At what point in your life did you realise you wanted to become an artist?
Well that was a crucial moment in my life, which I still bear in mind. I was 15, super young and very ambitious at the same time. I was attending at the High School of Art, and it was during a painting class that my teacher, knowing my passion and engagement with painting, pushed me to explore the language of this visual practice. When he asked me what I would like to do when I grow up, without any hesitation I said I want to be an artist.
It’s interesting that you have chosen to go by an artists’ name, rather than your birth name, is there a particular reason for this?
My artist’ name wasn’t something that I made up myself. It came up quite naturally, through a world play my niece made when she was little. Nevertheless, I like to acknowledge the fact that, especially in Italy since the early centuries, there has always been a custom for artists to have a nickname or pseudonym that would identify them according their style or their place of origin; artists such as Caravaggio, Tintoretto or Parmigianino had one and likewise so many others. So in a way, I enjoy the fact that we’re use to give people names, according our experience and understanding of their persona and for the same reasons, I think Bislacchi reflects this status of things. However, in my case, I also consider Bislacchi part of my own memories, generated through an enjoyable assonance made by a spontaneous and childish way of thinking.
What effect do you think Brexit will have on European artists living and working in London?
For emerging and young artists living and working in London has been extremely difficult without Brexit already. I think Brexit is not the main issue at the moment, but it will affect everyone somehow (not only artists) and it will be a further struggle that we all soon have to face.
A lot of your work is very tactile, using materials that break beyond the conventional canvas. In some ways, they feel inspired by experimental high fashion. Is this something that interests you or has inspired you in any way?
I’m aware that my work has a strong reference to Baroque, the style that has glorified the lushness of form and this question embraces the issue of this matter. For example, starting from the baroque itself that has accentuated the dynamism of form, clothing and fashion have consequently come to a change in tastes and styles. After the great structural and formal revolution of Bernini, followed by a grace development of outline in Rococo, there was no most suitable moment than that to motivate the use of fine and extravagant clothes, especially within royal environments. In fact, it was after Bernini that the famous Andrienne was born, a dress without rigid lines that accentuated only the rounded shapes of the fabric. More recently, Mondrian’s use of the geometric grid has driven Yves Saint Laurent’s to design a clothing line inspired by the same motif invented by the Dutch painter. Therefore, I believe that art has always been a step forward than fashion. However, I don’t want to discredit the field of fashion, which actually, today is more in keeping with that of art. What I mean is that in my work, there is not a pure reference to high fashion as you said; I don’t follow trends, artists shouldn’t follow trends, they should create new ones. Sometimes it is more about the artists’ choice of approaching certain stylistic criteria that has created abnormal misunderstandings in painting. My interest in the use of fabric that breaks the limits of painting came about when I wanted to contextualize painting in a further dimension. I’m working hard in order to figure out a way that somehow, re-interpreted the visual language of painting, allowing me to shrink its working field, increasing the formal appearance of this action.
Which artist inspires you most?
I don’t have a single artist that inspires me the most. There are a lot of artists that stimulate me in many different ways. First of all, a city like London is what an artist needs. When I moved here, I understood what painting really is because for the first time in my life I could admire the work of artists that I have always seen in books: Burri, Fontana, Judd and many others I loved; they were all questioning the concept of space that has immediately captured my interest. The reason was because I felt there was much more engagement with a work coming out from its living space. Judd once said an important thing that has influenced my thoughts about painting; he said that after the achievements of Pollock, who destroyed painting drawing the viewer’s attention outside the margins of it, colour has finally come to an end and the only way to continue was occurring space. The painted canvas that lies outside its structure invading an external space, is my endeavour to create a gesture that hopefully affects the matter of painting reconsidering its function.
You are inspired by art made in the Middle Ages and in the Renaissance, which is quite unusual for a contemporary artist. Do you think the post-modernist obsession is unhealthy for art, and do you think other artists are missing a trick by not looking further back in time?
I don’t think is unusual looking at art of the past particularly today. Artists do that all the time and I feel that they have a massive responsibility on their shoulders when they make art. For a painter for example, is very difficult, because painting is the most ancient medium of history and artists have to deal with what has already been done in order to know what still has to come. For me this aspect becomes pivotal in art: I can’t be unmoved in front of a Duccio’s painting for instance, so I decide that I have to do something with it. A painter I used to pay visit too, once told me that Raphael was one the greatest painters of all times because in his work even a little corner that could be the least meaningless part of the painting, is treated accurately. Postmodernism also remarked this important lesson: what to get out of art of the past, and determine what to put into it. For me one of the best way of dealing with this kind of situation was looking at the work of Italian Transavanguardia, where I recently wrote my thesis on. The artists involved in the movement embraced the postmodern ideas of the 80s, by re-appropriating the use of the image and accentuating the application of colours in their work, approaching their own individual language. Doing so, they created a sort of new narrative and poetry that gave painting freedom and ambitiousness in a moment where it seemed lost and something else was going on.
What do you make of the art market as it is?
This is a very hard and risky question that can even go beyond my knowledge and my understanding of this huge mechanism of art. I guess the real problem today that seems to make everything more difficult, is that there is a vast number of artists around. Malevich’s prediction became true: he used to say that everyone can be an artist and this is kind of what’s happening right now. I see the art market functioning as a huge motor that controls all the system, including the artists already part of it. Consequently, there’s no room for everyone. The role of an artist has been revaluated due to the increase of people who want to make art. In fact, many still think that art is a discipline and a state of mind only. But actually, it is also a set of skills and knowledge, that regulate the success of an artist. The art market has the aim of making this distinction clearly.
We’re really excited to see new works by you. What?
My work has been recently included in a group show, at Menier Gallery in London last week, where I exhibited a new body that explores the dichotomy between the painting process of doing and undoing. Right now, I’m working on this relationship in a new series of large scale works that I will exhibit at my Degree Show in June.