Beyond the image. Interview with Francesca Manetta


by Laura Lupi

Francesca Manetta is a young Italian artist whose wealth of experience in painting shows in her photographic works with grace, elegance and refinement. She turns her attention to a classic literary world which, nonetheless, readapts quite well to contemporaneity by means of some image interpretation keys the artist provides to the beholders for their free reinterpretation. Francesca Manetta’s works are characterized by a deep study of the sources and by a detailed scenographic as well as stylistic reconstruction. Her art leads us to reflect on the messages that lay hidden behind the artistic gesture.

Nature is always the protagonist of your works. Which is the meaning it acquires in your work Giardini Allegorici (Allegorical Gardens) presented at The Others 2014?

As it often happens in my photos, nature is a fundamental part of the whole meaning as it interacts with human characters not as a simple background but as a central element which helps to define the main character and the story adding a clarification or even giving concrete significance to a mood.

In Allegorical Gardens I have almost adopted the inverse procedure, so it works the other way round. The meaning of the natural element can only be understood thanks to the human figure on the stage.

The mental process I went through during the creation of these works was different, regardless of the final result of the composition.

Take for example my series called Principessa+Ranocchio (Princess+Frog): here the main characters are immersed in a natural scenery which not only interacts with them physically but it further emphasizes the “oddity” of the Princess’s figure, the imbalance in the couple’s relationship and my narrative perspective. For this reason, the presence of nature here (and in many other works) strengthens and supports the human character. On the other hand, there are other works, as for example Chapter II of Allegorical Gardens, Arborvitae, where the main character is not a human figure (though it often is in the center of the picture) but a pomegranate tree. Although all symbolic meanings are already evoked by the depicted tree or fruits, the presence of two women makes them even more apparent. These women are, to some extent, the personification or the manifestation of the natural element, they provide new insight into the work and underline and support some aspects of the allegories peculiar to this natural element.


Rex Nemorensis and Arbovitae are just two of the many chapters that make up (and will make up) the complex project Allegorical Gardens. Can you explain how they can be considered independent from each other and, at the same time, intertwined?

They are independent in the sense that each chapter focuses on a single natural element autonomously and completely, developing the theme in a micro-series of photographic shots. But at the same time they are connected to each other from a stylistic point of view but even more from a thematic one, which is the centrality of a natural element, full of symbolic meanings, interpreted in my personal version of “allegory”. My passion for books has led me to structure the whole project as a sort of treatise, whose chapters are far from being the result of a narrative path, each of them being devoted to a particular subject. Thanks to the general unity of Allegorical Gardens I can keep the project open for any changes, thus having the possibility to always add new chapters.

Allegory, fairy tale, literature: these are the starting points from which your photographic works begin to develop. How much time do you devote to research the subject of your next work? How free is the audience to interpret your work? And how much of yourself do you reveal in your works and through them?

The idea always arises from an issue which is particularly close to my heart or had a great impact on me, and maybe it has remained just a memory in a little corner of my mind for years before finding the right moment to come to light. Hence it is the impulsive and emotional side of me that leads me to choose the theme, the places and characters. The research work, on the other hand, satisfies the rational and diligent side of me, I need it in order to explore the subject and to support argumentation applied to it. Working on projects with different levels of interpretation is congenial to my own mind, as they give way to my interpretation and that of the beholders. In my works there is a plurality of elements and meanings and some of these levels can be immediately recognised, whereas some others, more connected to my private sphere, help me create something comprehensive and coherent. There’s always a little bit of autobiographical content to my works, more or less genuine. I would find it too manneristic and difficult creating something I hadn’t interiorized before. By executing my works I portray and narrate my point of view, my way of feeling and interpreting. From then on the beholders are left free to get different aspects depending on their personal perspective, interpreting each of them in their own way, according to their own experience and reference points.

Every photo is made with great attention to details, both from an aesthetic and scenographic point of view, it sends a message and triggers the viewers’ emotional response. How much effort and attention to details do you put into making your work and how much is left to the unforeseeable uncertainty surrounding the moment at the time of shooting?

As one can now easily understand, everything is made with attention to the smallest details. Each detail has been cherrypicked or specifically created at the design stage to complete the project in an organic, consistent way. On the other hand it is also true that, during the photo shoots, I like to explore new paths which hadn’t been mapped out before. I never ask my characters to pose. I simply decide the situation and the setting, which are my storyboard, and from there on I start giving shape to the image and I often take the photo only when I can capture the moment when an action is taking place. The interaction with the environment or with my models can have interesting implications, so, why not explore them?

In Arbovitae the main character is the pomegranate, tree and fruit, symbol of abundance and fertility but also of the infinite cycle of life and death. Being a viewer of your pictures, too, will you allow me to interpret it as a good omen for a certain kind of Italian art, hoping that it will soon have something to say again rather than only to portray?

As a viewer of my works feel free to construct your very own interpretation in absolute freedom. I am very pleased and honoured to have been given the opportunity to encourage reflection on this, also because my favourite artworks are those in which the artist’s idea and the image in which it is expressed are so unified that the two become one in synergistic union.


Photo credits:
Francesca Manetta‬
1/5 | Giardini Allegorici CAP.I Rex Nemorensis, 2013
6/10 | Giardini Allegorici CAP.II Arborvitae, 2013

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