Invisible Cities: Fabio Giampietro

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The interview is conducted as part of the SuperRare April Exhibition: Invisible Cities, curated by an and Elisabeth Johs.

Fabio Giampietro was born in Milan, Italy, he is still alive.

Through his seminal painting technique of subtracting the color from the canvas, he realizes powerful and intense figurative paintings.

In Fabio Giampietro’s work the barriers of art come tumbling down and the propensity of continuity and simultaneity amongst the three spatial dimensions and time becomes tangible, though still imponderable to the viewer’s eyes. His work marks the liberation of painted forms from the classical framework, enhancing a process already well established in the course of Italian Modern and Contemporary Art. It started with the revolutionary theories of Futurism at the beginning of the XIX Century and continued with the velocity of Lucio Fontana’s gesture of cutting the canvas to explore the space behind and beyond it.

Giampietro’s investigations melt the tradition of painting with the most innovative technologies conjugating the planes of space and time and annihilating the contemplative distance between the senses of the spectator and the reality of the art work. The virtual dilatation of the painting invites the spectator to experience its reality within its newly exploded boundaries, calling on all the possible resources of psycho-sensorial experience. His main achievement lies in the fact that he shows that the painted work on canvas no longer has a central core, even though it exists and faces us. Rather, it presents a dissemination of observing points linked to the spectator’s physical movements inside the virtual coordinates of the space arranged for us by the creative mind of the artist. For this reason, every step inside Giampietro’s work also guides our voyage inside of the nightmares and the dreams of the artist’s mind, more vividly and presently than ever.

Коломна
Edition 1 of 1
A portrait. In the Metromorphosis series the boundaries between portraits and urban landscapes collapse into a play of lights and shadows. Oil on canvas, 2020. 8712 x 9018 pixels
Describe the cities in your art:

Cities in my art are inspired by the image of the “megalopolis”, the continuous, uniform city that is covering the world swallowing the nature between one city and the others. if it were to be one of the Invisible Cities in Calvino’s book, it would be Cecilia or Leonia.

How did you become interested in using cities as the subject of your art? Which aspects of cities fascinate you the most?

My artistic journey started studying Coney Island, the first Luna Park in history. Lot of social and technological experiments took place in that magic territory and it was the genesis of a new urban experimentation, a new way of looking at architecture that led to the verticalization of the cities. It was a radical change in conceiving the city, so very well described in Delirious New York by Rem Koolhaas. If at that time New York was a unicorn, an extraordinary case, a laboratory of artificial, technological and futuristic research, nowadays the town planning concerns a bigger number of cities, where the border between artifact, reality and nature seems to be vanished. I look at the cities like human artifacts, geological signs and prints humans are leaving on the planet, I am fascinated by the shapes of the metropolitan areas looked from far above in space. The similarities in how we are terramorphing and shaping our planet and the ways all the other life forms colonize their space are stunning. 

Drunken City Vertigo
Edition 1 of 1
Drunken City is the second NFT from the Vertigo series. It has also a VR version. Vertigo is a series of paintings depicting urban landscape seen from a dizzying height. The vertigo inducing perspective is presented as a monochromatic, often sepia-toned, image with the brilliantly composed lines of the surrounding architecture centering in on a comparatively small patch of concrete ground. In this manner, the images give the sense of free falling. Oil on canvas
What do cities mean for you?

Cities have always been the places to be for evolution, innovation, culture and art, they stand like open air museums of the history of past civilizations. Well this was until the web, the decentralization and the pandemic.

Which are your favorite cities? How do these cities inspire you and influence your art?

NYC is the main inspiration in my work, the first vertical city made of concrete, the Icon of a city. Many of the New York skylines are shared and consensual figures. Images of a certain place that people acquire and keep, either because they are borrowed from novels or movies. They are therefore cultural representations and mnestic figures at the same time. The communicated image of the skyline that carries power is generated by the buildings themselves that have an undeniable power on the formation of the Icon.

I am also inspired by the speed of the new asian megalopolis and by the babylonic attitude of the Emirates that transformed fisher villages in metropolis in a human lifespan.

The Downward
Edition 1 of 1
The Downward is a painting part of the Hyperplanes of Simultaneity series. This series achieved the Lumen Prize Gold Award in 2016. The virtual dilatation of the painting invites the spectator to experience its reality within its newly exploded boundaries in VR, calling on all the possible resources of the psycho-sensorial experience. Oil on Canvas. Physical size 117″ x 39″
What are you trying to express through depiction of cities? In portraying cities, what are the (bigger or personal) stories you’re trying to tell?

I use cities, buildings and skyscrapers as pieces of a puzzle, they have become my alphabet that I use to tell stories. In the metromorphosis series landscapes are transformed into portraits. In my works nature is often absent but I painted the forces of nature in the form of tornadoes, tsunamis and earthquakes, all composed of buildings to underline the direct link between human action and its consequences on nature.

What’s your approach to make art about cities (creative process, technique, art genre, aesthetics etc.) 

After years of research in city painting I ended up creating my own painting technique to speed up and refine the process, I called it oil on canvas subtraction. You can watch it in this video here because as always it’s easier to see than to describe. I try to induce in the viewer dizziness and vertigo. I want the viewer to be surprised and totally immersed in my canvases which are often quite huge. My exhibitions often combine a playful side with something unsettling that generates awareness of the issues that are the theme of the work. This led me to approach digital technology, I wanted more and more interaction between my works and the public and when 6 years ago consumer VR came on the market I immediately adopted it and I began to create immersive paintings in which the viewer had an active part by actually entering the picture.I found that the mix of the real painting standing like a portal and VR is a very effective recipe for vertigo!

What does your ideal city look like?

My ideal city is made up of small interconnected parts like cells of a larger organism, like tiny worlds with a green and wild park in the center as a core surrounded by different areas dedicated to culture, commerce, finance and education with a small residential area within each of these. In this way every citizen has to cross the wild to reach each area during his daily routine meeting other people, doing activities and being aware of preserving nature.

It definitely looks nothing like dystopian worlds like the ones I paint which are more warnings about where we are going and what will remain of us.

Victorian Vertigo
Edition 1 of 1
Vertigo is a series of paintings depicting urban landscape seen from a dizzying height. The vertigo inducing perspective is presented as a monochromatic, often sepia-toned, image with the brilliantly composed lines of the surrounding architecture centering in on a comparatively small patch of concrete ground. In this manner, the images give the sense of free falling.
What’s the relationship between people and cities (or nature and cities) in your art?

In my art there are often no people. Cities that stand like fossils, frozen in time like huge statues witnessing human civilization, sometimes nature appears reclaiming its spaces to testify how ephemeral we are in the time of the universe.

What are the little things you want your viewers to notice in your art?

Definitely the handmade details. God loves details! In the portraits series for example there are a lot of hidden details, easter eggs that are references to the subject life. In ‘Oldboy’, the piece I selected for the exhibition there are for example hidden rifles and guns, a complete red light district with liquor stores and Strip Clubs, the college where John was a teacher and others.

Old Boy
Edition 1 of 1
A portrait. In the Metromorphosis series the boundaries between portraits and urban landscapes collapse into a play of lights and shadows. Oil on canvas, 2020. 6482 x 6410 pixels. Physical canvas size 68″ x 67
What’s your dream art project to do?

I have a dream, a decentralized real life exhibition taking place simultaneously in different cities, I want to paint a lotus flower shaped city inspired by the Lotus Temple in Delhi, that is, a temple where anyone can practice their religion. In each of the cities I want to exhibit a single petal-shaped work, through VR visitors will be able to enter the painting and see the whole flower and also the other visitors of the other exhibitions and they will be able to communicate to each other through a specific sound language that I am developing. It only remains for me to study a way to be present at all the openings for the vernissage drink!

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