Davide Maione, originally from Milan, has lived, studied and worked in London for the last eight years. He has stayed in various parts but is now a resident of the East End. Having just completed an MA in Photographic Studies at the University of Westminster, he will be the subject of this article and interview.
As a fellow practitioner, an artist whom I have exhibited a long side and a friend; I approached Davide about doing an interview for Pipe because I wanted to ask some pertinent questions about the current condition of the art world and photography’s position within it. As a fellow whose work I know a little about, can associate with and like, I was hoping to gain some insight into the mindset of a young fine art photographer, starting out in London during these - let’s just say - less than ideal times.
Having seen Davide’s most recent work to date, To a Place I can't Pronounce, in the MAPS 2011 show, at the P3 gallery in September; I was struck firstly by the playful nature of the work and secondly how fully formed and intertextual the work’s referencing seemed to be; particularly for an artist in the relatively fledgling stages of their developing oeuvre.
I primarily approached Davide due to my own intrigue into the subject of 'the image maker trying to define their own work and find their way in the jungle which is London’s art scene', and because I generally just wanted to ‘pick’ his brain a little. This has led me, and Pipe to this point. Therefore I hope you find the interview as insightful to read as I have done conducting it.
Q1.) Firstly as a recent Photography graduate and a young exhibiting photographer, how would you describe yourself; as a photographer, an artist or perhaps something else? Not long ago I took out “photographer” from the main header of my website. The reason was that I found it perhaps limiting. Saying that, yes, I am a photographer, as photography is what I do in my artwork and for a living. So, I don’t really know how I would describe myself, but I do wonder about it; right now I just want to carry on producing work and try to show it in an exhibition form, which is very much what artists do…
Q2.) As a trained photographer how do see your practice and your work in relation to the contemporary art world? Not sure yet, but I think it’s suitable. Maybe not my work per se, but photography is well accepted within the contemporary art world and art institutions these days; and in London too. We should say that it is a fine moment for photography! I think that I still have a lot to do in terms of promoting my work out there, but there are possibilities. Right now I’d like to exhibit as much as possible, as I want to learn, and have been experimenting different ways of displaying my work. And I would like more and more to show alongside different media such as drawings and sculpture, and/or disciplines such as physical theatre and performance.
Q3.) What are the main problems you face as an exhibiting photographic artist (presuming you see yourself in this way) in today’s art world? That’s an OK definition! As I said, I think this is a good time for photography within the art world, as it holds a special position in the market and a growing interest. Besides, boundaries and classification, in terms of practice, is very much blurring; photographers are getting very concerned with installations, the way they display their work and the work itself is getting more and more sculptural.
Q4.) Is working commercially something you do or would consider doing in the future, and if so do/would you keep this very much separate from your fine art practice or not? I do some commercial work and it’s good to pay the bills. I don’t necessarily want to keep the commercial and the artistic practice separate; I just didn’t manage yet to make them overlap coherently. Most of my commercial work doesn’t really excite me, but I hope it’s going to change, as I’d love to have commercial work that I am happy enough to include in my portfolio, for instance. In any case, I am rather interested in commissions and residencies, which I think are an interesting way to combine creative work and some money reward. I am shooting a commission next week, a cover for an album. The band likes my work and I don’t have a brief; I hope that it will turn out to be exciting and to produce something really valid and challenging.
Q5.) Can commercial and gallery intended work ever co-exist, or is working commercially always a compromise for the artist? Perhaps I am very cynical, but if your profession is to make art, it means that you live off your art and to do so you have to sell it; that’s commerce. The problem is not in the exchange and its economical reward per se, but how you carry out the exchange, what your intentions are and how honest you are to yourself and your audience. Artists would do anything to sell their work, but no one wants to sell out, which is a paradox in its own. So, yes, working commercially is always a compromise for the artist, as his or her intent is to sell. I think it is very much about the way you want your practice to be and what direction you want it to take. Nevertheless, galleries sell art, they are shops and “to sell” in one way or another is their main preoccupation. But we cannot generalise, as we should define, what is “commercial” vs. “gallery intended work”, as there are plenty of non-strictly commercial galleries that survive with the support of governmental funds, trusts, and private sponsorships.
Q6.) I very much liked your piece To a Place I can't Pronounce that I saw at the MAPS 2011 show. Looking back now what was the main issues that arose when creating the work and how do you feel about it now that the show is over? Thanks! That was for me an attempt to link photography and performance together to begin with. The issues that I wanted to explore came when I was producing and whilst piecing it together in a way. Only half way through I realized and looked for the thread that could link it together. From that point I continued to produce work with a more focused mind. Paradoxically, some of that “more conscious” work was edited out or remained unfinished! In any case, I enjoyed very much approaching it in this way: to try and fail and so on over and over… and from the beginning I knew that I wanted to do self-portraits and that I wanted to explore notions of selfhood in relation to its surroundings and language. The images in themselves are about inhibitions, obsessions and again language. Most of these are conceived as sketches of situations and sometime they work more as visual annotations of ideas, than a well formulated argument. The images in themselves comment on the way people interact with each other and the way we look at ourselves and identify with the other. How do I feel now that the show is over? Well, I don’t really know, I feel that on the one hand I want to show it more, and so I am applying and showing my folio as much as I can, but on the other hand I also want to go back to the studio and make work. I still have a few ideas that I want to develop and, as I mentioned earlier, I have work already shot that for some reason I edited out, but that has potentials; it’s time now to resume it and see whether it still makes sense.
Q7.) Who or what influenced this work? In my previous projects, I always worked with references in mind; fairly straightforward ones. Here instead I began making work with an image that I took a month earlier and a piece of text; a passage from the New York Trilogy by Paul Auster. Both, the text and the image, incorporates the reflection of a subject (the narrator in the text and the photographer in the photograph) juxtaposed to the idea of recognition and resemblance, which strongly suggest the uncanny and the de-familiarisation of the self in the mirrored image. This is a concept that runs throughout my series even though reiterated from different angles. Texts and literature has been quite a prominent part of the research part, probably more than visuals. In fact, besides, reading psychoanalytical theory on anxiety in Lacan and Salecl’s writing, I found great inspiration in novels: Sartre’s Nausea and Dostoyevsky’s The Gambler and Tales from The Underground, Nabokov’s Despair, among others…
Q8.) Do you deem your project a creative success, and how does it compare to other past projects? I’m happy to say yes; I mean, personally speaking I think it’s a creative success, as I let it go and it shaped itself slowly. I enjoyed the process and I guess I learnt about what I wanted to do as a practitioner. Also, through this project I said things that touched me and that I wanted to say, which is always rewarding! It’s hard to compare it to my older work; however, my influences are always the same music, movies and literature. I should say that in this project I put more of my personal experience and personal history, rather than talk about a subject preconceived.
Q9.) What are you up to at the moment and what is your next project about? Right now I’m applying to a lot of things, making contact with galleries, applying to competitions and exhibition opportunities. I am planning to self publish ideally two photo books. I have the photos and the ideas, but I am still quite far behind with the editing and writing. I aim to have at least one done by early spring. In the meantime I am co-curating with other Westminster University alumni a group show in Lithuania. This is going to be a big and lengthy project that will take up quite a lot of time. I am also applying to residencies and planning one for spring/summer in Berlin. So, I don’t have a project yet, I am more about planning, emailing and reading these days, but I still have a few things that I’d like to develop that may complement “to a place…”. Oh, yes, and right now I am about to start working on a record cover.
Q10.) If there is one word which best describes your work at the moment, what is that word? Antics
I trust after all this you will want to further familiarise yourself with Davide’s work, well have a look at his website!
Finally here is the website from the MAPS 2011 show, which we saw Davide’s work in a couple of months back; in Pipe’s view a great exhibition.
All the images in this article are the sole copyright of the artist Davide Maione.