Words by Anna Bulgarelli
All images © Angelo Vignali
Angelo Vignali (1987) is an artist based in Milan. His interest is focused on personal and vernacular narratives that show universal themes. He investigates the relationship between memory and time through the use of different media such as archive photos, sculpture and installations. He creates short visual circuits that reflect on how these elements influence our perception of reality. His primary sources are the objects and photographs taken from family albums: these documents tell a personal narrative that crosses over the record history of significant events.
When he was a child, he developed an interest in cameras and dealt with “photographic objects of the time”. In a way “photography was not a discovery of something, it was a decision to deepen something that has always been there, because it was part of my daily life” as Vignali says.
Indeed, after he graduated in Architecture from the Polytechnic of Genoa, he obtained a master’s degree in Photography at Iuav University of Venice.
His first book, Flattened in Time and Space, published by Witty Books (2020) was shortlisted at the MACK First Book Award and the Fiebre Dummy Award and was then exhibited at the MAR – Museum of Art in the city of Ravenna.
In 2021 his new project, How to Raise a Hand, was shortlisted for the Images Vevey Book Award and Self Publish Riga. The work won the Open Call of Images Gibellina and received the special mention of the Andy Rocchelli Grant of Cesura. In 2022 How to Raise a Hand is published by Witty Books and exhibited in the Belfast Photo Festival and as a solo exhibition at MUCHO MAS! (Turin).
His proximity to images grew also thanks to the influence of his family; his father was an illustrator and was using photos as a reference point for his drawings and his mother had a strong interest in cameras and darkrooms. The creation of this imaginary around family albums has its roots back in time and this element is carried on also in his first project Flattened in Time and Space where the author uses the photos from his family albums and reconstructs the plot through a reassembly process.
It seems extraordinary how everyday objects manage to create a relationship with time and space by erasing these two categories.
“When you lose a person, you find yourself dealing with the objects that this person leaves you, of course we have our memories but it is incredible how these memories begin to truly fade over time.” How to Raise a Hand is a project that begins with the discovery of a box containing 313 cut-out darkroom prints of the fingers of the artist’s father, who passed away in 2018. “I was struck by the fact that these prints were a part of his body, and his hands were really similar to mine. The Body when a person passes away is no longer there, it seems trivial but it is so. You long to feel touching a person’s hand and his warmth.”
Vignali’s desire was to work on the physicality and materiality of those objects.
Touch is one of the most investigated senses in this project, in this way the manipulation process becomes fundamental. The visual research takes place between photography sculpture and performance, touching and shaping different materials the author creates a series of casts of his hands and with a performative act it gives it back life.
“I wanted to work with something tangible, that was more alive than images. Somehow through the accumulation of these casts I was trying to relate to this presence, which at a certain point became my own identity. There is a lot of the concept of identity being questioned”. How to Raise a Hand is a material exploration not only about the absence but maybe also about what is present now, or better who is present now. The accumulation of objects and photographs creates a body of intimate but at the same time playful images. This technique seems to stress the author’s will to sublimate everyday objects, which becomes noticeable by photographing hanging jackets. Another level of meaning emerges from the performative act that Vignali stages – the wax that fills the cast of the hand produces a similar but not identical copy, precisely as it happens in the photographic process.
The book format and the installation are essential paradigms for the finalization of Vignali’s project. They deal with managing a physical and material space giving three-dimensionality to images. Visually images are brought to life thanks to their sequence in the book which creates links and provides layers of meaning. As Vignali states: “Architecture helps me to concretely finalize a project idea within the limits of physical space. Moreover, the architect’s mindset is beneficial when facing a project, especially in the construction of the book. There is a real Architecture of the book in which there are priorities and rhythms to follow”.
How to Raise a Hand is an attempt to “destroy time and space and create a reality beyond these two Cartesian categories that force us”. This relation with time and space is vital in Vignali’s work because “shaping time in a unique flow in which there are no gaps is a guarantee of life”.