"There is something very liberating about modeling an object. More than with drawing, you have the feeling of creating something from scratch, of giving it a real life."
As the daughter of passionate art collectors, parents who were friends with the great artists of the 70s and 80s, aesthetics and creativity have always been a central element to Stella Tasca’s life. Being both a curator and an artist, she opened her first art gallery in Trastevere in 2003, a place that quickly became a hot-spot for the emerging underground art scene of that time. Tasca’s artistic language largely stems from punk imagery, psychedelia, graffiti, and pop - a combination that creates an immediate, visceral experience. The hallmark of some of her latest work is the use of fluorescent colours and the re-imagination of existing classical figures. By reinterpreting them, the artist ensures that these classics find their place in a modern context and take on new meaning in the process.
INTERVIEW WITH THE ARTIST
Q. You were raised in a family of creatives and art collectors, how has this impacted your own artistic practice?
A. It gave me an education in beauty, experimentation and imagination. My parents are very open-minded, curious people, both culturally and socially. They always took me to see exhibitions and made me travel. In addition, many of the people they hung out with when I was growing up were famous artists of the day, people I studied in school books in the morning and had dinner with at night. All this led to a perpetual atmosphere of creation. I can't remember a time in my life when we weren’t trying to create something, even out of the most common things, such as silk-screen printing and embroidering the blankets at home. Until recently, I considered my artistic journey to be part of a group endeavor. My family taught me how to cooperate both creatively and practically.
Q. You have degrees in both decoration and curation and opened your own gallery - how do the two practices relate to one another for you? Or do you see them as separate professions entirely?
A. I was quite young as an artist when I founded my first studio. It was a very nice space in a central area of Rome at a time when the city was growing and there were many up-and-coming artists, especially in the underground scene. So I thought I would share my space with these talents and make it a gallery. It is very common for an artist to also organize exhibitions, especially group exhibitions.
Being a curator and a gallery owner has taught me commitment and discipline when it comes to sticking to delivery times, measurements, themes, etc. I know how difficult it is to manage a creative space and organize an exhibition, so when I am offered an artist collaboration I try to do everything in an organized way. I try to welcome all good proposals and I really appreciate an invitation from a gallery because I know how much commitment and investment it takes. Let's say, it has greatly influenced the curatorial side of my artistic side; being on both sides has helped me to understand the dynamics better.
Rock'n'Roll Eyes, 2022
Acrylics on Ceramic
Q. How has the experience of being a gallerist impacted your life?
A. It has definitely taught me to be more practical, to streamline and solve when needed. The role of a gallerist is very laborious and demanding in terms of organization, often managing many different people at the same time. You have to understand the market but also the state of mind of the artist, his temperament, to accompany, and stimulate them. From this experience I have certainly learned to have more respect for the work of others, to plan and try to predict.
Q. You also have a love for works on textile and fashion, where does this fascination come from?
A. My parents had a screen printing shop in the center of Rome; they were the first in the capital. Until then, printed t-shirts came from American vintage markets. They also collaborated with various Italian haute couture brands. Artists who were fascinated by screen printing approached my parents to print their designs on fabric. My grandmother and aunt also work in the industry; they were theater seamstresses. I combined these two elements at some point and began my tapestry project. I wanted to combine an ancient technique with modern printed colour.
Small Glam Mori II, 2022
Acrylics on Ceramic
Q. Your work is extremely vibrant and has a very characteristic aesthetic sensibility, how did you come to develop this particular style and palette?
A. My father once had a very interesting creative phase where he was using the colours from the eccentric era of the 1980s. During those years, screen printing had its aesthetic boom, and fluorescent colours were the focal point. A few years ago, we literally found the original colours of that era in the basement. It was astounding to see how they still worked aesthetically. I started using a couple of colours from that original range and that's how I found a palette that worked for me. For now, I don’t want to add any more, because I would like to emulate the type of design and colour of printed posters, with an immediate and clear message.
Q. You often re-imagine classical figures in your work, what is your goal in reinventing and re-contextualizing this well known imagery?
A. When I started painting I liked to imagine ‘perfect’ situations. I wondered." What would it be like if an ancient poet recited his work in modern places with a super pop aesthetic?" So, for example, I would portray punk singers side by side with poems by Pasolini, Shakespeare, Rembauld etc. Or the opposite: portraits of characters, heroes of the past, combined with hardcore music lyrics. Shortly after, I decided to remove all words from the works. What I was left with was the desire to change the aesthetics of the classics: to decontextualize them and see them in a different light.
I love all around me, 2022
Acrylic on Paper, Framed
Q. Could you tell us a bit more about the history behind your Mori sculptures?
A. A few years ago, I started a collaboration with the Amanei gallery. This is a wonderful and ancient space full of history located in Salina, one of the most beautiful islands of Sicily. The culture, nature, characters and legends of those areas are among the richest and most fascinating in Italy. The Moor heads are traditional Sicilian objects, they are two vases representing the face of a young woman and a Moor.
Legend has it that he wooed the shy girl until she fell in love, but when she came to find out that the man would soon return to his land in the East where he had a wife and children, she cut off his head in the night and used it as a vase to grow basil. I immediately fell in love with this story and this extraordinary object.
Q. You work in various media, both in the two- and three-dimensional realm. How does your three-dimensional work relate to the rest of your practice?
A. For many years, I thought I couldn't draw despite my studies.I remember thinking that I was just a good director because I could nicely put things together that already existed. I would assemble things, adding a few touches here and there. My early works are a real mix of materials.
But at some point I got unstuck and was able to divide the two things. On the one hand there are my pure drawings with pencil, paper, colour, and on the other my modeling. I no longer navigate a middle ground between the two. I found that with the three-dimensional you don't need to be super precise and often some plastic works have a strength precisely because they are not finished. It’s like it has an extra gear, you can explore more deeply and represent things that would lose strength in the two dimensional.
Q. Do you have a specific direction you would like to develop into artistically - or something you would still like to achieve?
A. I definitely want to improve in synthesis and be more daring. This may seem contradictory, but I often feel that I stop too early because I am afraid to add and feel that a cleaner, sharper mark would be more effective. I would like to refine and package some works better, for example the sculptures. To curate a richer and more particular presentation. I think it is also important how you deliver a work. However, I really like the artistic phase I am in. I feel I am traveling in the right direction. I feel it is very much my own.
Viva Up I, 2021
Acrylic on Ceramics
Q. Your latest series of works are hand shaped sculptures, could you tell us a bit more about the concept behind these artworks?
A. For years, I made plaster matryoshkas but I had never considered myself a sculptor until a friend who is a sculptor called me one. Immediately, I felt like creating something that was not constrained by a mold. There is something very liberating about modeling a product. More than with drawing you have the feeling of creating something from scratch, of giving it a real life.
Q. Which other creatives do you admire?
A. There are many and my taste is always changing. I get asked this question often, and when I reread my interviews I always think I could have said more because I get passionate about someone different every time. It's nice to be surprised by someone's creative abilities, their way of maturing and evolving. To name just a few: Miss Van, Cheyenne Randall, Gilbert & George. I love Okuda San Miguel's versatility; he goes from street art, to sculpture, to embroidered painting, while really maintaining his style.
Eye and Hand II, 2022
Acrylic on Ceramic
Q. Could you describe your work in three words?
A. Pop - Supercolour - Positive