A Wanton Exchange – Interview with Samuele Canestrari
Samuele Canestrari’s works are his point of view on self-portraits. Strokes of pencil develop figures with their own will and mistakes, forming a sharp reflection of the creator. Months of work put into the drawings come to an end when the creator and the portrait reach balance and mutual agreement.
Chrysalid Gallery talked with Samuele at the opening of his new exhibition “A Wanton Exchange”.
You can visit this exhibition at Chrysalid Gallery until the 3rd of December 2022.
(Translated from Italian)
Chrysalid Gallery: How did you settle on pencils? What do you like about them?
Samuele Canestrari: In a way I feel like I am still a student. Oil painting is used by someone who is more skilled, but pencil has a quality as a medium that allows me to retouch things whenever I want. It allows for open-endedness.
The fact that at my current exhibition the works are nailed to the wall allows it to not be framed. To be approached with the feeling of openness and directness to the work. If you put drawing into the frame it means that it’s finished. You cannot touch it anymore. Instead of this, drawings are almost in in between state. I find myself in this part of life that if I regret things or if I want to change them I can still do it in the future.
Chrysalid: Do you use sometimes an eraser?
Samuele: Yes, to create the highlights and other details. Sometimes the eraser can be more effective as a tool for drawing than the pencil itself. The eraser leaves a scar on the drawing. So the mistake that I made is still visible. You learn how to cope with it, accept it, and it becomes a part of the drawing. It’s a quality of the work and of the tool.
"the eraser leaves a scar on the drawing. … You learn how to cope with it, accept it, and it becomes a part of the drawing"
Here, for example, I wanted to do a second foot. But I just erased it. You can sort of see it, if you know that it’s there. This part was not necessary, it was too crowded for the drawing. And you can see a ghost of it, but it’s still not present.
Chrysalid: And with your artworks, do you have a feeling that they are finished at some point or do you allow the thought of changing them in the future? Do you leave space to alter it in the future?
Samuele: Marth [the curator] is the one who says “okay, that’s enough. You don’t have to retouch them anymore”. Because I am not capable of stopping. … I struggle with the feeling that all of my drawings feel unfinished. I still feel the drive to work on them, but at the same time I cannot fixate on just one drawing. I still have to produce more, otherwise I will just obsess over one work. …
I also publish comic books. It is a medium that allows you to reconcile with the fact that you have 130 pages to fill and once the book is published you cannot change them anymore. You can alter the original drawings, but the books cannot be retouched or modified. So you concentrate on producing, you concentrate on representing. On the other hand, works that you make for an exhibition allows for something outside of that format. Outside of the page frame. You can go with any format you want, but at the same time it has the downside of not always being satisfied. You have to find a way of seeing that the artwork is finished or close to finish. Not because somebody else told you, but because you see and accept it.
Chrysalid: How do you choose to depict an animal with your portrait?
Samuele: … For example the chicken. Mussolini was executed. He got killed and then hung upside down. The fact of being hanged upside down is a very heavy detail. If you go to Italy and say to someone “I’d like to hang them upside down” you go back to the fact that a dictator of the country was hanged this way. This is a very meaningful detail.
If you look at the artwork, the kitty is not very comfortable. The human shapes are also not exactly human. There is a way of selecting the animals you want to live with in your home. There is a certain beauty standard. They have to be nice and cute and behave well. I just let it out and the symbolism comes later usually. It's the guest's work to find all the hidden meanings.
Chrysalid: And do you have any comments about the donkey?
Samuele: Yeah, I am the donkey. Somaro in Italian means that you are dumb, you don’t study. My first publishing project was called Libri Somari, which translates as donkey books but actually means dumb books. My mutual friend said that when donkeys are kept, you build a three-sided hedge around them. So you do not build a fourth side, it has to be open. They are not going to run away, but if you build all four sides, they’re gonna kick one down. One way or the other. It doesn’t mean that they are gonna run away, but they have to see an exit point always open and available to them.