At the private preview of the India Art Fair (IAF), Italian artist Giuseppe Stampone stands in front of Roman gallery Galleria Marie-Laure Fleisch (Booth A-3). Dressed in black, with sunglasses on, he appears to be observing people walking by, somberly and quietly. Behind the 42-year-old are postcard-like images plastered on a life-sized framed board comprising alphabets and connecting visuals. G is accompanied by Gandhi’s photo, R evokes Recycling, and very close to L=Life is a sketch of a human head wearing a pollution mask. Classic mnemonic device? It’s more than that, says Stampone.
The artist came to Delhi for the first time last year. Although a part of a residency with graphic novelist Sarnath Banerjee, Stampone ventured into much more. He walked into the bustling crowd of Chandni Chowk, where he almost had a panic attack, saw the majestic India Gate, and took a stroll in Nizamuddin and Saket. He observed people and talked to them. The result is a series of works, from Architecture of Intelligence, his site-specific installation at the Italian Cultural Centre, to a performance (which took place on January 27), to Greetings from New Delhi, at IAF.
At the Italian Cultural Centre, Architecture of Intelligence is a part of “The Third Meaning” show, a collaboration with Banerjee, who is exhibiting pages from his latest, All Quiet in Vikaspuri. At IAF, his long engagement with combining research with visual aesthetics comes together with a Delhi twist. “There is just one language, and it is not the one we speak but what we see. It’s a visual language,” says Stampone, “I want to create a map of words based on emotions and not politics.” His images, texts and even postcards — in which he distorts the conventional positive visuals and creates stark references, often depicting reality as he sees it. The artist previously exhibited in India, during the first Kochi-Muziris Biennale in 2012.
Stampone is known for his use of multiple mediums — drawings, sketches, photography, videos and found objects. His works talk about issues, such as war, environment, social conflict and migration. In Delhi, his outings resulted in deep impressions about persisting issues, mostly the environment.
The “spelling primers”, or the scholastic method of associating meaning to an image or text, draws from his larger work around “global education” in Europe. An exercise of this was in New York, where, when he drew an airplane next to the letter A, a few local participants associated it with the word ‘Anxiety’, a reminder of 9/11. Stampone’s ultimate focus is connecting with people. “I want to put human being back to the centre of the world, because every single human being has a political responsibility,” he says.