Looking straight in the eyes: an act of courage is enclosed not so obvious in a society made up of mirrors and shop-windows that flees and doesn’t give the time to wait. The art of Claudio Francesco Maria Simonetti, suspended between poetess with behavioral cognitive disorders, tattoos and baby teeth, wants to sew childhood and present, making neat between the impulses that are conveyed by what surrounds us. And he does it giving a second chance to him, risking, but with the force of expectation, the only form for the survival of sensible souls.
In your series of portraits, there is a continuous play of glimpses between spectator and the drawn face. Is this a provocation? Is this an invitation to go beyond the apparent look and to look what’s genuine in the soul?
We live in a complicated Century, with enormous contradictions, misunderstandings, superficiality, easy applause and lights that, with the same dysphoric speed, turn on and turn off. A Century where “Instagram” is a competence to be included in the Curriculum Vitae and Followers are a meter of person rating; a century where people has the tendency to tell lies. Going beyond, watching, observing carefully, stopping to breathe deeply, all of this becomes fundamental to the survival of sensible souls, for the search for Beauty and Truth. Looking straight in the eyes is an act of courage.
In your portraits, you play a lot with oxymoron: earrings, septum, tattoos are mixed with stylized hearts, flowers and Disney references. Is there a correlation?
For years I’ve kept separate my parallelism between my fashion design (I’m a shoes designer) and art, but over the years I’ve connected the two streets in my illustrations, making a space of freedom out of the art circuits that are identical to those of fashion. The correlation between Disney, Septum and Tattoos is nothing more than a social cross section in our time. For me it’s important to illustrate Today through my life. Here – Now.
Your style is a successful blend of different inspirations: you merge pop and gothic, carnally red to the white-black bicroma. Which kind of influences (artistic/literary/consumer) do you use to characterize your art?
My artistic references are Felix Gonzalez Torres, Boetti, Merz, Vaccari, Gina Pane, Louise Bourgeois, Matthew Barney and the young Marzia Migliora, where in their work the body is always present. The meeting with Franko B was crucial to my artistic research during the little piece of the road I was accompanied by: Franko taught me to perceive the body, to feel it and not to be afraid or ashamed.
I love poetry, mostly poetesses who have had cognitive behavioral disorders: Antonia Pozzi, Alda Merini, Etty Hillesum, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson and Cristina Campo are just some of the poetesses who have changed my perception of “feeling and watching”. Their scrupulousness and dedication to poetry and love, which is very close to the stories of religious mystics, have given to my artistic research a discipline fundamental in a century of qualunquismo and approximation, where the word ARTE is off the point and where success or being popular is exchanged for Art.
You moved to Milan, the perfect city where to find inspirations, attractions, contaminations. How does your art fit into contemporary life? Do you try to “play” with what surrounds you or, through your art, you escape in another dimension?
I love Milan because it is a city where I chose to live. It’s not an easy city. I’ve always lived on the margins without getting overwhelmed by frenzy and bulimia. Often what comes from the outside has to me such violence that drawing becomes a way to filter, metabolize and order the speed of days. The illustrations are my armor where I exist defending myself.
Tattoos are constant elements in your art and life: how much do they are influencing fashion or have they become fashionable? Is this a form of expressivity still stigmatized?
It’s difficult to answer in a general way: everyone has their own history, their own experience. I certainly see so much levity in making tattoos, people forget that a tattoo marks forever. As far as I’m concerned, I tend to draw my tattoos and leave them on paper several months, in some situation even a year and when I look again the draw I understand if I have to get a tattoo or not. I’m bound to my tattoos because they are the map of my memories, of people I love, of my thoughts and points of reference, of the things I tend to “dimenticare” (forget about the mind), “scordare” (remove from the heart).
I’ve seen some of your previous works: from “Ho ucciso la notte” to “7 giorni”, passing through “Yo soy” and for the baby tooth. there is a constant connection to the teeth. Can you explain it?
During the “Long Live Romance” workshop, I was asked to design a performance inspired by a memory of my childhood. The memory was related to the fall of my baby teeth and to my mother who tied a thin wire to my swinging tooth and pull it down, giving the chance for the new tooth to born. A Second Chance. During the performance I took a thread and tied it to my incisor and to the door of the former Monastery. For an hour, and at any time, anyone could open the door by blowing my tooth, deciding, so, my fate. We always have to risk, or at least, I always risk giving me a second chance, changing things I don’t like and that they do not give serenity to me.
Which of your work has most “taken” you emotionally?
“Fra Cinquant’anni (con Amore)” is a photographic triptych. It is the first work I presented in Professor Garutti’s class 1 at Brera’s Academy of Fine Arts. I rebuilt the bed belonging to my grandmother, with the same structure and the same sheets, leaning teeth on the pillows. You know yourself at a young age, with a pleasant aesthetic, time goes by with misunderstandings, lies, screamed words or unspoken ones, those that are consumed and that they did what they could…everything passes from the mouth, from the teeth and from split. If love is able to overcome all adversity and the degradation of time, then this love consecrates and becomes an icon.
As Anaïs Nin wrote in her diaries: «Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishing».
What human aspect would you want to examine in the next future? Is there something that attracts you and that you would like to convey with your art?
The focus of my research continues to be the Wait. The time of Wait is an element that has always fascinated me. It’s a time suspended where the emotions are amplified by the expectation of what awaits us, what’s coming. We are constantly waiting for answers, words, people, love, work feedback, concerts, situations, friends, travel. I think I will continue to study this time, especially in a historic period where everyone is in a hurry and nobody has the strength to wait any longer. It does not frighten me to wait. I’m not in a hurry.