In general, rather than an aesthetic or thematic end, I am more interested in an ongoing modification, that is in the sense that I often start from another image, so it can be a photo or a painting by someone else or a found image. Therefore the fact of its modification is the theme for me, that is, let’s say that the metamorphosis or the change of approach, or sense, or form of the image is more important than the point of arrival of that image itself. What’s important is that it changes from what it was at the beginning. If I start from an image that I created my intention is to modify it along the way. 


So let’s say that the theme can be that of metamorphosis.


Then there are motifs that reoccur and can serve as a lighthouse in this process of navigation, of improvisation, of diving instinctively into change. Sometimes, subjects, symbols, shapes can be beacons to return to a relationship of awareness with what I am doing.


It might be a chair or waves or a microphone or an ice cream. They are small details that act as a cornerstone – a fixed point around which I can start improvising again. They act as points, or let’s say final notes, found along the way in the process or simply points of support for starting over an improvisation.

Could you tell us about the poster project you have been working on?

I usually paint over other’s images, of different mediums such as photos, prints or paintings. Years ago I also started to evaluate the medium of the poster, as an ingredient that allows you to read the temperature of a culture of a place, a city.


Venice has a very sensorial and sensitive approach to the city walls, because they are examples of painting that are based on colour, humidity and change, they are very pictorial. On a cultural communication level, through the vocabulary of the poster, they remain tepid, anchored to a low level of aesthetic, the same I saw in the 80s when I was a child. They are still found today as a proposal for the city. Beyond that, the fact that I am interested in painting over other images. I have recently taken into consideration painting over posters of current cultural events and exhibitions in Venice – which I find can be a point of support for pictorial improvisation, whilst leaving some ingredients that are recurring and recognisable. These function precisely as a fixed point and the pictorial improvisation around it can derail the meaning of the image and the information with respect to the exhibition, for which the poster was generated, therefore the poster takes on a second cycle of life, existence and meaning.

I asked Grafiche Veneziane if they would be kind enough to provide me with some print tests of the posters distributed in this period in Venice and they provided me with those on the Chagall exhibition, Tiziano, Brass. These were precisely the starting points for this series. 

This process, let’s say, of metabolising and churning out, the same medium or image is an ongoing thing and I hope to be able to maintain this circular movement between printing and publication, developing it on the street then metabolising and re-digesting in the studio – to then redevelop it and propose it again externally.

How is you relationship to the city of Venice today?

I lived in Vienna for about 8 years and even within a short distance there is an enormous difference in terms of how the cultural offerings are managed and also in regards to respect to the figure of the artist, as key to understanding what they can offer to society, with a focus of attention on this. So this this institutional structure in support of culture is an enormous difference compared to the approach that is often taken in Venice, where there is already very important historical path, but the use is developed in a more autonomous way and indicated or structured on an institutional or scholastic track. 


Upon returning to Venice, my research instincts were rekindled, which are more based around a personal journey. I started working in Murano with a studio years ago, before my move to Vienna.


When I returned, I found a possibility to reconnect with this part of the lagoon and I discovered a possibility, or a new season of acceptance of new forms of expression and experimentation that this part of the island now welcome and support. A sort of small creative triangle of its own has formed, precisely in this area of former furnace which doesn’t have to do with anything, precisely, age, school, gender or style but rather, with fortuitous connections, dialogues and sharing of spaces that are changing anyway, therefore also a sort of collaboration and imagination on what it can become.

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