One of my intentions is to involve the viewer through this sense of mystery or vagueness, forcing them to ask themselves some questions, hopefully not just about my works.
Italian-born artist Giusto Lo Bocchiaro has always had a profound love for storytelling. Having worked for the past 10 years as an exhibition designer for two of the most prominent museography and communication offices in Europe, conceptualising projects for some of the biggest museums in the world, the artist developed an extraordinary skill in linear narration but felt like he lost touch with some of the less direct, more ‘unspoken’ tools for storytelling. His latest series of works is his way of rekindling this passion and explores the concept of non-verbal communication rooted in emotion rather than language.
INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST
Q. Did you always want to be an artist?
A. There is a common belief that some people are better at art than others, but what many people underestimate is that it is about what you do with that talent. I have been drawing and loving art for as long as I can remember, but the road to creating my own art has been very long and branched. I have always drawn, and it has always been the best way to escape reality and to create my own. I was born in Palermo and as a child, I often helped my father with his work as a street vendor in the city's most infamous neighborhoods. So drawing, even during the breaks between one stop and another, was the best way, along with reading books or comics, to escape from the bleak reality that surrounded me. In time, I met others who, like me, were escaping, and together with some of them I began to develop a sense of what to create. There are infinite ways of being an artist and making art, and I can say that I have always been an artist, but I started to consider the idea that someone else might be interested in my art only very slowly over time.
Q. Do you think your work as an
architect and exhibition designer influences your artistic practice, or do you see the two
as entirely separate disciplines?
A. When I was studying art, I did not originally plan to study architecture afterward, but actually, the transition was very natural for me because of my syllogistic way of seeing art, or maybe because of the need to find certain geometric rules to convey emotions. But the process of arriving at a clear vision that was essentially my own happened in various stages. During my Erasmus in Germany, for example, I had the opportunity to study with the great Dutch theorist Lars Spuybroek, whose way of seeing forms and conceiving architecture is deeply mathematical but at the same time philosophical. I then implemented my way of conceiving a concept for a small-scale work or the stage-like space of a large museum by working closely with Professor Uwe Brueckner, whose motto is: 'form follows content'.
Q. Much of your work seems to have a
narrative aspect to it; it seems as if the scenes are an outtake or a detailed
close-up of an ongoing story, as if we just missed something or something is about to
happen. Is there in fact a storyline or narrative concept behind each piece? Where
does this love for stories come from?
A. I know that talking about comics today, as
opposed to thirty or forty years ago, may sound very banal. A lot of recent comic
book-inspired filmmaking has unfortunately trivialized and mediocritized the beauty of sequential
storytelling. My love for illustrated storytelling came from watching artists like Moebieus,
Katsuhiro Otomo and Sergio Toppi. A single strip or illustration of theirs contains a whole
In 2009, I poured my love for storytelling into a large exhibition that I conceived together with my dear friend and artist Daniele Messineo in Palermo. The concept of the three-room exhibition (consisting of acrylic paintings ranging from very small formats to 3x3m canvases) was to tell a comic book story in space, paying homage to both Western and Eastern comics by creating a story that could be read from left to right and right to left. The most important essays that helped us write the story were certainly Understanding comics by Scott McCloud, but above all the writings of Joseph Campbell whose texts still influence my paintings, such as in "SISTERS", for example.
Q. You have worked in various other media before; what made you settle on airbrush as your current tool for expression?
A. In the past, I used a lot of pencils, acrylics for the Sequential Art Experiment exhibition, and watercolors, but the profession of exhibition designer led me, one step at a time, towards images that are solely composed on the computer, from Rendering 3d models to Matte Paintings. Slowly, I lost contact with the effort and process of producing in the physical world, while simultaneously my sense of stress was amplified.
Discovering the Copic Marker airbrush, which I am now very familiar with, was definitely a turning point. I rediscovered the pleasure of measuring and seeing with my hands and the thrill of performance. It was like rediscovering parts of myself that I had forgotten; like when you cross a road that you have never travelled before, but the smell, the sounds and the light take your mind back to distant, apparently forgotten memories. Basically, it was like rediscovering that I have 5 senses and not just 2.
Q. Could you describe your artistic process from initial idea to finished work?
A. Both the practice of design and the observation of many contemporary artists, such as Erwin Wurm, have taught me to always proceed by observing at least two or three rules. The first and essential one is to find the time to procrastinate, read and let the ideas arise and develop by themselves because our brain is a complex machine that we only have partial control over, so we just need to give it the input and, most of the time, wait for it to do its work. The second rule is not to start directly with the work on the final scale, but to do at least one test in a small format that allows you to check if the idea really works, before spending hours on the details. The third and last rule is not to immediately settle on a fixed idea for a series of works, but to let the previously finished work influence the next one and so on.
Q. Your work seems to evoke a sense of mystery, and perhaps, melancholy. Is this something you are looking to convey, or would you like the viewer to experience something else entirely?
A. From my exhibitions as an artist and from my experience working with clients of all kinds, I have learned that the audience of a work or an installation will always find new clues and points of view on what you produce, especially when there is no label to tell what is, in fact, only one of the possible interpretations of an artifact. One of my intentions is precisely to involve the viewers through this sense of mystery or vagueness, forcing them to ask themselves some questions, hopefully not just about my works.
Q. Could you elaborate on the concept behind your book pieces: I wish you wish, we had wished no.1 and Geist?
A. We often hear of individuals who, having
lived through an experience that almost led them to death, have subsequently become more
brilliant and determined, ready to reach their goals
without deviation. Having lived through something similar myself last November, I understood what triggers this: the real fear of not
being able to process in time all those
ideas that are swirling around in your head. That's why, with "I wish you wish, we had wished no.1", I wanted to
exorcise this fear by producing a work that visualized all those hypothetical books I would have liked to
write. In doing so, I enclosed all
those thoughts in a single image and freed myself from them. Geist, on the
other hand, although based on the same principle of
floating thoughts, was born, as I explained earlier, from the observation of "I wish you
wish, we had wished no.1". While I was making it, some of the masks were inevitably smeared
with the spray of color from the adjacent area,
creating a deep, almost Caravaggesque light, so I decided to take notes and use them for GEIST.
I wish you wish, we had wished no.1, ultimately represents recurring thoughts, while GEIST represents the very mind
that contains them.
Q. What would you still like to achieve as an artist?
A. I consider my current phase of painting with the airbrush as an intermediate step, almost as if the current paintings were a second sketch that will lead me to the installation of the paintings in space. As an exhibition designer, I have often dealt with kinetic sculptures. One of them is the installation of metal cylinders at the HYUNDAI MOTORSTUDIO in Goyang, which I created for Atelier Brückner in 2016. My wish is to re-connect these experiences and unite them in my next step, which will be the creation of an exhibition.
Q. Which other creatives do you admire?
A. There are many artists I appreciate, but the
ones I admire are the ones like Erwin Wurm, Anish Kapoor, or Ólafur Elíasson, who use their works to capture
the whole space around them
and turn it into a part of the work itself.
Q. Could you describe your work in three words?
A. The words: Nebulous, Mathematical and Sequential, I think best describe many aspects of my latest works.