Vincenzo Scuruchi is a self-taught sculptor. Born in Calabria, today he lives in Rome. This utterly unique artist is able to create the most incredible sculpture by simply carving fruit.
Put an avocado, watermelon, ginger root or even a pumpkin in the talented hands of Vincenzo and you will witness a magic spectacle of creative art. Before your very eyes, using nothing other than a simple carving tool, he manages to turn a banana into the head of a snake, an apple into a special optical effect or a humble egg into a hypnotic work of art.
“I love to dig deep. I observe a piece of fruit and while I am looking at it, based on the emotion I need to express at that moment, at a certain point I try to get it to appear in visual form, and then I let it go. The process is fast, I can’t draw over it or waste too much time thinking about it, I’m really instinctive, fruit and veg doesn’t leave you much time to mull things over. Sometimes I then eat the carvings if I want to hold onto the emotion and other times I leave them to die.”
Hi Vincenzo, I’m delighted to have you here on planet Tattoo Life and get a chance to show our public your innovative creations…
Hi to you Claudia and all the readers of Tattoo Life.
So Vincenzo, would you like to tell us about how you started carving fruit? Is there a history of this practice?
The origins of carving are very old indeed and go back as far as around 1360, during the Sukhothai dynasty. When the consort of his Majesty King Phra Ruang created an arrangement of carved fruit and vegetables on the occasion of the Loy Kratong festival, the King was so pleased with it that he ordered from that day on that all the women in the Royal Court learn to carve fruit and vegetables. At the outset only a few were allowed to practice this art and it was only in 1939 that this discipline was introduced into the school curriculum. Even today, it is considered one of the ten most ancient arts in Thailand.
Obviously we are all now dying to know how you discovered this organic sculpture and when you started to experiment with it.
In 2014 I got involved in sculpture, purely by coincidence. I was working in an art high school in the plastic arts lab and I saw all the work the kids were doing, and being a curious kind of guy, I had to try it myself. But before I go any further, I have to mention that carving is very technical and you use a little knife called a stylus, whereas sculpture is very different from carving and the tools differ according to the vegetable or fruit I am going to sculpt.
The choice of the vegetable or fruit is instinctive. Food has often been a theme in art, I have simply chosen to use it as a support and then to sculpt it.
Besides which fruits have particular symbolic meanings: the apple, for example, stands for the forbidden fruit of the earthly paradise, perfection in its roundness, New York, and then Newton was hit on the head by an apple and it was this which led him to enlightenment.
Your work is incredibly detailed. How long does it take you usually to finish a piece?
The timescale is very short considering that for some fruits the oxidation process is extremely fast. In the case of bananas I have to be really quick to do what I have in mind. It is also impossible to draw on a fruit and this makes it even more difficult and fascinating to do this kind of work. It is a constant challenge against myself and the fruit I have to sculpt.
How long to you devote to sculpture each day?
I don’t sculpt every single day, even though I would like to. Usually I do it when I feel the need to represent or materialise an emotion. Sculpture is therapeutic for me. If I sculpt while I am feeling a positive emotion, I eat the fruit I have sculpted, but if I sculpt while I am feeling some negative emotion, in that case the idea is to represent an emotion so I can then watch it decompose, and this gives me the illusion that the emotion can leave me. As I said, I don’t sculpt every day, when you are sculpting a fruit you have to dedicate yourself solely to that, and it’s not as if you can start it and finish it later, so when I sculpt I can spend six or seven hours without taking my hands off the piece I am sculpting.
What happens to your works once they are finished and exhibited? Where and how do you preserve them? Once you actually told me that you might film the process of decomposition, so how do you experience this macabre and fascinating contemplation? How do you feel while your work is being subjected to the metamorphosis of the ineluctable intervention of Mother Nature? Is it perhaps as if she were taking back what belongs to her?
It is very hard to preserve them and I think that if I had wanted to sculpt something that could survive over time I would have chosen another material. My work is a sculpture that has its own lifetime, sometimes a very short one. It is a sculpture that lives in the present.
However there are some pieces which I have preserved in a totally natural manner, I have a sculpture of a gourd preserved in a jar, I have dehydrated sculpted avocados and for 12 days I filmed the decomposition of a pumpkin which I have to say is something that is fascinating and frightening at the same time. It is a constant process of coping with abandonment: even while you are creating you already know that it will leave you. I thinks this is something that is fundamental to the cycle of life.
What sort of market has developed around your works? Can they be bought?
I don’t like to sell them, but I have had lots of requests for collaborations to print or sell the process by which I create the sculpture. Let’s say that the market has adapted to my work and not the other way round.
What piece are you most attached to? And why?
I don’t get that attached to my work, because being fruit and vegetables they will abandon me, and so the separation would be painful. Having said which, there are some works which have given me more satisfaction than others. Definitely the first, because that was when I realised I was able to sculpt and go from the idea to the creation. Then there was the first one I did for Disney, but also the owl I did for the German TV programme on ProSieben called “Galileo”. Let’s say that each piece is tied to a memory.
What other great loves, interests and hobbies do you have? Where do you get the inspiration when you start to create an image from material?
Cinema is certainly my big love. For me creating is a gut feeling, sometimes provocation, often obsession. Many artists are obsessed by something, whether it’s war or capitalism, death or perfection.
How do you feel at the precise moment you realise you have the power to possess material and shape it as you please?
I should mention first that I am a psychologist and self-taught artist. I believe there is a profound connection between psychology and sculpture. Both are disciplines which use extractive techniques. All of which is just to say that having a personal structure allows you to experience the act of creation as the realisation of the expression of an emotion. Play is a creative experience and the capacity to play in a creative manner allows us to express our personality. So, to get back to your question, when I am creating I am playing and through play I express myself and this makes me happy.
So, apart from the artistic turn your life has taken, how much does your psychological training impact on the creative and emotional sphere?
A lot. I really believe they are interconnected. By experiencing their emotions, a sculptor transfers them to the material: “materialises emotion”. Psychology delves into the unconscious of a person trying to bring out a real awareness of the submerged self, which is petrified, buried under trauma and difficult situations.
Looking at some of your works, I immediately noticed some references to the tattoo scene, I don’t know whether they are deliberate or just by chance, especially to the Ornamental or Decorative style. Also in the way that you work on the skin of some fruits which brings to mind some tattooists who are known for this speciality. Have you ever been inspired by any famous tattooist?
I have never been inspired by any famous tattoo artist. I love tattoos as a form of artistic expression and certain pieces leave me speechless. Sure, I may have been influenced by tattoo in some of my pieces, but obviously I wouldn’t want to offend anyone by saying that I have “technically” tattooed some fruit. If I insert a needle into an avocado seed, black dots will appear due to oxidation, the same effect as a tattoo, with the difference that I’m not using colour but it is all done by oxidation.
When did you first start to self-promote on social networks? Personally, that’s how I discovered your work, just coming across one of your contents by chance on a famous social platform. When did you achieve the incredible results and huge success you still enjoy today?
Social media is vital to what I do, I see it as a sort of showcase onto the world, and the bigger and brighter the showcase, and the more strategic the position, the better the chance of showing what is inside. When I started using social media I never expected to achieve this kind of success! The amazing thing is that my posts get shared and generate a lot of views. I think that anything that goes beyond what we can imagine makes a big impression on us and, thanks to the shares, people become an active part of this process. It’s as if in sharing the content I am saying to a friend of mine “Hey, look what I’ve found!”
I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. In fact, you’re pieces are so hypnotic, there’s no way you can look away from your videos once you’ve started to watch them, and basically they go viral straight away. Do you manage your online content yourself? Are you self-taught in hat too?
Yes, I create my content myself. This is very interesting for me in terms of content management, I am self-taught in that too. I really enjoy managing a project, from the idea to the final execution.
Throughout your career you have collaborated with Disney and National Geographic, as well as other prestigious contributions. Can you tell us about it? And what has been your greatest satisfaction in terms of your artistic work?
Getting noticed by Disney was something absolutely incredible for me. I made two contents for them for the release of the DVD of the film The Lion King and Maleficent. The content for The Lion King went viral on social media. I did some really good work for these projects. Initially I was just commissioned one job but then the second one came along. To be asked to do another project for the people who make children all over the world dream was just fantastic for me. National Geographic on the other hand contacted me because they had heard of me, together with two other artists, and they wanted to do a piece on us. I have also done work for some other big companies: Cartoon Network, Chipotle and for Instagram I created a content that got over 26 million views. It is one of the posts with the most views ever on the official account of Instagram.
Have you got any particular goals in terms of your art?
I can’t deny that I would love to have a show in some major museum, even though in order to do that I would have to use a different support from what I use now. But I have some ideas and I hope I will get to make them a reality.
Have you worked in any other art form besides sculpture?
Well, I am very curious by nature. I have done a lot of different things in my life, including acting. I have worked in different productions, but that is a different chapter from the one I am working on today,
If you were told that you could donate one of your works to some famous personality, from th present or the past, who would you make this tribute to? And which of your pieces would you give them?
This is a hard question (laughs). I would certainly like to give one of my pieces to Banksy, but obviously, not knowing who Banksy is, it’s something I will never be able to do. I really love his way of communicating extremely complex ideas through simple drawings. Then I would also give one of my bananas to Maurizio Cattelan – another visionary artist.
Thanks Vincenzo for this interesting chat and for giving us a chance to get to know you a little better. I wish you all the best in your career!
Thanks to you Claudia, and all the readers of Tattoo Life.