This article originally appeared on VICE Belgium.
As teenagers, my friends and I spent a lot of time on the internet. We wandered around aimlessly, never using it for anything useful. Sometimes our deviant collective desires led us into murky waters on Google Images. I’ll never forget the day we looked up “Krokodil” on there.
If we’d been familiar at the time with artists like Sarah Sitkin or Felix Deac, we might have gone to an art gallery to satisfy our quest for dizziness and disgust. Both Sitkin and Deac are in the business of creating sculptures that are as repulsive as they are well crafted. They’re not the only artists working today who harness discomfort in their practice. Say hello to Matteo Ingrao, a 31-year-old Brussels-based sculptor who has been making some of the strangest and most disconcertingly physical art around since the tail-end of the 2010s.
Physicality is central to his art, and Ingrao’s work is heavy on bodily details - it’s all teeth, pores and veins. He reshapes and reworks the human body, making nightmarish alterations to the parts we take for granted, creating faces and forms that couldn’t exist in reality.
His process differs depending on the medium he’s working in at the time. With his physical sculptures, Ingrao gathers different elements after moulding body parts, so as to evoke as high a level of detail as possible. The “flesh” in his work is made from silicon, “which replicates the skin softness quite realistically”, as he puts it.
When asked why the body is so prevalent in his work, Ingrao says that it’s all down to his hands. “I was captivated by the textures and colours of them. In general I’ve been amazed by the wrinkles, folds, fingerprints – all those beautiful details. Looked at close up, hands can resemble dry landscapes or maps dotted by rivers. We’re like a little world in ourselves.”
When it comes to his digital sculptures, he also starts with a human base, but gives much more importance to aspects such as position, expression, light and hair detail. Either way, “The sculptures come together piece by piece,” he says. “I don’t really have a specific final form in mind.”
Working within both physical and digital frameworks allows him to be flexible about how he presents his final piece. He believes, for example, that some of his physical sculptures don’t assume any meaning or find their actual form until they’ve been captured on camera.
That is why, unlike other artists who are happier to work in the fairly closed circuit of galleries, museums and arts centres, Ingrao decides to largely exhibit online - he thinks of the internet as a kind of permanent exhibition. His detachment from traditional art circuits might also stem from the fact that he has no formal training in the field – his degrees are a bachelor’s in translation and a master’s in multilingual communication.
Below, you’ll find a selection of Ingrao’s wonderfully weird work. Anyone with a penchant for sculptural squeamishness can see more on the artist’s Instagram.