Arika Suminaga and Satoko Hamada, “Manfredi Beninati Interview”, TKG Editions, 2009
“All of my works I take it as a therapy,
I do it for myself more than anything.”
Q. – At first I would like to ask you about the title of this show, “Rearranging the Landscapes Around”.
A. – That is because with Tomio, we decided to have a small exhibition in Kyoto at first. It was supposed to be almost two months earlier. So I had very short time to have to get everything ready. So we decided to go for two paintings, two drawings, two sculptures just to test the market. First thing that occurred to me was to take one photo of my mother, and one photo of my father, and to reproduce the photo more or less, roughly, in a painting, drawing, and sculpture. For instance, if you look at that painting, that is my mother sitting there on the table and that is my mother again in a drawing and a sculpture. But the landscape is always different. So Tomio asked me to give him the title, that was the first thing occurred.
Q. – So the works are based on the photo of the mother and father.
A. – Yes, so I just took a photo … roughly.
Q. – There is one real image and you added many fictional layers?
A. – No it is like… nothing planned. Draw from the photo, (Manfredi imitates sound of shutter), more or less. …and then the image of my mother, image of my father and try to make landscape around them. they are both asleep, so i was free to make dreamlike landscapes around them. Then for instance you see the bomb there -this thing, in my mind, is a bomb!- This bomb used to be here too (Manfredi points at a sculpture). I didn’t like it around anymore. It was too obvious, so I took it out.
Q. – Why is there a bomb? It is very peaceful image for me.
A. – Yeah. That is right. There can be peace around noisy thing. It is like life. For instance if you close your eyes and put your fingers up in the ears, it looks like nothing is happening. But then the world is in fact a… you know. To me that bomb was like a particle, like an atom.
Q. – Did you make the drawing first?
A. – No. All together.
Q. – All together. At the same time.
A. – Yeah. And in the mean time I was getting another show ready. So I had like twenty works in the studio at the same time.
Q. – So it takes a long time to…
A. – Yes… even like those drawings… those are also made in layers. pencil, graphite and gesso, which is a kind of plaster. You put a layer of gesso, draw, throw the gesso again and it has to dry it for like two days before you can draw again. In the mean time I do another things. It is all like occasional, nothing planned.
Q. – Do you mean there is no plan for these splashes and brush strokes, just occasionally?
A. – No. Looking for somewhere to start from. You look for things. I am very figurative although if you look at this painting as if it suggests abstraction. There is nothing abstract about my persona. Then when i say “occasional” I mean I let things happen. I want to be democratic even with my works. I don’t want to be too bossy, to impose my point of view on them. It has to be in between my point of view and causality, whatever happens…
Q. – Sometimes the images are from your dreams?
A. – No. Only based on just one picture or something. all the rest is made up out of accidents.
Sometimes I use images of my family, mostly family because I believe you should talk only about things you know very very well. Otherwise keep your mouth shut. Of course my family is what I know best. I am much more familiar with myself, my parents and stuff like that… than other things.
Q. – At the same time this painting represents the whole world.
A. – Yeah, it is like a microscopic view of particle, you know. That is why they are so crowded. Because if you look in a microscope, out of maybe little pieces of this paper, you can see billions of things. Nothing really has priority. Everything is on the same level, nothing is like the center. That is really important for me. In politics, when I vote, I vote right wing but like most right wing people in Italy, I am very left wing. I am a communist here in my heart but practically, because I am practical person, I am right wing, because they are only people with a bit of common sense.
Q. – Are there many right wing people in Italy?
No. – Everybody is left wing. In Italy we have had the biggest communist party outside the Soviet Union, with twenty million members, for forty, fifty years. It was almost like a cultural dictatorship. All artists still are communists in Italy. That is because you have to be a part of that system and that is probably why I vote for the right wing, because I don’t like that. That is like mafia.
Q. – Can I ask about sculptures too? How do you make this form since it looks very complicated? It looks like melting.
A. – Yeah, like letting things drop, dripping colors and stuff. This is also kind of a plaster. This part here is so hard. Other parts are less hard. It depends on how much water you mix it with. And this is pink, that is light blue, because I mixed the white plaster with some blue or red pigments. It is a very meditative practice. A very slow process. First I try to make figure out from just dripping. When it does not look at all like a figure I was trying to do, then I start curving. It is like an experience. I had never done it in this way before. It is a good way of killing time too, really good. All of us should do that. It is really like meditation.
Here we can find the same image from the painting, sleeping mother. This mother goes there, and maybe somewhere else.
Q. – This is a collage and drawing within the work.
A. – Yeah. There is a drawing underneath. This is also a meditation. All of my works I take it as a therapy, I do it for myself more than anything.
Q. – Are the images from many magazines and many sources?
A. – This is out of three magazines and maybe ten newspapers. To me, collage does not really make any sense. I don’t understand collage, and that is why now and then I do one. Because I am trying to find the light to give collage a sense. If it is so messed up, maybe it makes sense. But when it is very simple, like two things, I find it almost offensive. I don’t like the works that are made in half a day, I hate those very quickly executed ones. There must be always a process. You will always have to be able to read the process. That is why I love Mika Kato, for instance. I know how she works. She makes a sculpture first -that must be meditation for her- and then she takes a photo, more photos, like she looks for the angles and finally she starts to paint…It is a perfect way to find enlightment.