“The forms I create with the canvas aim to re-evaluate the function of the canvas itself in relation to the rest of the painting. Therefore, one can speak not only of work on canvas but also of work made of canvas.”
Interview by: Natalia Gonzalez Martin
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Where did you study?
I was born in Calabria, in southern Italy where I grew up in a little village at the bottom of a mountain chain called “Aspromonte”.
In my family, there were no members with an artistic background, which arose a great deal of scepticism when I decided to pursue art.
My dad is a tailor, but I have never shown my interest for that practice and he never involved me into it. My sister is a musician, but I miserably failed with music trying to follow her lead.
I started to draw since an early age and I felt so passionate about it. When I was six my dad bought me a canvas, some oil colours and an easel and I made my first painting. It was a copy of Van Gogh’s sunflowers that, I would like to say, I painted with great enthusiasm. My parents really liked it. They were very proud of the outcome and they hung the painting in their living room, where it still is now. Since then, I never stopped painting.
I went to the high school in my hometown, attending at the Institute of Art. I had a very good professor of painting, who was very critical on my work but simultaneously very supportive, giving me lots of good advice. He used to say to me that to be an artist I needed to meet other artists as well as being constantly surrounded by art. However, the art scene in my place was dreadfully poor.
So following his suggestion, I went to London to pay a visit to my brother who was already living there. Visiting the Tate, for the first time I saw on the flesh the work of Turner, Freud, Cezanne, Picasso and many other both old and contemporary.
It was in the world rainiest city that a little ray of sunlight opened up for me in the sky, allowing me to see the real power of painting. Therefore, I decided that I wanted to live in London to pursue a BA in fine art and I studied at City and Guilds.
Your work integrates many references to art history, especially the Italian Classicism, however, this theme is treated through a contemporary aesthetic, could you expand on the different inspirations that influence your work?
I started to look at old masters work as an attempt to reconnect with them.
Being an Italian artist is kind of part of my culture having these big references on me. Its unavoidable looking at them, I believe you have to go through them and through history if you really want to be an artist, or at least a good one.
When I saw Masaccio’s Maestà at the National Gallery, I remember, I could not sleep at night thinking about that painting and the ways to respond to it. I had to react to this urge somehow, so I decided to create my version of it.
The contemporary aesthetic you are talking about comes out mostly from post-war and post-modern influences that I have been looking at over the years. Their conceptual findings not only informed my practice but also the way we look at painting today.
Among the artists who I admire and that have changed the role of painting during the course of history there is Fontana, who through the action of cutting the canvas, believed that a gesture once completed, could live forever; or Manzoni for instance, who stated that a white surface is nothing else but a white surface and that it can exist as such. Thus, these artists have faced issues related to time, form, space and colour in their work and that is what really fascinates me.
Could you talk about the “Maestà”, which is one of your most recurrent theme?
“Maestà” (Majesty in English) is an ongoing series I have been working on for a while. I feel it is never ending because I like to stop and then go back to it until I get a good and new vibrant idea.
As I said earlier when I was talking about Masaccio, this series started by looking at the representations of old masters work of the Madonna and Child. I wanted to recreate the feelings of intimacy and motherhood that you get out by looking at those paintings.
Your practice blurs the line between painting and sculpture while also touching on installation, how would you classify your work?
I always like to say where I come from and, considering my educational background in painting, I started as a painter and this is what I am. Then the work takes its own path: develops, grows and shows me that there are different ways of making art, still containing the same sort of idea.
Lately, your works show a different approach with the canvas. You went through deformed painted sections to little twisted pieces. How did that happened?
The work that I am doing uses canvas as its primary material. This medium that traditionally we see stretched onto a support on which we apply paint, in my practice its not only part of the work but it becomes the work.
The forms I create with the canvas aim to re-evaluate the function of the canvas itself in relation to the rest of the painting. Therefore, one can speak not only of work on canvas but also of work made of canvas.
When I began to make the scrunched insertions, I wanted to deal with a form that I was creating inside the painting, showing a relationship between the two painted surfaces. Nevertheless, I felt I had to reassess that relationship at some points. So I started to think about that scrunched forms coming out from their section and be all over the painting.
Some of the work I exhibited at my Degree Show, already presented this development with the fabric protruding out and crossing the whole surface up and down.
However, during the summer, I was away for a residency in Germany and inspired by the theme I was given, I ended up with simplifying those forms. They came up to be more controlled, having more rhythm and more movement.
I titled this series “Flowing”, because the material becomes like a fluid, penetrating through the surface of the painting.
Tell us a bit about how you spend your day / studio routine? What is your studio like?
I recently moved in a new studio part of ASC based in South London, where I also live.
I go to the studio early in the morning, which is the best time for me because my mind is clearer and the ideas get going fast.
I try to work all day, even until night if that is necessary, but I do not follow a specific routine. It all depends from the work and from how I feel about it. It is not just a physical work, but is also mental and sometimes the energies go down quite easily.
Lately, I have been working on paper a lot, and I realised how this medium differs greatly from painting. With paper, I do not sense any hesitations, because it allows me to be much more productive. I really enjoy exploring this medium and I feel mentally less engaged compared to when I paint.
My studio is quite overwhelming of images, tools, notes and anything that I find inspiring. I like to keep it that way because I believe that everything that is around me has the power of contributing as a supplier of ideas while I am working.
Your palette is mainly monochromatic, colour comes to the front row becoming one of the main aspects of your work, could you tell us a bit more about the process of selecting those colours?
When I started to use pigments, I realised how colours are so different from each other and how all of them have a different story. The colours that I use are very ancient. For instance, Cadmiums, Ultramarines and Earths all have millennial stories. They are so vivid and intense and when I look at them, I feel like an exciting vibe running inside me.
I paint monochrome because I like to tell the story of those colours and I also want the viewer to feel it.
I believe Rothko did not have any methodology of selecting his colours, he was feeling their power of creating an emotion inside him and this is what he wanted the viewer to sense too.
Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
Currently I have a couple of works on show at the Trinity Art Gallery as part of the finalists of the Signature Art Prize and one work at the Chelsea Design Week, which is on until the 24th March.
There are also a few projects undergoing: one is for a group show and the other one is for a residency, but they both have not been confirmed yet.
At the moment, I am constantly making work in the studio and I am also starting to make some plans for a future solo show.
All images courtesy of the artist
Publish date: 02/04/2019