Subtle Instability: an interview with Matilde Sambo

September 2021 saw the launch of "Vetrina", a cycle of contemporary art exhibitions hosted by Vino Vero Venezia in collaboration with Lightbox and curated by Mara Sartore. The curator interviewed the third guest artist Matilde Sambo to talk about her artistic practice, with which the artist explores the complicated relationship between the natural world and the human being, and about the site-specific work presented at "Vetrina", called "Subtle Instability".
by Mara Sartore
May 17, 2022
Mara Sartore
Matilde Sambo

“Subtle Instability” is the title of the site-specific work you created for Vino Vero’s “Vetrina”. How did this work come about and what is the meaning of this installation?

The search for stability is constant, but in the knowledge that there is a subtle instability in everything, we can truly appreciate every little thing in life. Collapsing, fragmenting, breaking and recomposing are an integral part of the installation. The two natural elements, the thorny acacia thorns and the soy “skin”, protect each other.

You have incorporated Soya leaves in your artistic research consistently in recent years; how did you start using this material and what value does it provide to your work?

I discovered this organic material when I was living in Milan, it was created for food use. I was immediately struck by its similarity to skin. It reminded me of those flaps that gently peel away after a summer sunburn. The imprint of a body as well as a vegetable. I have always looked for similarities between human and non-human bodies, both on a formal and material level, just as shells are made of the same material as our nails, so too soya has a ‘skin’, a surface similar to what is the largest sense organ in the human body. This material also has the property of changing state from being extremely elastic and ductile to crystallising in contact with air and becoming extremely brittle. When wet, water being another element dear to me (I think because of my “lagoon” origins), it returns to its soft and mouldable state.

Nature is a recurring theme in your work, for example the cicadas you recently exhibited for the De Rerum Natura exhibition. What is your relationship with the natural world, what attracts you to it and what influence does it have on your work?

More than a theme, I think it is a direction which often diverges and then returns as one. Sometimes I follow clear and already marked tracks, other times with the nature of an explorer, I venture out, search and discover. My approach to art is precisely one of discovery; with my works I try to draw maps that emerge from research and experimentation. The moults of cicadas, as well as other natural fragments, are bare, remnants that look like waste but contain power and life.

You recently moved to Naples after a few years in Milan. What stimuli do you find in this city and what are your main sources of inspiration in Naples?

Naples has immediately generated in me something that I still cannot define, a sense of belonging, a deep and full breath. I still don’t know it well, but I am discovering it little by little. Just like my Venice, even after years, you keep discovering alleys, streets, glimpses and shortcuts. This continuous sense of wonder and discovery is the lifeblood. History, the sacred, life, permeate every stone, every step. And then there is the sea, but above all Vesuvius, an extraordinary, powerful presence that attracts me and at the same time disturbs me. Chaos and calm live at the same time in Naples, and this harmonises perfectly with the turmoil and calm that I feel within me.

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