THE ART OF CURATION
AN INTERVIEW WITH CHIARA SALVI
Chiara Salvi, born in Firenze, schooled in London, is one of those artists who can do it all; with a special focus on alternative processes and printing techniques in her own work, Chiara astonishes the Image Creation world with her ingenuity. They say that behind every artist is a great curator and Chiara fulfils both of those occupations. It's worth thinking about the etymology of curating. It comes from the Latin word curare, meaning to take care. Chiara perfectly combines the curator and the artist to build an extended conversation through time and her amazing exhibitions are results of these interactions. We sat down with her and discussed the wonders of the art of curation...
"Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your career?"
I am a humble human being with a mild anxiety disorder and an irrepressible passion for art and artists, simply trying to find my space in the art industry without having to compromise with my beliefs.
I am originally from Florence, a city that truly inspired me and that provided many opportunities for my professional development. Here, after graduation, I curated my first two shows, both focused on contemporary alternative photographic processes.
Before all that happened, just after high school in 2012, I moved to London where I completed a degree in Photography at the London College Of Communication. Between 2016 and 2017 I lived between Milan and Florence for one year, teaching and writing exhibitions reviews for a local art magazine.
In the past months I traveled in Asia and I am now in Melbourne teaching Italian, curating for an art space and collaborating with the Heide Museum of Modern Art in their educational programs.
"Who and what are your influences?"
My influences change as I move forward. As my photographic and curatorial practice evolves, I find it harder and harder to research and fully explore one topic. In the process of unfolding notions I often come across other fields of interest yet to be discovered and learnt, which results in having many projects open at the same time. It is very exciting but sometimes chaotic!
However, there has been a transition since my academic years, during which I found my influences mostly in books, essays and museums, to now: my primary source of inspiration are the artists and the audience I meet, talk to and work with.
Confrontation and discussion with people working and navigating in the industry has been as essential as theoretical books.
"Your work seems to have a focus on anatomy and biology, what draws you to these themes?"
I am fascinated by the invisible and the microscopic; in what we cannot see with the naked eye; in the technicality of bones; the impenetrability of skin and the devices that make it visible and understandable.
My practice comes together by merging medical images and the aesthetic of distressed bodies. Cancer runs in my family and I found myself surrounded by a medical terminology I couldn't understand and strange intimidating images I couldn’t decipher. Using them in my art practice was a really natural approach to own them, understand them and create a connection. The body is analyzed cautiously, through a keyhole, familiar yet mysterious. In my medical work there is a communication amongst surfaces and perspective; the meaning lies in the union between the scientific and the emphatic, the organic forms and the digital figures, the inside and the outside.
"You use many different techniques throughout your body of work, can you tell us more about your creative process?"
I start by observing an image, usually and xray, and think “in how many ways can I decode this?” I want to own the images I create, to manually alter them, to make them less obscure and impenetrable and more interpretative and graphic. It has a lot to do about surfaces as well. It’s like every image belongs to a specific surface and my purpose is to physically place it there.
I found alternative processes being a great medium because it allows me to spend time on them, evaluating the various processes, experimenting and generally producing something that is the result of an interaction. My favorite technique is usually a hybrid of different techniques, I like mixing and play around with materials and approaches.
"Let's talk a little bit more about you as a curator. What do you look for in an artwork? What makes a great artist?
I got into curating because I realised it is a discipline that offers incredible opportunities to shape the way art is experienced and discussed. I am fascinated by distinctive and audacious approaches to image-making, I am drawn by the mechanisms that move an artists and how a certain aesthetic develops in relation to the context.
I believe that a successful artwork is the one that confuses a little bit but doesn’t leave the viewer feeling excluded. It should raise questions but also provide some answers, it should offer the audience new perspectives and meaningful stories, it should encourage critical thinking and get a dialogue started.
"Could you tell us more about 'Alternative Processes'? What do you want to convey through your platform?"
The platform @alternativeprocesses was initially thought to serve me as a practical way to collect and store artworks and artists found online. I soon realised it was a great way to bring up emerging artists and to connect with people in the alternative processes community: It can be hard to find info online about certain printing techniques and I learned a lot just by following other artists’ creative process. I liked how every artist interprets, alters and expands the notion of a process and I wanted to create a space where their work could be shared and appreciated by people working with the same tools.
"How does your interaction with an artist evolve from your initial encounter with their work, to studio visit, and then to the realisation of an exhibition?"
The curator and the artist build an extended conversation through time and exhibitions are results of these interactions. The ideal setting is when the curator listen and respond to the artist’s thoughts and ideas the same way the artist listen to the curator’s interests; my curatorial practice is still unripe and evolving but ultimately I aim at knowing the artist and their work well enough to provide an appropriate context, essence, relevance and identity when including their work into an exhibition.