What I paint is part of what I am, it’s my interpretation of the world and my way of experiencing reality.
Italian artist Ian Bertolucci is a performer, designer, photographer, painter, illustrator, and visual artist. Their hyper-realistic oil paintings are characterized by strong contrasts and an uncanny attention to detail. Drawing inspiration from the constructed beauty and drama of old Hollywood as well as personal experiences, the artist uses their work to showcase their interpretation of the world; it offers a reflection on social dynamics as well as issues concerning gender and gives life to their imagination.
INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST
Did you always want to be an artist?
I've never had a plan B, and my family has always supported me a lot. Actually,
I would say that I have never asked myself this question. For me, being an
artist is something that is linked to a certain type of sensitivity and perception
of the world - in a certain sense something innate.
You have pursued many creative forms of expression, from design, to photography to performance – are all these different practices related for you?
Yes, I think that
everything I create is the result of a research that I have carried out all my
life, and I believe that every part of my creative path has and had played an
How has your artistic practice evolved over time?
Since I was a child
I have always painted and experimented with various forms of expression related
to my body; from transvestism to the creation of characters, which I painted
and documented with photography. During the academy years I continued this
research questioning myself about gender issues and how these influenced social
dynamics through performance and by presenting my persona in different context playing different gender roles. I still do that, and I think that when I paint
all my experiences come together, presenting my sensations and my feelings to
Self-portraits are a recurrent theme in your work, is there an investigative aspect to this?
Yes, the images I
represent speak of me, always. Even when my person is not present. I think it's
the only way I am able to communicate what I can't put into words, and very
often in my work I discover something important about my life.
You have stated that you find inspiration in old Hollywood – could you elaborate on that?
One of the things that most fascinates me about old Hollywood is the extreme construction of beauty. it's all wonderfully bright and at the same time strongly artificial. And then the light. The black and white of the old films, creates an extremely dramatic atmosphere thanks to strong contrasts and particular light effects, which i love so much.
Contrast and light seem to play an important part in you work. Does this hold a special significance?
Light is everything
to me. I think it's the most important element in the composition of the scene.
I see light emerging from the dark as a reassuring element. I think that
nothingness is one of the things that scares me the most, and I imagine it as absolute darkness. For this reason, I love intense light and strong contrasts, they
make me feel calm and warm, as if it were July forever.
Identifying as non-binary, do social conflicts surrounding gender influence your artistic practice?
Absolutely, I grew up immersed in the LGBTQ + community. Many people I grew up with are transgender, non-binary or gay, and I've had the opportunity to experience queer community issues firsthand. My family has always been very open and supportive towards me, and this has allowed me to live my sexuality and gender identity very freely, without ever being forced to label myself. Very often, my work is a reflection on gender issues, and I would like it to be an inspiration for those who cannot live their identity freely.
Some of your work seems to highlight moments of vulnerability, is there a personal aspect to this?
Yes, the series of works with the light coming from the shutters, for example, is a reflection on the period of social isolation that took place during the first phase of the COVID-19 pandemic. The home environment has gone from being a passing element of the daily routine to an insurmountable constant for a period of almost three months, preventing encounters with any other human being, including family members.
As the days went by, one of the things I realized is that in a completely hermetic context, in addition to not being able to make pleasant encounters, it was not even possible for me to make unpleasant ones, and / or to suffer physical or verbal harassment. This situation made me think about how much the LGBTQ + community in Italy (of which I am part) is affected. This group sees itself in the news almost daily, due to the occurrence of various attacks, against homosexuals and transsexuals, often by strangers.
One of the most
important constants in this context was the way in which light invaded spaces.
The light phenomena that occur in the home environment, cannot be observed in
urban spaces, where interaction between non-cohabiting individuals is possible. The light from the shutters, at a certain time of day, creates a
rhythm that invades all the rooms of the house, alternating areas of shadow and
light almost like a code, confirming not only the end of another day, but also that
everything is immobile and unchanged within this safe environment.
Are you a cat person?
I love cats. I've
always had a special relationship with them. My cat Amira is like my shadow,
she's always with me, even when i work.. And sometimes she is also the subject
of my paintings!
What would you still like to achieve as an artist?
I want to keep growing, to inspire others and to be inspired. I want to be a voice for the LGBTQ+ community and for anyone who sometimes feel to not have a place in this world.
I don't think there is a point of arrival for an artist, it is a long journey in continuous evolution.