This article originally appeared on VICE Belgium.
As teenagers, my friends and I spent a lot of time on the internet. We wandered aimlessly and never used it for anything useful. Sometimes our aberrant collective desires led us into murky waters on Google Images. I will never forget the day we visited “Crocodile” there.
At the time, if we had known about artists like Sarah Sitkin or Felix Deac, we might have gone to an art gallery to satisfy our quest for vertigo and disgust. Both Sitkin and Deac are concerned with creating sculptures that are as repulsive as they are well made. They are not the only artists working today who exploit discomfort in their practice. Say hello to Matteo Ingrao, a 31-year-old sculptor from Brussels who has been creating some of the strangest and most disturbing physical art since the late 2010s.
Physical 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 changes to the parts we take for granted, and creating faces and shapes that could not exist in reality.
His process differs depending on the medium in which he is currently working. With his physical sculptures, Ingrao collects different elements after shaping body parts, to evoke the highest possible level of detail. The “flesh” in his work is made of silicon, “which quite realistically mimics the softness of the skin,” as he puts it.
When asked why the body is so prevalent in his work, Ingrao says it’s all up to him. “I was fascinated by its textures and colors. Overall, I’m amazed at the wrinkles, creases, fingerprints – all those beautiful details. If you look closely, hands can resemble dry landscapes or maps strewn with rivers. We are like a small world inside ourselves.”
He also starts from a human basis for his digital sculptures, but attaches much more importance to aspects such as position, expression, light and hair detail. Anyway: “The sculptures come together piece by piece,” he says. “I don’t really have a specific final shape in mind.”
Working within both physical and digital frameworks allows him to be flexible in the way he presents his final piece. He believes, for example, that some of his physical sculptures do not take on meaning or find their actual form until they are captured on camera.
Therefore, unlike other artists who like to work in the rather closed circuit of galleries, museums and art centers, Ingrao decides to exhibit largely online – he sees the internet as a kind of permanent exhibition. His aloofness from traditional art circuits may also stem from the fact that he has had no formal training in the field – his degrees include a bachelor’s degree in translation and a master’s degree in multilingual communication.
Below you will find a selection of Ingrao’s wonderfully strange work. Anyone with a penchant for sculptural prudishness can see more of the artist’s Instagram.