Artist Spotlight: Nicola Verlato
BY Christopher Harrity
June 25 2011 4:00 AM ET
Nicola Verlato is an Italian painter and sculptor based in Los Angeles. He has shown his work internationally, mainly in Europe (Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway) and the United States, in public and private spaces such as Venice Biennale, Prague Biennale, Laguna Museum, MART, MACRO, Stux Gallery, White Columns, and the Jonathan Levine Gallery.
His work has been featured in Flash Art,Juxtapoz, Artpulse, XL,Lodown,Art in America,Hi-Fructose, Blisss, and other publications. His work is represented by Jonathan Levine in New York and Merry Karnowsky in Los Angeles.
The Advocate: Why are you an artist?
Nicola Verlato: I can't really say why I am an artist, because I never thought about doing anything else with myself.
I started painting oils when I was 7 and selling paintings when I was 9. I never had an opportunity to think about doing anything else. Later on I also studied architecture and music — disciplines which I consider to be part of the same larger field which also contains painting. Recently, during my time as a teacher, I had time to think about and define more precisely what I think it means to be an artist, and I came to the conclusion that it's all about being able to explore the inner recesses of our mind through this creative process. Then being able to communicate with others the same profound emotion that you experience in this very personal stratification of inner visions, by translating them into images we can all relate to.
What catches your eye?
What catches my eye is what catches the eyes of everyone else: bodies in motion. The reason I say that it's common to everyone else is because we're all neurologically built to feel a very profound empathy for bodies themselves as well as their representation. That being said, I don't think that I have a special view on things; I simply have the need to capture onto a stable support that which is part of our material world, what excites everybody — our relationship with things and our emotional reaction to them. Going back to the previous question: It's probably this need that makes me an artist.
Tell us about your process or techniques.
My process is very complex, but it's absolutely coherent with my outlook. I follow a very articulated path of investigation of both my imagination and the reality of the phenomena through which it will be manifested. I start with a lot of preliminary drawings, which I then translate into a three-dimensional model with Plasticine or using a 3D program — Maya, 3D Studio Max, etc. During this phase I set up the lighting and refine the positions of the bodies in three-dimensional space. Controlling perspective in a mathematically precise manner allows me to introduce extremely complex architectural and engineered elements that would otherwise be a nightmare to correctly place in the composition. Using those three-dimensional maquettes, I make even more drawings until the composition is solidified and ready to be painted.
The next step in information gathering is to call a model to enact the poses of the characters in the composition. Using the lighting pattern, perspective, and poses predefined in my previous steps, I photograph the models, thus creating a body of reference for the final painting.
I feel it's important to state that I only use photography as a source of information and not as the base for my paintings, which are the result of a more complex investigative process than copying a photograph.
Once I have all my information, I make a master drawing in which I combine the initial intuition of drawing with all the empirical information I gathered along the way. Upon completion of the information gathering, which composes about 60% of the entire process, I finally start to paint.
How do you choose your subjects?
Sometimes the ideas for paintings come from the process of drawing itself. Other times I just want to illustrate an idea or a vision which may come to me from literature, poetry, comic books, TV, pornography, newspapers, movies, or video games.
I'm mainly interested in mythologies. I get very excited when I find a connection between contingencies of modern daily life and the eternity of our human condition. I really think that the goal of art is to reveal this continuity — how we are still profoundly the same despite and because of all the variations on the surface. Art is the only place in which we can connect these two opposites: eternity and the present. The result of which is that inexplicable emotion that we generally call beauty.
What makes a good artwork to you?
For me, good artwork is something that is able to give me a specific kind of emotional reaction, which has to be the of the same intensity I experienced as a kid when for the first time I saw a painting by Caravaggio reproduced in an art history book. It has to make me speechless like that first time — make me unable to give any rational explanation as to what is happening to me and bring me back into a primordial, pre-alphabetized state of being. A state of being which I believe to be the same as what the first humans experienced 30,000 years ago in the caves, when they revealed themselves to themselves as humans through the creation of the first paintings.
What artists do you take inspiration from and why?
I take inspiration from the works more than the artists themselves. I'm inspired by works that are able to give me that inspirational state I aforementioned like: the Sistine Chapel, the Pantheon, the parliament frieze in Rome, the sculptures from the Parthenon, the Magnificat tondo at the Uffizi, the St. Anna cartoon at the National Gallery in London, The Ecstasy of St. Francis at the Frick Collection, just to talk about a few. I also was very inspired by works of many illustrators and comic book artists, such as Rockwell and Corben.
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