Gabriele De Santis and the Balance in Art

His conceptual art is born from the desire to free any object from its natural state for which it was made or found. To give it a new life. The artistic practice of Gabriele De Santis (Rome, 1983) was created on the basis of one modus operandi: between installations and painting in which nature, space, and the matter of things become a single conceptual form from which the user will interpret the work, themselves. Matter and idea are subordinated to the concept he wants to express.

De Santis plays not only with everyday objects, but also with colors and symbols that that interact with each other before finding a balance between the parts. A new story is generated, where the visual strength is always faster, more immediate, like the language offered by social networks that are constantly evolving. He uses those symbols, creating incursions on canvases painted with light shades of blue and bold black.  He uses art to decipher current events.

Gabriele De Santis
All Colors of the Night (2019)
Installation view, Valentin, Paris
Courtesy of the artist and Frutta Gallery, Rome

They are performances and elements that once altered in their form have no way of returning to their origin, as happens with fire that burns matter and becomes ash. For De Santis, “shapes and colors are variations where there is always an alternative”, and adds, “I would like someone to decide for me, but I like to have more ideas”. De Santis talks to FRONTRUNNER for the first time about his practice, football, and future projects.

Your production is liberal with different supports and materials. Are you particularly attached to a single work, or a single support? Tell us which one.

My favorite work is Tell the truth and then run. An exhibition plinth that goes on skates.

Did Rome, your home city, somehow determine your choice to approach art?

Not particularly, but certainly the first exhibition of contemporary art I saw here at the age of 19 at Macro and it is still well etched in my memory. I remember feeling a strange, new, great energy.

Gabriele De Santis
Installation view (detail), Artissima, Torino, 2018
Courtesy of the artist and Frutta Gallery, Rome

What are your sources of inspiration?

A lot, in general everything that happens to me that I see every day. In this moment, the mountain.

From some titles of the works, it’s clear that you are interested in the theme of movement. Are you inspired by your passion for football?

Of course, sport and movement stimulate my research a lot. Not only football and Rome, but also cycling and Fausto Coppi.

Gabriele De Santis
Impossible Match (2015)
Black and white soccer ball, chess match pieces
42 × 36 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Frutta Gallery, Rome

Speaking of movement, you organize football matches with curators and artists. The only rule is to have works of art in your hands during the game: the end result is a great performance. How was the idea conjured and what is the project called?

We’re short a guy is the title of the project which included, among other things, the performance you are referring to.

I wanted to curate an exhibition, but I wanted the pieces to move within a non-traditional context (white walls, galleries etc), so a soccer field seemed to me to [be] right. Then I thought of moving the works over the robotic, enlarged reproductions of the Subbuteo players, but we didn’t have a budget of 400 thousand euros, and therefore real people who played football seemed to be the right solution.

Gabriele De Santis
JD and Elliot (2015)
Marble
150 × 150 × 2.5 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Frutta Gallery, Rome

How did your collaboration with Frutta Gallery in Rome come about?

I met James Gardner, owner and director of Frutta, in London in 2011 during my MA [Visual Arts, University of the Arts, London]. In 2012, he opened the first of 3 spaces in Rome and at the moment I have created 3 personal exhibitions for Frutta and some group shows.

Gabriele De Santis
Tell the truth and run (2013)
Plinth, skates
110 × 27 × 27 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Frutta Gallery, Rome

Are you working on any new projects?

At this precise moment, I am working with body and soul at a collective exhibition which I will inaugurate this month in Milan. It is the new HQ of Case Chiuse, one of the most beautiful and innovative projects in recent years in Italy curated by Paola Clerico and Ginevra D’Orio.

Then many other things, both in Italy and abroad.

Per Frontrunner Magazine