In this series of 'In the studio', we interview Italian artist Antonio Signorini after his first solo exhibition in the UAE at the Oblong Contemporary Gallery in Bluewaters Island. Antonio Signorini began an in-depth study of primitive art in 2003. His interest has focused on the study of the most important archaeological sites and with particular interest in the Libyan, Saudi and Iraqi caves and on the finds at the inside them. The discovery of new caves in Europe then led Signorini to delve further into his research and work to recreate in the sculptural form, the drawings represented inside these caves, giving back one modern interpretation that connects today's man to his past.
Q: What brought you to Dubai? How does the city inspire you?
Antonio: What brought me here is a very nice story. Five years ago my wife (Paula) and I have been studying the ancient archaeological sites in Europe where humans, especially the Sapiens and the Neanderthal have left behind artifacts and drawings.
We visited the South of France, France, the North of Italy and Spain where there is the highest concentration of archaeological sites. Then by chance, we went to Marbella where we had the chance to discover an amazing site where there were traces of the Neanderthal artworks. In Gibraltar Studying it with my wife, we came across an article that was speaking about the findings of artworks in the Arabic peninsula, especially the desert between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The name of the site was Saruq Al Hadid, and then we decided to come and visit it. When we came here we found out that there was a museum named after this site and we went to visit it. It was a very interesting discovery for us, I was fascinated to see that in the middle of the desert a lot of artifacts were discovered and this was proving that in this part of the world there was an ancient civilization able to cast bronze and gold and to make a lot of trade between countries, such as Egypt, Far East India and Mesopotamia. This discovery proved the importance of the UAE even back in the days as an area that was melting and putting together different civilizations.
I was very interested by it. In Dubai, we met the director of the museum Saruq Al Hadid who invited us to view the collection privately. He came out with an idea: “Why don’t you get inspired by these artefacts and produce some artworks out of them?”. This thought was stuck in my mind. We were supposed to go back to Spain, but we decided to stay longer and to see what we could do here. And that’s what happened. I started working on a piece that I named UAE DNA, inspired by this small ring that is now the symbol of 2020. At that time, I was also ready with the collection of The Warriors on which I was working on from few years and I was finishing it in the foundry in Florence. With quite an easy and light spirit we decided to stay longer, and we were very lucky because we showed the series of The Warriors in the public spaces of the DIFC and since then everything became so engaging for us. The collection received a huge appreciation and DIFC bought the whole collection that now is permanently exhibit in front of the Four Seasons hotel. We decided to stay longer to be part of this amazing growing city and to raise our children here a place where many different culture can live together in harmony and piece.
Q: Tell us about your design process. What exciting new projects are you working on?
Antonio: I work mainly in bronze that is my favourite material and I feel I can express myself in the best way. The process I use is the lost wax technique – probably one of the oldest techniques that we still use nowadays. I also work in clay and terracotta. I paint as well using mostly oil techniques.
Now I'm working on COMBINATIONS. Combinations to me are a process to merge and combine my sculptures, to develop them (The Warriors, The Dancers and The Flying Horses). A sort of preview of what I'm working on in sculpture could be seen in my new paintings: a combination, a connection between horses and men that shows the importance of horses for the human civilisation. These majestic and splendid animals helped humans to explore the whole world. The horse was the main “vehicle” and we covered with it long distances discovering new lands, areas of the world and establishing ourselves in new lands and developing new civilisations. In all the ancient civilisations, the horse has an importance that is equal to a god. In Greek mythology we have Pegasus, in the history Bucefalo the special horse that only Alexander the Great was able to tame or the importance of the horse for South American and Egyptian cultures and here in the UAE as well. The horse is also part of my personal life. I grew up surrounded by horses, I lived with them 24/7 for years and my relationship with them is absolute. Going back to your question, I am mainly focusing on children and horses, so children galloping or flying with horses and The Dancers with horses so it all goes back to the movement, the dance, and flying as I named the Flying Horses collection.
Q: What are your thoughts on Dubai's art and culture movement?
Antonio:I think Dubai is a huge massive art gallery itself. The structure, the architecture of the city is a big contemporary art space. If you think that there is a high concentration of the most beautiful skyscrapers and beautiful shapes in the buildings themselves. I am a huge fan of “structural art” which is an artistic movement of the 50s and 60s in the USA where they tried to give the proper right of urban artworks including bridges, buildings, roads and anything structural. I think Dubai has this appropriate nomination: it is an artistic city and to me, it is a new renaissance city, a kind of "second renaissance". If you think about Florence of 1400-1500 it was a place where people were experimenting, especially and primarily on architecture. Dubai has this right place in the history of contemporary art. At the moment, it is the only place I can see it with a massive differentiation of artistic expressions. Galleries and contemporary art here are growing, with particular attention to the Arabic contemporary art world, which is understandable as we are in the Arabic peninsula, and also international galleries are here promoting art generally. Art has no race, no species, no time, no nationalities. Oblong Contemporary Gallery, which is representing me, is doing a massive effort to bring art from all over the world without any barrier welcoming all nationalities, connecting people and connecting minds make the difference as the on going Expo is showing us now. I would like to take the opportunity to thank them for their amazing work.