Marco Cianfanelli

We caught up with Marco Cianfanelli about the Release sculpture he created at the Nelson Mandela capture site in Howick. we chat about what it took to make the iconic sculpure a reality and what it means to him.

DIY: Were you fearful of the pressure to create something iconic when you were approached to complete this project? What was the biggest challenge you faced to make your vision a reality?

Marco: Given that Jeremy Rose (Mashabane Rose & Associates) and I had conceptualised the work a few years before, there was no pressure to create something iconic, as our idea already existed. The pressure really came from the challenges of creating the physical manifestation of the idea, that would work properly and be a tribute to a great man, in a compelling and appropriate way. Christopher Till (Director of The Apartheid Museum) campaigned for the realisation of the project in Howick, so he had all the responsibility of making it happen.

Monuments or commemorative works are tricky as they can be politically charged and problematic

DIY: You collaborated with engineers, architects and a host of other professionals to create this sculpture, how did the process differ from what you are used to? Was it trial and error?

Marco: I am quite used to collaborating or working with other professionals in the public work that I do but I must say that it was a big benefit to be collaborating with others, given the significance of this project, to have the support that comes from being part of a team. Release is also a particularly technical and broad work that required the skills of engineers and architects. Interestingly, there wasn’t really any trial and error, just a lot of theory, design and maquettes. Nevertheless, I did make an error with the method of perspective used to create the image of Mandela on an array of columns and I only realised this just before we went into production of the sculpture.



DIY: Was there anything in particular that inspired your concept for the sculpture?

Marco: I am interested in making sculptures that are transitional, in the sense that they are static forms that require the viewer to perceive their abstract and figurative qualities as they move around or through the work. I often use vertical elements or multiple units to explore this but I can’t think of any particular thing that inspired me.



DIY: Does the walk way leading up to the sculpture have any symbolic meaning to you? Long Walk To Freedom?

Marco: I think that Jeremy did a great job in the site design and the path leading down to the sculpture works well to create a sense of journey. The path also represents the attributes of Mandela, which have been marked with the planting of trees, so I think it does represent the Long Walk and it is a device to encourage the viewer to access this idea.



DIY: Is there a reason why the poles have been given a pixelated treatment? I noticed that 2 poles were smooth?

Marco: I used digital processes to translate the image into drawings for laser cutting and I decided to keep a certain honesty to this process as the pixelated quality also added to the ideas of fragmentation and collective, which are quite important in the meaning of the work. Two poles are smooth as they sit on either side of Mandela’s image, so they have no detail on them.



DIY:What does this artwork mean to you as an artist?

Marco: We waited many years to put the concept into reality and it has been an almost private preoccupation amongst a handful of people and I personally never imagined that it would receive the kind of attention it has, which has been astounding for me and I like to think that it shows that art can really move people or get their attention in a positive way. Monuments or commemorative works are tricky as they can be politically charged and problematic and I am happy that, mostly, Release has received positive attention.


DIY: Any other major commissions in the pipeline?

Marco: Yes, I am busy with a 30-metre tall kinetic sculpture that will be suspended, hopefully, inside a building.



*All images © Jonathan Burton

4 Responses to “Marco Cianfanelli”
  1. Lori Clarke says:

    A most incredible sculpture.

  2. MR says:

    Great idea, great concept and great execution. Thanks !!!!!!

  3. Martha says:

    This is amazing!

  4. julian says:

    Excellent piece! Looks like its going to last a very long time too. Well built!

Leave A Comment