A master of contrast, Filippo Minelli sets off vibrant, billowing clouds of colored smoke in empty, enigmatic spaces. Initially inspired by the silencing effect of smokebombs on urban protests, Minelli “got the impression that the smoke itself was the silence arriving to the scene.” To convey the impression of silence, he re-contextualized them in landscapes—in a sense, Minelli solidifies silence in smoke.
Working primarily on the border between Italy, Switzerland, and Austria, Minelli originally began his ongoing project Silence/Shapes in 2009. It has since expanded to include dozens of locations and has recently been revived for the sake of “Venturing Beyond: Graffiti and the Everyday Utopias of the Street,” exploring the virtues of unauthorized public art at the Somerset House in London. He gives an atmosphere to the abandoned, manifesting the mysterious.
His scenes recall 18th-century Romantic landscapes with a modern twist. Minelli aims at capturing the inexplicable relationship between man and nature using artificial means: “I’m basically searching for a landscape of beauty, that reminds me of the incredible feelings that you can have when you’re alone in nature. You know when you realize that there’s something really powerful out there, but you can’t really feel what it is? I wanted to use the smoke to give silence a political shape that you can recognize and see as a presence in the landscape.” That vague and ephemeral “presence” of silent power manifests aesthetically in Minelli’s chemical smokebombs.
Hallucinatory and dream-like, each photo captures the juxtaposition between the natural and the novel, the commonplace and the confounding. Minelli’s works capture moments of transcendence—they bridge the physical and the celestial: “Once I was up on the Alps, near a beautiful lake. I didn’t know that there were people around, but I started working and I created this huge pink cloud in front of this fantastic blue lake, with the green mountains in the back. Ten or so people who were hiking showed up, and they were really hypnotized by the cloud… It felt like a religious moment.”