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AP1: Arte Provera and Mono-ha

As my work is engaged with everyday objects, found objects and materiality I choose to look at the art movement Arte Provera - Italian art movement established between late 60's - 70's where the artists used everyday materials.

The name literally translates to 'poor art' - this may refer to the choice of materials - with these everyday materials challenging the notion of what can be considered art - move away from 'expensive' traditional materials like painting or even sculpture using materials like bronze or carved marble. Instead artists used more natural materials like soil, rags which challenged the emergence of commercialisation within galleries.

It is interesting to consider placing restraints on artistic production - Arte Provera artists physically placed a restriction on materials - allowing work to function in more radical ways - is this something I can incorporate - such as restricting my own material use - or just focusing on one type of material or process?

Leading artists:

Giovanni Anselmo, Alighiero Boetti, Pier Paolo Calzolari, Luciano Fabro, Piero Gilardi, Jannis Kounellis, Mario Merz, Marisa Merz, Giulio Paolini, Pino Pascali, Giuseppe Penone, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Emilio Prini and Gilberto Zorio.

Ways of working

Multidisciplinary ways of working - engaged in paintings, photography, performance and installation. - works were often both large and small scale - exploring the importance of physical presence.

Arte Povera - Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev

Artists were interested in the point where nature/culture, art/life intersect.

"They attempted to create a subjective understanding of matter and space allowing for an experience of the 'primary' energy present in all aspects of life" (Christov-Bakargiev, 2014, p.17).

"The work of art is an 'attitude' become 'form' through a wide range of materials; that they are flexible and transformable; that any technique and location may be used; that art is related to a quest for authenticity and truth" (Christov-Bakargiev, 2014, p.74).

works can be seen as a "reference to domesticity and habitat, a human scale, a layering of diverse cultural references, a rejection of coherent style and artistic signature, real and virtual, natural and artificial, live and inert." (Christov-Bakargiev, 2014, p.74).

Giovanni Anselmo

Giovanni Anselmo, Senza titolo (untitiled), lettuce, copper wire, granite stones

There is an element of motion and mechanism in this piece. The gradual rotting of the lettuce is gives the piece a kinetic and timely quality. There is a distinct investigation into natural materials, both earthly materials, structural as as well as organic plant based. It also appears quite humorous in its absurdity.


Another art movement which has been connected to Arte Provera through the use of its materials which question the commerciality of the art market as well as the value within art. Explore less expensive/traditional materials in favour of more natural materials - relationship with nature and urban environment.

Mono-ha (School of Things) was a pioneering art movement that emerged in Tokyo in the mid-1960s whose artists, instead of making traditional representational artworks, explored materials and their properties in reaction to what they saw as ruthless development and industrialisation in Japan (Tate, 2022)

Idea of 'not making' - instead of fabricating pieces or being process driven - artworks were formed from found objects - through actions such as layering or assemblage - combining two or more disparate found objects or materials together. Works from this period were a direct reaction against technology - with artists feeling that technology effectively nullified the artists ability to make work. - Instead of producing work as an exploration of representation they were instead interested solely by engaging with materials - exploring the properties of materials. This links with my own work as instead of being representational, in a similar way my work is driven by an exploration of materials. Artists from this movement will be a valuable reference for seeing how they engage or exploit material qualities within their work and how their modes of display can draw awareness to these materialities.

Kishio Suga, Soft Concrete, 1970/2012, Concrete, oil, steel plates, wire netting, sand, and gravel

There is a combination of both urban and natural aesthetics within the artwork. Clear exploration of materiality - interest use of sand and gravel as a support structure - plays with the material qualities - ability to be a combination of liquid and solid and the capabilities of lifting and suspending objects into its surface. Also uses a very muted colour scheme - reinforces the mechanical and industrial aesthetic. Relates to practices of installation art, land art and earth art - utilises earths natural materials to create work - possible critique of the commercialisation of artists, artworks and the gallery structure. The work also has a heavy importance on the relation between object, site and space - the sculpture has a very dominating position within the gallery - very physical presence. Interested in the process - series of actions placed onto the materials - through the casting and piling of gravel and the deliberate and geometric placement of metal.

These ideas and use of materials is a clear influence into my own work - I want to consider incorporating both natural and industrial materials - with the work possibly exploiting material qualities - seeing how far I can push particular materials - seeing how they react to different processes or surfaces - way of building a dialogue between different objects and materials.


Christov-Bakargiev, C., 2014. Arte Povera. 3rd ed. London: Phaidon.

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