‘I am interested in
making things that prompt a sense of the complexity of the present.’
is an artist who works across the public and
private realms, engaging the world in terms of systems rather than
discrete objects or fenced off territories. He is constantly looking to
realise art where one doesn’t expect to find it and testing the
possibilities for artistic intervention in the public realm. In so
doing, he has been involved in a wide range of projects involving art,
architecture and public space.
embodies a vast variety of media and materials, from laser cut
materials, masked glass and digital imaging and branding to burnt
mielie skins and sculpted sea sand. Although he uses computer-aided
design and technology in the production of his work, he often engages
with the more visceral organic aspects of the material he works with.
Marrying the application of data to more expressive gestural acts, he
aims to set up a tension or dialogue between the controlled accuracies
of the digital realm and the uncontrollable realities of being human.
Key to his practice is an
attempt to give shape to the convergence of multiple kinds of data,
knowledge and experience, asserting the interrelatedness of all things.
His work explores social hierarchies and channels of consumption as
they relate to aspects of human desire, value, beauty and material
Collapsing the categories
and conventions that sort our experience, he strives to invent forms
that bring together thoughts in relation to economics (statistics,
values and economies of scale), geography (resources, place and
ownership) and emotion (self, psychology and chemistry). Human forms
superimposed on a graphical index track personal narratives in relation
to seemingly unrelated empirical data. The silhouettes of human figures
appear repeatedly in relation to other shapes or forms that point to
unexpected connections between social forces. In other instances,
statistics are translated into physical forms, so that graphs become
landscapes, affirming the idea that nature, culture, landscape and
politics are inextricably interfused.
For Cianfanelli, the idea
of ‘place’ refers beyond fixed geographical coordinates. It is an
emissary from the past as well as a construction site of invention and
re-invention. Place, or its absence, points to our intellectual and
emotional desires for location, which are as much about the
construction of Self as they are about a sense of community or even
In Cianfanelli’s forms
one becomes aware of images and shapes that are, in a sense, made
apparent through omission. Aspects of the object may not be entirely
visible. Parts may be hidden or simply missing. Sometimes it is as if
the works are remainders of images that used to be or images that have
been replaced, obscured or erased. Cianfanelli is drawn to the
expressive possibilities of blank space, and the aesthetic patterns
that result from obscuration and omission. Yet his work has little to
do with the pursuit of purely formal abstraction. The images or
references within the artworks are quite specific, even though they
have been visually obscured or omitted.
Scale in his work is pivotal. From the smallest maquette to the
immensity of a fully realised public sculpture, his figures and forms
allude ambiguously to landscape, the human body and micro-organisms.
His spheroid sculptures, in particular, refer simultaneously to
microscopic, visceral and celestial forms, suggesting that a desire to
grasp our own humanity is precariously formed from an engagement
between our sense of individuality and our location within a greater
species, on a singular planetary body.
Marco Cianfanelli was
born in Johannesburg in 1970 and graduated, with a distinction in Fine
Art, from the University of the Witwatersrand in 1992. He has had seven
solo exhibitions – the most recent being data: process, documented here
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– and has won numerous awards, including the ABSA L’Atelier and
Ampersand Fellowship. He is a member the design team for The Freedom
Park, South Africa’s national monument to freedom, situated in
Pretoria. And his monumental fragmented portrait sculpture, Capture,
has recently been inaugurated to symbolically mark the 50th anniversary
of Nelson Mandela’s capture at the site in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands.
Cianfanelli’s work can be found in public and private collections in
South Africa, Europe and the United States.
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