Francesca Leone. The art of behavior and memory

Francesca Leone. The art of behavior and memory

Contemporary art is undoubtedly democratic, because it is above all collective, as the public becomes part of the works and the beauty of everyday life thus becomes the artist’s ability to touch objects, materials and modify their presence in life. In contemporary art the possibility of expanding the perception of reality is multiplied by new technologies and is accentuated by changing the fruition spaces. But not everything can be art only because we are able to conceive an idea that we consider brilliant, and Francesca Leone, daughter of the unforgettable director Sergio Leone and dancer Carla Ranalli, knows it well, with her meditative, social and committed art that is inspired by Jannis Kounellis, Anselm Kiefer’s allegorical and twilight art and in general all art full of tension between image and reality.

Francesca Leone’s artistic production is a sort of endless screening to understand the sense of evil generated by man and which pours on Nature which, however, always manages to unmask man, a universe in dim light where we are all in search of our own identity, aimed at deciphering our journey. Francesca Leone, representing the spirit through the material, gives new life to the objects of the past, evoking nostalgia and universal stories, using organic materials such as oil, plastic, bitumen, glue, earth, sand, sawdust and configures reality as a process of imagination and material creation and revision. The vision of the visible is expressed as a relationship between illusion and reality created by her works, as if it said that it is the work of art itself that creates reality, and even the visitor with whom the artist wants to interact. This process is shown, for example, “Our Trash” composed of 18 aluminum grates that create a unique installation, a large platform on which the spectator can walk and reflect. Maybe the spectator could have the look of the groping faces that slip from the picture, leave traces, created by Leone for the exhibition “Beyond their gaze” (2009) in Moscow.

Francesca Leone poses a fundamental question, namely the way in which life places itself with and in nature from an aesthetic point of view and how such a way can be represented in contemporary art, telling the labored gait of the human being on Earth, the painful progress of men and women who become desperate and ambiguous figures, who however have a warmth that attracts our eyes.

Anna Lina Grasso: Your works are above all visual and physical experiences. What emotion do you hope the visitor feels?
Francesca Leone: The important thing is to be able to arouse an emotion, a work of art should not leave us indifferent.

Could everything be art?
Absolutely not. Unfortunately, contemporary art can be confusing, there are many works that must be “studied” in order to be understood, in the sense that the artist’s work must be deepened, its path, its consistency. If this is convincing, then we can speak of art.

What are the aspects that you find most interesting in capturing changes in human faces and bodies?
If you refer to the “Real Estate Flows” series, what fascinated me was to portray faces that were stripped of their ‘mask’ through the water. The expressions are in spite of themselves authentic without filters, but at the same time also deformed by the flow that passes through them.

Your father Sergio has sculpted the passage of time in the history of cinema. What relationship do you have as an artist with time?
In recent years for my works I have been using everyday use recycled materials, such as taps, pipes or plates, things worn out by time, thrown, which somehow have run their course. I try to give these objects a different look than the past, more poetic. For example, in the works of the series “Family portrait” I drowned into concrete some house objects, which belonged to my parents and I tried to make them immortal. It makes me feel good to think that those objects that have accompanied our life for many years continue to exist.

Which artists inspire you particularly or do you find interesting?
There are many artists that I love even if they are not in line with my artistic thought. Speaking of contemporary artists, I consider Anselm Kiefer and Jannis Kounellis, Gerhard Richter great masters.

Picasso said art is a lie that allows us to recognize the truth. What do you think about it?
I had never thought about it, in a sense I think he is right, what we artists do is something that belongs to fantasy, to invention, but reflects reality.

Do you believe that your works disturb, in a positive sense, who looks at them?
This should be asked to the observer …

How do the subjects of your works take shape?
I could not speak of a unique method, for some works there is a photographic sketch, for others a thought that buzzes in my mind for a long time, until I materialize it. For some others a sort of immediate interest in a material that it inspires me.

Has art really become a splendid superfluity (as Hegel claimed) or can it still have a social function?
I think art in general is good for the spirit, if it also launches social messages it helps us to be better.

In “Giardino”, you show everyday reality in all its crudeness, is this personal also a way to reflect on the value of the works of art within the market today?
With “Giardino”, I show what surrounds us, which worries us. Pollution is a problem that afflicts us daily, but it is not only this, “Garden” is a hymn to memory (and here we return to the previous question about time) thousands of small objects enclosed in a grate that have been part of our life of our passage on earth.
Your question is very interesting because it means that my work made you reflect on the value of the works of art on the market, which I did not think about creating it, and this is precisely the meaning of art, to excite and make you think .

Is the Interactive installation “Our Trash” included in the debate on the need to protect the environment? And don’t you think that man and not just the environment should also be safeguarded, given that we are losing the future and we are ideologically polluted?
Man lives and is part of nature, therefore safeguarding the environment is safeguarding all of us. You see, the terrible moment we are going through with this pandemic made me think a lot because it is destroying man, but it is helping nature. The question arises: was this the only way?

Metamorphosis” is a metaphor for how art evolves and tells its time, a battleground between old and new?
Metamorphosis was born from images taken during some of my travels in which nature seems to remember a human body so much as to be transformed into a body. Earth is our mother.

What are your upcoming commitments?
I have two very important and demanding exhibitions planned. The first at the Magazzino gallery in Rome curated by Danilo Eccher, given the general critical situation due to Covid-19, has been postponed to a later date. The second is scheduled for early June at the Gallerie D’Italia, a very important museum space in Milan with the care of Andrea Viliani. I hope that we can overcome soon this difficult and painful moment, all together more aware and better.


Francesca LeonePortrait of Francesca Leone

Francesca Leone, Giardino, 2017, Museo Macro, Roma. Ph. Stefano D’Amadio

Francesca Leone, Domus, Palacio de Gaviria, Madrid, 2019 Ph: Cuauhtli Gutierrez

Francesca Leone, Monaci, Reale Albergo dei Poveri, Palermo, 2018 Ph: Laura Daddabbo

Francesca Leone, Our Trash, installation view at La Triennale, Milano


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