After witnessing political protests where smoke bombs were used, Filippo Minelli was inspired to utilize them as a medium for his work in a very different way. Launched in 2009, the Italian artist’s ongoing photo series, Silence/Shapes, features vibrant clouds of smoke in the natural environment. He creates ephemeral works of art using an arsenal of colorful smoke bombs, capturing these brief and beautiful moments in time. Minelli is currently exhibiting his Silence/Shapes photos in a solo show at the Beetles+Huxley gallery in London until September 5, 2015.
Q. What is your relationship to creating art outdoors? Do you prefer this over traditional studio installations?
A. I started creating outdoor art in a very spontaneous way since I’m interested in the relation between people and environments, both in natural and artificial landscapes. For my art, practice is really important to underline this mutual support between the environment and my interventions because I basically use public space as a studio. I get inspired by public space and people’s interaction with it. That’s also why my works very often relate to politics because I use reality as a preferred media.
Q. What attracts you to the concept of manipulating the natural landscape?
A. I work with ideas, but deeply hate to explain them. Nature is simply stunning and makes me confront my human condition. What attracts me to manipulating it is the possibility of using nature to translate concepts into a visual language, to make these concepts readable by others in an empathic way, not just as an intellectual exercise.
Q. The way the colored smoke lingers and fills the space is simultaneously eerie and poetic. Is the mood meant to be uplifting or somber?
A. Nature is unpredictable and so are weather conditions. These elements decide the actual mood of the image, and I don’t really feel I should decide what’s best about it. This is why most of my works are created as an ongoing series instead of as single pieces. I prefer to represent the variety of reality rather than be a judge of it.
Q. Many people compare the way that they feel in the outdoors to a spiritual experience. Can you draw any parallels?
A. I would describe it as a humanist experience more than a spiritual one, but this is totally up to personal and religious beliefs. What I’m sure about is that being lost in nature is an incredible form of stability where things are very clear. Nature offers us time and space to truly understand who we are, the size we have, and the difference between what we want to achieve and what we actually can. This is also why many people are uncomfortable with nature.
This article was originally published in RANGE Magazine Issue Three.
Photos by Filippo Minelli.