Bread, nourishment, hospitality, Earth, Man, these are the keywords of the artistic research of Matteo Lucca, born in Forlì in 1980 and graduated at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bologna. His artistic research, which aims to establish a dialogue between Man and Earth, is expressed through different materials, but in recent years Lucca has focused on the use of bread, creating sculptures and installations for different contexts including: in 2016 the installation “men of bread” in the National Park of the Casentinesi Forests; in 2017 at Isorropia Home Gallery, Milan and Magazzeno Art Gallery in Ravenna; in 2018 a cycle of exhibitions at diocesan museums.
The art of Matteo Lucca is sacred and ritual, and in this sense the finished work must be read as a part of the Earth we inhabit and feed on: we are bread, nourishment for others but also very small human beings in front of the majesty and power of Nature, whose voice is lost in our frenzies, obsessions, selfishness. Lucca poses with delicacy towards the Earth and his work to be carried out, because he knows that in Nature there is all the poetry he needs to feel inspired.
The sculptures of bread, ceramic, clay and terracotta remind us that the Earth can also be a place to abandon and get lost in, a vase not perfectly shaped for us humans who feel ourselves masters of the world. For Matteo Lucca, on the other hand, the Earth is a welcoming home to be preserved without getting too carried away by ecological and environmentalist slogans. His primitive and ancestral art transmits warmth, it is to be touched by hand to rediscover how much bread, even if eaten every day, never tires, because it is always new, and takes us back in time, to the origin of everything, to the first two grains of wheat that embraced to form the first bread, our food, our revelation in front of which we can find ourselves fragile and unprepared; the figure of the human being.
Annalina Grasso: You make human bodies with bread. How was this creation born? Do you think man is so fragile or is it just an artistic gimmick?
My work on bread was born as a natural research process that I feel deeply connected to my personal experience. The need was to answer the question: how can I be nourishment for the other. This brought me to the earth, to bread, and to man. In various respects it led me towards a symbolic and archetypal origin linked to materials, meanings, and towards reflections on the human being and the body. From a practical point of view I made a cast of my own in terracotta, built a wood oven and inside I started cooking my figures of bread. Initially I wanted them to be cooked well because they had to be works to eat and so it was, but it is not always easy to succeed in this intent as my oven, made of bricks and metal bins, together with the unmanageable fire, makes things difficult. Thus, from the very first times some overcooked figures came out. The accident revealed something that broadened perspectives and reflections from the very beginning. My approach in this work is to be a guide who intervenes the minimum necessary on the process: my function is to create the conditions for a creative process to be triggered and rather act as a companion of that evolution which tends to be autonomous. The bread inside the mold rises and cooks, where the crowd meets the shape of the body, where it finds space it comes out and grows freely following its natural leavening process. Fire is the main element that gives life to all this and marks it. My encounter with the work corresponds to the revelation of something that is always new and unknown, but which is also familiar to me and asks me questions. Sometimes that encounter is fragrant, it takes me into the house and is full of life; other times it leads me to have to meet and welcome the something that disturbs me. I think this disturbance has to do with frailty. Yes, I think that man is fragile and is an immense wealth because it is rich in humanity. It is when fragility manifests itself that beauty reveals itself or finds the way to express itself. It is in relation to the fragility and the sense of finiteness of things that we try to evolve. Denying fragility would mean losing a part of us that makes us capable of being moved and loving. It would mean denying a truth that makes us authentic and human. That fragility lives in my works because they speak of life. It is in the cracks, in the burns and in the light parts, it is in the missing and bitten or worn parts, in the edible and inedible parts. I believe I have great respect for art and the human being, and have always moved my artistic research to satisfy something profound. I leave the artistic gimmick to others with other needs and with another ethical sense.
Do you prefer to work with bread or ceramics?
Currently I don’t know how to make a choice between the two, I feel both are necessary, both for the symbolic aspects and for the different relationship I have with the body. In the bread the body is represented and is a vehicle of contents. In working with bread, terracotta is at the service of the work, but central to the process. Unlike when I use clay as the main medium, then the representation of the body disappears and the action and direct relationship of my body on the clay becomes central. I feel them as two materials that have a strong bond with each other and with me, but bread could not exist without the earth.
In a certain sense, you cook the human being in ovens. What do you dislike about Man?
It is far from that. If we lose sight of the symbol, we lose the sense of what really happens, and we risk misinterpreting. The human being is not cooked in the oven but it comes to life. The oven is symbolically understood as the womb in which life is generated. The whole bread-making process is linked to the theme of motherhood and the feminine. So much so that in ancient times in certain societies only women could make bread because they have confidence in giving life and subsequently with feeding. Although my works are often uncomfortable or disturbing, all my work starts from life and it is inevitable that, seeking a truth, death also appears in the work that I do because both are part of the same thing.
What is the social value of your art?
The value lies in the attempt to be as honest and authentic as possible in what I do, art is only the mirror of this. Trying to be true with oneself and consequently with one’s art is already an important value that is delivered to society.
What does it mean for you to offer your body as nourishment for others, when for many the body is just an accessory to carry around, to show off, to commodify?
For me it is not an easy direction and in which I often struggle to succeed but that guides my choices. Being nourishment means being there for the other. This often puts me in contrast between my attempt to want to succeed and failing because in conflict with my limits and demons. The difference is: “in spite of everything being there”. A reflection that I sometimes made on my work was just this: despite their inedible parts, their cracks and often their uninviting appearance, they are made of bread and their condition of existence is that of being food. Being there, despite everything, as nourishment. This aspect makes me think a lot about relationships and how they constantly put us having to deal with ourselves. When the body becomes an accessory, a show and a commodity, it loses the value of being there and living that encounter. Perhaps this too is a response to fragility. But sometimes it is an inevitable choice or something imposed, so another chapter of reflection opens up.
How are you living the Covid-19 emergency? How do you think the art system should also be reorganized?
As everyone, it was not easy to experience that period. From the point of view of art, I do not fall into the category of artists who needed to produce. Rather it was a moment for me to make room and collect. I believe that from this point of view it was useful for me to be able to do this, there were also beautiful moments full of insights. Regarding the art system, I don’t know how it should be reorganized. In this moment we live the attempt to cling to “as it always has been” and the fear of taking steps towards something new that represents the unknown and the fear of failure. We will have to reconsider the values on which culture is based and move according to that. Those who have the courage to make choices of meaning and content will be rewarded in the future both in culture and in economic matters. At least, that’s something I wish.
Which exhibition gave you the greatest satisfaction?
Given that every exhibition is a great satisfaction for me, perhaps the exhibition that I put first in the ranking is the one that marked the beginning of my bread season. It was in 2016 in the heart of the Casentinesi Forests in a park plateau called San Paolo in Alpe. In that area I had placed 12 works immersed in nature. The only way to get there was to walk along a path in the woods for half an hour and then find yourself in that scenario where the ruins of old farmhouses and a church are found. The relationship between my figures, the ruins and the landscape was very strong. Not to mention the smell of bread when it was windy. Other events followed, including the first exhibition with Isorropia Homegallery which represented another decisive moment in my growth.
Any projects in the pipeline?
Two exhibitions in China, for which I will send the works shortly, and a theatrical project in which one of my works will be staged.
Do you feel in some ways an environmental artist?
I would like to. Let’s say that it represents one of the goals for me but that I still don’t feel up to it to define myself as such. But if I look at some aspects of my work in materials and content then I can be among the environmentalists. Not in a direct way as an activist might do, but in a way in which the reflection I make about man goes in a natural direction in search of an authenticity of life.
Portrait of Matteo Lucca
Matteo Lucca, Mani, 2020, bread sculpture
Matteo Lucca, Gaia, crossed metal castings, copper, brass, bronze, 2020
Matteo Lucca, Ritratto di ragazza, Tao, 2016, polychrome plaster, composition of fabrics
Matteo Lucca, Bread woman, 2017
Journalist, blogger and social media editor from Campania. i graduated in literature and philology and I gained a master in art and organization of cultural events. I love cinema, art, music, literature, especially Russian, French and Italian. I read a lot, both narrative and non-fiction. I share Picasso’s thoughts on art: “Art helps us to recognize the truth”.