Italian born artist Fabio La Fauci does not like to confine himself to one medium. His striking portraits of faceless women are the outcome of an extensive aesthetic research process, combining media such as painting, photography, and ceramics, that together engage in an intense dialogue between the figurative and the abstract.
His work brings together influences from Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism and Minimalism. Its subjects remain anonymous yet are extremely expressive. They seem to make us question what constitutes a portrait, if not the face? Daring us to fill in the blanks with our own artistic tools and thereby opening the artworks up to endless subjective reinterpretation.
La Fauci is currently living in Berlin, where he says the endless winter makes him more productive. We interviewed the artist to learn more about his latest series: Midnight Portraits.
Interview with the artist
Q. Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to follow your path as an artist?
A. It was the year 2007, I was working in Saatchi & Saatchi London as art director. I had a side art project with a friend of mine, we decided to transform plan B into plan A and moved to Berlin. We worked together until 2015, then we split, and I started my solo career.
Q. Your latest series is much darker than some of your previous work, how did you arrive at this new concept and colour tones?
A. I’ve never used black in my colour palette, when you paint in oil colour, in theory you never use black, but you make it optically using a mix of dark colours in keeping with the tone of the painting. So i thought to do the opposite - to use only black with some accent of colour and I instantly saw that there was something interesting there. Black is a very evocative colour; it absorbs all the colours on the visible spectrum and reflects none of them back to the eye.
Q. Does the anonymity of the subject serve a specific goal?
A. When you see something, the brain instantly has one of 2 reactions: either you don’t like it or you do. If you don’t like it, the brain will move on. If you like it, you will try to somehow makes sense of the image using the tools your cultural heritage has given you. This mix of figurative and abstract faces therefore opens a number of different doors to the viewer. So no, I do not have a specific goal, but would like to offer the viewer something that will evolve inside themselves.
Q. Do you know in advance exactly what you would like to create, or do you let the process and material guide you?
A. Not really, in fact until the artwork is completely finished, I never know if it’s going to be good or bad. This is because I assemble all the elements only at the very end of the process, which takes very long as I have to wait weeks until the faces are completely dry.
Q. Could you take us through the different stages of your process?
A. The more I do, the more I am discovering interesting combinations. Right now, I’m using an array of media: painting, photography, ceramic, oil colours and acrylic. Depending on what I intend to do, I pick the medium that fits the purpose best. I always start from the faces; they somehow suggest the pose of the body. I work on all the elements separately and then the magic happens; the shapes start to talk to each other, and I compose the final artwork. In this final stage, I like to make different combinations to see where the eye is drawn to and how the image hits the gut. It’s an interesting inaudible dialogue between shapes and colours.
Q. Your work seems to be part of a dialogue between the abstract and the figurative. How do you find a balance between the two?
A. I did many, many tests at the beginning of this series, back in the spring of 2018, trying so many combinations: between materials, the chemicals involved, the shapes for the faces. Now, 2 years later, I have learned a lot by doing and I’m already studying new and different possibilities.
Q. What would you like this new series to evoke in the viewer?
A. I believe that when you create something you don’t do it because you want to suggest or evoke something, at least this is not my purpose. It would be pretentious. The magic of a painting or a sculpture or a photo is that when it speaks to you, it’s already enough, the “thing” already happened. When I go to see shows and there’s something that I like, something subtle happens, something that cannot really be explained in words, which in this case are reductive.
What do these portraits evoke in you? Head over to the artist’s page to explore the full collection.