Interview with Jago, on display at the Palazzo Bonaparte in Rome

The exhibition dedicated to the young sculptor will take place until July 3, 2022 Iago, curated at Palazzo Bonaparte by Maria Teresa Benedetti. Jago has followers all over the world, especially in the United Arab Emirates, and with his great technical skill in marble sculpting, he has become a communication phenomenon. With 697 thousand followers on Instagram – Damien Hirst has 608 thousand, Jeff Koons 482 thousand – Jago knows how to draw attention to himself, supported in his working group by the project manager Tommaso Zijo and by the brand manager and partner Michela Ruggieric

Iago, credit Dirk Vogel
Iago, credit Dirk Vogel

With the exhibition in Palazzo Bonaparte you have reached an important milestone, what will happen next?
What is happening now is physiological because I am accompanied by a genuine ambition and surrounded by people who share the same mindset and desire to experiment. It is like a tree that is born because there is fertile soil. Iago is no different from the Iago from 12 years ago. He is equally enthusiastic. Perhaps this exhibition could find expression elsewhere and enrich itself with the sculptures I make by hand.

Like Ajax and Cassandra?
I’m going to Naples, in the Fercam laboratory outside Rome. It is a 3 meter work in Carrara marble, it is an adventure: the challenge is also to figure out where to place it.

Why this subject?
It’s an image I’ve never seen in sculpture, it’s for personal reasons I can’t say, because it would mean lowering it, there’s an intimacy that shouldn’t be revealed. I feel the need to listen to the views of those who will be using the image. In Naples, a lady from Sri Lanka entered the studio, touched the Pietà, kissed her hand, said a prayer and left. My work was not born with a religious intent, but that meaning has been assigned to it; it was a fundamental lesson: avoiding explaining what is upstream makes everyone’s image, everyone participates in it in a different way. My job is to build up an image and at most give it a title, without running the risk of betraying the message.

The invasion of Ukraine has collapsed our certainties, what are your considerations?
Years ago the terrible images of the war in Syria broke through, they settled in our consciousness like a virus. The Pietà was colored a posteriori by the tension of that conflict. Now, participating in the suffering of the moment, I interpreted the Excalibur work I made many years ago in a different way: it was the result of a previous conditioning, it was derived from images stored in the past.

Private Collection - Franz Ludwig Catel Foundation, Photo by Jago
Containers, 2015, Marble, various sizes
Private Collection – Franz Ludwig Catel Foundation, Photo by Jago

Do you want to make a work that will last?
I don’t want to force myself to do anything artistic to expose the situation. I shared a video on social channels, using image sequences with Excalibur: first I grabbed the stone Kalashnikov and then released it. Between these two actions I have inserted the images of the war in Ukraine; the moment you pick up a weapon you make a choice. If we decided tomorrow to leave all weapons behind, no one would die, but there is always someone to shoot. With images we can cause a stir, unleash political dynamics more effectively than thousands of demonstrations or protests in the street. Just an image to change course. This is the value of art: it manages to be revolutionary and instantaneous.

Why did you insert a new signature in the latest works?
In the Pietà I have placed a pebble, it is a symbol that connects my latest works: Ajax and Cassandra it is part of a speech along with the Sympathy and all veiled son… They are consistent and tell a story. The stone places them in relationship. That seemingly insignificant detail becomes essential, overcoming the rigor and obsession of perfectionism in my sculptures. David will share this sign.

Tell me more…
The sketch is in the studio I obtained in Palazzo Bonaparte, it is a David woman of which I will first make the one meter model and then the 5 meter sculpture.

You enter a risky rut, as a subject with which the great sculptors of the past have to deal …
Bernini didn’t give up making the David because Michelangelo had already sculpted it, and Buonarroti didn’t stop because the subject had already been represented by Donatello.

Choose subjects that refer to the past, to an ancient mythology. They are metaphors with which you express current themes. Why not look for the novelty?
These topics are contemporary to the extent that my relationship with them has now come about. I see Venus as an older woman – Venus as a state of being – because I believe that if a woman embodies Venus as a young woman, she will remain Venus even as the years go by.

Jago, Veiled Son, 2019 Marble, 200x100x50 cm Church of San Severo fuori le mura (NA) Photo by Jago
Iago, Veiled Son, 2019 Marble, 200x100x50 cm
Church of San Severo outside the walls (NA) Photo by Jago

They are subjects that are part of our cultural heritage …
It is easier to convey messages through familiar images. In verbal language we use words that others already know, the novelty is in the way we combine them. After all, it works the same for images and for music. The notes are 8, but the way we create harmony makes all the difference. I don’t see my subjects as repetitions, but as different perspectives. These are topics that are not exhausted, we could make 400 more versions.

You know you are loved by the general public. But sometimes you don’t convince the insiders, what’s wrong with that?
When I played every day I couldn’t appreciate music as such anymore, my ear isolated the drums, the bass, the guitar. When I stopped playing seriously I could enjoy the music. If some people tell me that I don’t understand art, but your works convey emotions to me, then I’m happy. On the other hand, it’s the same people who are snubbed who sell out at museums. Who knows anything about art then? Is a diploma enough, a life path?

The insider sees more exhibitions, knows more artists, travels and gets information about the field… that’s the difference.
Can a gardener know all the plants in a garden? I deal with both the art specialist and the mechanic or doctor. Both give an opinion. The insider travels, sees many exhibitions, but in the end personal taste wins out. Even among insiders, the opinion is often the opposite. The art expert stimulates synergies, dialogue, growth. Even with people outside the art world I have the opportunity to compare and grow. Of course, if I walk in a garden with a botanist, he can tell me how much water it takes to water a plant, which fruit is edible, which berry is poisonous.

So what is the reason for this reluctance?
Personal taste. There are those who manage to break free and make an objective analysis, those who cannot.

Marble, 140x80x150 cm Photo by Gianfranco Fortuna for Artemisia
Marble, 140x80x150 cm Photo by Gianfranco Fortuna for Artemisia

So you think it’s just a matter of taste?
No, but the taste certainly has an influence. Coincidentally, I read critiques that turn out to be windows on views I miss, other times there is only malice and bitterness. But I claim the freedom of the other to express his opinion so that I can practice on myself.

Let’s talk about the communication work on social networks. You exploit the complexity of sculptural work to your advantage, showing yourself with “your hands in the dough” … can you think about the technical slowness with the work of storytelling, how did this idea come about?
Out of necessity of livelihood, I did not want to give up my passions. I had the intuition that social media could be a valid vehicle. As soon as it was born, Instagram was seen as a game, it was boycotted. Now all galleries, foundations, museums have a social profile. I thought about sharing my works instead of posting my personal photos. Then nobody believed in what I was doing; my expressive style didn’t respond to the art that mattered.

How did you find someone who believed in you?
I believed in myself, my gallery was online, I was the one running it. I had to take care of the communication: in the blink of an eye you get into people’s pockets, not to grab something but to leave content behind.

Did they ask you if you had a gallery to represent you?
Yes, I answered “no” and it was funny. Everyone at the Academy had the ambition to find who would represent them. I was told that with what you do, you will not find support. I didn’t give up, I went from photos to video to tell the process: I divided the creation into stages and told each moment. So I made the other participants in the costume of the work. That’s where infatuation takes over. I also enjoy doing it: if I share the journey, then I share the rest. When you know how hard it is to make a capital letter, you look at it with different eyes, when you see your grandmother kneading eggs and flour to prepare pappardelle, you eat them with more taste: you know the effort who is behind it. It’s human, now it’s part of my method…

Can you tell us something about your idea of ​​an art hotel?
I would like to make art available in a welcoming space where the customer/user experience can involve all the senses. Creating a brand that starts from the artistic medium. A city can be built around a monument, I would like to create a work that develops a view around itself, not a sculpture site specific for a place. In this way the perspective is reversed: art becomes the pivot that makes everything else move.

– Giorgia Basilica

JAGO. The exhibition
Bonaparte Palace
March 12 – July 3, 2022

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