Being an artist can be tough, akin to looking for the right words to describe a storm at sea while stuck in the middle of path, and metaphorically speaking, this scenario is not at all uncommon for an artist, because even when they are only observing a storm, it is like they were really there fighting against its waves. It can be fantastic too, when we finally manage to express what we see and what we feel. At the age of 29, I know that the time has arrived for me to take a step forward in that perilous sea. With a restless ego, an artist needs to self-reflect, and so it is crucial for me to try to put into words what is that I have been doing and thinking so far. As a social anthropologist and self-taught painter, I am interested in exploring human society and showing some of the insights of sociological research through visual representation. Consequently, my work is mostly centred around translating social interactions, meanings, constructions and paradoxes by decoding and re-encoding visual language.
My works sometimes originate from imagination or else from photographs from which I develop further experimentation, often drawing upon fieldwork research. Stylistically speaking, much of my inspiration comes from the observation of reality and my artistic method principally involves the use of oil on canvases or wood, and of enamels and acrylic pens on small, medium and large surfaces. I also experiment with other media, such as acrylics, pastels, inks, enamels and charcoal.
I have been using oil paint since I was eleven, when I started representing imagined domestic situations inspired by impressionistic imagery. As I grew up, my interest moved drastically from those peaceful domestic scenes to a new world of enigma, contrasts and sufferance, to which I was lead, I believe, by both the expressionistic influence, my personal biography, and classic high school studies. Very strict and perhaps somewhat unrewarding, those studies opened up my mind to the dramas of human history, the obscurities of the Middle Age, and the modern wars, and while I was in the middle of all of all that, only the production of poetry, narrative and visual experimentation could give a semblance of peace to my accelerated thoughts. This fresh look to the world brought me to produce spontaneous works, in which lines and paint balanced each other in a harmonious space. Then I faced a dilemma, to study art, or to study society. I had no doubts: I wanted to study society so that I would be better able to express it through art. In fact, I believe that artists can play a critical role in addressing social ills. I view anthropology itself as an art, a creative discipline based on extended research and observation of specific socio-cultural contexts with the goal of drawing broader reflections on the human condition. Art and anthropology are therefore inseparable and intertwined in complex ways. I cannot imagine a world in which anthropology does not use art to complete itself, and in which art does not need the critical social engagement offered through anthropology.
This interdisciplinary vocation led me to expand my studies with a Masters in Anthropology and Visual Studies (2015) at the University of Siena, which involved theoretical studies in relation to cinema, photography, and various forms of art analysis (such as paintings, African art, movie analysis, semiotics of art and ethnographic artifacts), after which I undertook a one-year course in ethnographic video making (2017). I then moved to conducting ethnographic fieldwork in Australia (2016) and Nepal (2018-2019) on social topics that I explored through both traditional research methods, including interviews and data collection, and through artistic enquiry (drawing and painting). To show the results of my research in anthropology, I developed two major artistic projects, working with oil colours on medium and medium-sized canvases and wood panels. I exhibited the first one, ‘Windows to the World’ (March 2014) at Palazzo di San Galgano, Siena, while the second one ‘Modern Folktales’ will take place in Adelaide in 2021. For this most recent project (which was also the focus of my PhD thesis in Social Anthropology at the University of Adelaide), I was mentored by Gregory Donovan, a lecturer in painting at the University of South Australia who acted as my thesis co-supervisor. A one-year studio practice under his supervision helped me to refine my techniques and to expand my ideas over an extensive project, which is still in progress. However, while in my works to date I have been focusing on both autonomous projects concerning city life, with its crowds and consumerism, and on the results of ethnographic fieldwork, I feel that is now the time to reflect on what I really want to communicate as an artist, and to find the right visual languages for me to express it. For example, during these years I have also been experimenting with the creation of small puppets that I used in stop motion videos, and I am intrigued by the idea of combining this technique with painting.
During my academic studies in the last ten years, I have been systematically approaching human lifeworlds as constructed webs of significance, studying them through the lenses of semiotics and interpretative analysis. That is, there is nothing in this world that does not pass under the scrutiny of our interpretative senses. As an anthropologist, it has been fundamental for me to understand the importance of the point of view, that of the researcher, and that of the subject. In these years, I have also been living in very different worlds, from Sicily, to Tuscany, to the UK, to Australia and to Nepal. I am now reflecting on what exactly fascinated me the most of these vastly different worlds, and what commutates and distinguishes them. And is there something beyond social constructions that I am trying to find? While social sciences identify the specific nature of each society, is there something intrinsically human that art can attempt to express? What do I want to put in my new artworks? How realistic do I want them to be? These are all questions on which I need to reflect in the years to come during my MA in Fine Art Practice at the Open College of the Arts.