No matter what your subjective opinion is, when you first see a Mattia Biagi piece, there is one thing that you do: stop and stare. And then you stare some more … and still more … until eventually you begin to understand what lays before your eyes: a childhood memory of cotton, full-body zip-up pajamas, a twin bed that feels like a double king (if there is such a thing) and that soft fuzzy friend who kept you oh so safe from the bogeyman late at night — your teddy bear. The only difference with this childhood memory is that your soft fuzzy friend has been frozen in time by layers and layers of thick, black, piping hot tar.
“This is my everyday life transferred in art,” says Biagi as he sits calmly with a tar-covered crucifix hanging on the wall behind him. After completing his studies at I.R.F.A. in Milan at the Brera Academy, Biagi met the famous designer Giulio Cappellini, an encounter that would provide Biagi with the inspiration to pursue his endless obsession with art and the creative process.
Shortly following his studies, Biagi relocated to Los Angeles where, on a random visit to the La Brea Tar Pits — an area with ancient tar and rich in oil deposits — the TAR idea was born. In a sense, it’s a magic ritual of dipping domestic objects into tar creating a new aesthetic object, crystallizing the forms and exalting them under a black coating. In fact, it is a new object that is created, which, at the same time, betrays its nature, denying its color and its primal functionality to magnify its symbolic value. This is art “as a symbolic form” as art historian Erwin Panofsky would say.
Biagi’s 15-plus years in Italy’s interior design industry are clearly evident in his earlier works where objects such as chandeliers, chairs and candelabras are drowned under endless layers of tar noir. “Each work is related to something I’ve passed through,” says Biagi in his chic Italian accent. Biagi is always on the go and out exploring his love for the form, design and natural materials, and it’s the form that plays the starring role in every creation.
Biagi’s series featuring musical instruments has another dimension.
A harp, a guitar, a trumpet, a microphone — each instrument seems to be waiting for its musician, but it is clear that no musician will be able to play these instruments, yet still they evoke the sounds of a symphony in our head. One of his most interesting creations is his series of weapons of destruction — machine guns, hand grenades, etc. The sight of these life-taking pieces of pressed metal clogged and frozen by Biagi’s glistening black tar practically calls out a message of peace. The tar has deleted the function of the weapons, while at the same time still evoking their violence.
At his most recent solo show in London titled Recognize Your Spiritual Need, Biagi takes us on his “personal journey related to faith.” Jesus Christ idols enveloped in darkness could be taken as blasphemy by some, however Biagi’s approach and presentation provide an alternative, more soul-searching vantage point. “Sometimes you’re lost … and sometimes you need to think about faith and your spiritual moment.” One thing is certain: Biagi and his art are not lost; he puts his emotions and soul into every piece he creates, providing a special journey inside the real substance of the things that, after being imprisoned under the tar, reveal themselves; moving us to ask not “What is it?” but rather “What does it mean to me?” In this way, we can confront our dreams and our fears. It’s not a small matter; it is the very essence of art.