Painting: Silence & Correspondence
Interview with Alessandro Barbarossa
Interviewed by Annie Solomons and Pierre Scordia
Alessandro Barbarossa draws and paints. He studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, and toured Italy to develop various artistic skills and experience life. In 2009, he started the series of paintings called ”I am trying to find Silence”. In June 2009 he began his conceptual work ”Corresponce, please return to”. In May 2010 he initiated an atelier in Rome. In September 2010, he won a scholarship allowing him to participate in the Life Learning Project at Burg Giebichenstein Hochschule für Kunst und Design, Halle an der Saale, Germany. In April 2011, he graduated in Painting and Visual Art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome. Since May 2011 he has been working on the multimedia project ”The Secret Diary of Axel Bee”. From August 2011 to December 2012, he participated in a training program after graduating from Hofmann & Partners in Halle an der Saale, Germany.
How can you find silence in a painting?
As Virginia Woolf said, words cannot explain all ideas, we have to use the ones that are available to us. Thus, I must explain that I refer to another kind of silence; my Silence is full of music, literature and images.
What do you feel an abstract work can offer the viewer, as opposed to a portrait or scene?
Abstract is open. You the viewer must look for something in your mind. Abstract says, like music, we don’t know exactly what, but we like it.
You seem to have found some success in Germany; do you think the Germans respond better to silence than the Italians?
I am in Germany for personal reasons; Germans and Italians respond in the same way. I came to Germany to study and it was the right path for me. I am still in Germany for personal reasons but I have to say that the dynamic German economy is more suitable for my projects so far.
Is silence a meditation or a way of life for you?
Silence, understood as silent, is a break from life.
Do you find the process of painting itself a meditation?
Yes, sometimes it is like meditation, but not always. I don’t practise meditation, I really don’t know what happens in the mind and body of these people, but for sure, during the painting process, in the mind there exists another world, the right part of the brain is more active.
Do you paint every day, as a discipline? Or only when you are in the mood?
Every day, as a discipline, I do something relating to art and through this I reach the high level of concentration that I need to paint.
Do you paint in silence, or do you play music as you work, such as Baroque?
Sometimes I paint in silence, sometimes I play music, always Baroque.
Is Italy, like Spain a noisy country, where silence is hard to find?
In Italy, and I guess in Spain too, there are a lot of places full of silence; I found my first silence in Rome.I experienced some kind of silence around the fountains of Rome, they are plentiful and the play of the water was for me a kind of silence; in little churches, underground Rome, in ancient Rome, in several Baroque concerts in special locations, like monasteries, abbeys; in the temple of Venus, along the Tiber… I drew for hours in the monumental Verano cemetery. I spent time in the Pantheon.In the end, I discovered my silence in one night just after a thunderstorm, and found the way to put this onto canvas; I was full of joy and grateful.
Do you think paintings need to carry a social, political or religious message?
Painting is art; art, amongst the most important things in life, is political. Perhaps I read a book, a novel, an essay by a writer or philosopher and if I accept and agree with their theories and ideas, I may absorb these. Then, when I make choices as I begin a painting, for example the size, a certain colour, it is because those ideas now influence my perceptions, my actions, my choices and my act in the whole of society, not only within the art world. So, inspired by Sartre, de Beauvoir, Russell, Eco, I position my art in a precise thought, a certain political party and, through the abstract, I choose to contribute, by working with discipline on a large canvas each day, towards a future of equality and justice.
Or can art be simply aesthetic?
Absolutely not, in some cases aesthetic does not mean art, sometimes art uses aestheticism, like it uses beauty or violence. Marina Abramović made a performance concerning this concept “Art must be beautiful” in 1975.
How have the readings of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre influenced your work?
Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre explained to me, with their books, the key to go inside my mind, and then inside my art, and understand what to do, how to do it and most importantly: why.
When you say “The fact of doing paintings renders my existence unique, unrepeatable, absurd and contingent” is it not too pessimistic?
On the contrary, it is completely optimistic and positive. We have this one and only precious life. We have only one chance to be ourselves and do what we want to do.
Is there a link between your series of paintings themed on silence and the inevitable silence from correspondence with artists or writers who are no longer alive?
I don’t think so. I don’t know what happens when an artist is no longer alive; I will not venture a word or concept, but, if this is a silence, it’s another sort of silence completely.
If, for instance, Oscar Wilde could read your letters and reply; what would you most like to ask him?
I have already written a letter to Oscar Wilde. However, this is a secret between us, and the letter has become part of the work of art: Corresponce*, Please Return To. I wrote a last letter to David Bowie …
Is it hard to be atheist in Rome?
Rome is a big city; there is space for everything and everyone like in London and Paris. Sometimes it is hard, sometimes it is easy, it depends which world you inhabit, but of course, in Rome there is the Vatican, the strongest and most powerful state in the world.
Was Rome a distractor or an actor in your paintings?
It was in Rome that my art was born, definitely an actor.
As an artist, do you find it daunting to see so much beauty around you in Rome?
As an artist, I find it encouraging seeing so much beauty in Rome; it is the largest museum and university in the world, a free and open encyclopaedia, a great inspiration teaching us how to avoid mistakes.
Can you describe to us your technique and which materials you use to create your paintings?
Oil. I prefer to paint on the floor, it is important for the rhythm of the music that moves the brush strokes, and I accept any interference from life, such as cuts and dust.
Where do you exhibit your work?
Currently, I prefer to exhibit my work in my atelier, in Hamburg.
What is your next project?
I am working on three projects, I’m Trying to find, Silence; The Secret Diary of Axel Bee; Corresponce, Please Return To. For the Silence project, I have to paint until the Ninetieth Silence.For the Axel project, I have to write until 2031.For the Corresponce project, I have to send letters until an event occurs.I have a lot to do; my next project is a secret …
FΩRMIdea Hamburg – 04/04/2016