Fabio Roncato: On landscape as a sculptural agent

For the seventh edition of "Vetrina", Vino Vero presents the site-specific work “Landscape" by Fabio Roncato, we interviewed the Italian artist who currently lives and works between Milan and The Hague. In the creation of "Landscape", a mass of mud is entirely painted with enamel and then placed on a plane covered with polyurethane resin; the "movements of the earth" as they are placed on the plane are thus recorded by the breaking of the colour, which, like the earth's surface, moves and brings out tensions, trajectories and landscapes.
by Mara Sartore
Mara Sartore
Fabio Roncato

Seeing as we are here in Venice, could you tell us a little about the role of time and the element of water in your work? How does nature shape your approach towards your creation process?

The role of the water is related to my practice as it is the part of the landscape that moves the most. If you work with the materials of the landscape like I do, there is always an element of exploration. For instance, when you are abroad and you want to go deep into the place where you are, where you’re living, you tend to explore your surroundings, discover the place you are living in, what it looks like, what are the materials the of the landscape and the memories associated with it. Most of the time, my imagination goes directly in the direction of the water.

I am fascinated by the way water can create sculptures by itself. For instance, if I use wax and water, a sculpture derives immediately and naturally from the relationship between these two elements. I work with the landscape and not on the landscape, instead I use the landscape as a sculptural agent. The vases that I brought to the Gwangju biennale were made by a waterfall. I used nine different Gypsum plaster vases to contain this waterfall, without success. Every time this attempt was a failure and it failed in nine different ways. I didn’t know that water from above a cascade was so potent. So that part is the part that interests me the most, as a viewer, you can play with your imagination, you can give your personal and your own interpretation on how the landscape moves according to your sensibility, according to your cultural background.


My relationship with water is very intense,  I come from a place that is next to a river and very close toVenice.


The role of time is directly connected to water because it is the moving part of the landscape. Somehow it defines time visually, if you think about the flow of a river, the imagination goes immediately to a stream of events, a stream of moments in time.


Something is triggered in me immediately when you look at a river or at the oscillating movement of the sea, I seek to find a way of creating artworks that can crystallize or give shape to time. The technique of creating sculptures with wax and the river, means that when the wax cools down and it changes status from from liquid to solid, you’re essentially casting the water. With that cast you literally give time a shape, but it’s hard to talk about a matter that is so vast and so complicated. So what you can do is provide suggestions, a sort of collective action, without providing an exact representation.

You studied painting at Accademia di Brera, your works of late tend to be mainly sculptural using materials such as beeswax and aluminium, do you still paint?

No. I would love to, but I stopped painting the day after I graduated. I had to, because I started to move a lot and by establishing a stricter relation with the matter of the landscapes I began to realise  that in order to understand the information within matter, I needed to make sculptures. I began working with clay, working with stones and water. I couldn’t paint anymore at that point. I’m still really attached to painting somehow but I felt a deep need to feel, touch and understand different materials and their relationship to the landscape.

Could you tell us about your experience at the East China Normal university, has the East influenced your work in any way?

I made my first cast in aluminum there, suggested to me by an artisan that was working in a foundry along one of the tributaries of The Huangpu river that runs through Shanghai. I believe there is this connection between the cities I was living and working at the time, I was living in Venice, then I went to Maastricht where there is a river that crosses the city and then I moved to Shanghai, where again there is a river that crosses the city. So in these three places I built up this artwork. I was given a suggestion and then from that suggestion, I turned it into a solid sculpture, but it took three different cities.

Could you tell us about the process and concept behind this piece for Vetrina?

The work is called Landscape and is made with clay and varnish. So I paint a mass of clay with varnish and I wait for it dry. So at that point, you have an almost liquid body, covered with a layer of varnish that is dry, so technically solid. The next step is to place this mass of clay on a plane that is made out of industrial resin. Once all the materials are dried, the system is motionless, you just wash away the clay, the only natural material involved in this process. What you have is a printing technique. All the traces of all the movement of the clay are registered, and marked. This is what you have in Vetrina, a huge print made from clay. It’s called Landscape because I wanted to create a picture that reminds me how the landscape looks like from above. So to this I used the material that I found in my surroundings. I made this work for the first time in the countryside next to Venice, I used that mud and clay from there, the green varnish is commonly used for infrastructures in the countryside, for instance farm gates. A green that is very artificial looking, but is supposed to be gentle, and disguise itself with the natural surrounding, but it’s just an industrial green. So that is what I presented, a prototype of a printing technique.

What’s in store for the near future?

Next is a project that I’m doing with the Museum of Geography of the University of Padua in collaboration with Professor Giada Peterle, the exhibition will be the final chapter of long archive research and recovery of a group of old cartographic maps of the Military Geographical Institute. Then I have another with Giulia Bortoluzzi at Building Gallery. The exhibition is part of the Equorea project (di mari, ghiacci, nuvole e altre acque ancora) which involves twelve contemporary Italian artists, invited to reflect on the theme of water in twelve individual monthly appointments, marked by the lunar calendar. Lastly, I will continue to follow my installation at the Italian pavilion of the Gwangju Bienniale from afar. For now, these are the defined upcoming projects.
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