“When I had a bad day, I couldn’t sleep at night and in the evening I had nothing to say; I didn’t know what to talk about except about painting, as with in mind I was always in front of the picture I was trying to paint. I was fucked”.
AT: Where are you from and how/why did you start engaging with art?
LDL: I was born in Penne, in Abruzzo. As a child I used to listen to my dad talking about art and more specifically about painting; he was a cabinetmaker and a very good carver. At home, after having speechifying about politics, he used to speak heroically about some artists and what they had done. Thus the idea of heroism in art has grown in me. They were stories of extraordinary men, who used tools to give life to what was great in them. I was excited by the simple, genuine and direct way in which my father presented those figures to me. As a child I did not use to paint or to draw. However, I had art and painters in my mind, every time I used to think about an action that I would have done, in order to engrave the reality inside me. It was something that I felt in a totally instinctive way, it wasn’t tied to any rational or concrete aspect. I attended an art institute for goldsmiths because I was lazy and because it was close to home. Then I enrolled at the academy in Bologna because my partner at that time used to study there. I had never touched a brush before. However, when I picked it up for the first time, I felt it was fine for me because it was not easy at all; I felt that it put me in trouble. When I had a bad day, I couldn’t sleep at night and in the evening I had nothing to say; I didn’t know what to talk about except about painting, as with in mind I was always in front of the picture I was trying to paint. I was fucked.
AT: When did it become serious?
LDL: In the beginning, in Bologna, drawing was the only way to protect myself, as I was afraid to paint. I used to draw large sheets with coals, one after the other. They were quite stupid things, that I use to produce at a great speed though. Then, I took some oil paints and I prepared some wooden boards. I drew things and then I wanted to fill it with paint. After ten minutes I had turned all the wooden boards into abominable crusts. The illness was immediately serious. I had no idea how to paint. I destroyed everything. In the first two years every day I painted and destroyed the same canvas countless times. I painted a face with oil paintings, then I scraped everything away and then I went over it with acrylic plaster and I went back up to it with oil all over and over again. Obviously, I used to destroy and shatter dozens of canvases a month. I had to destroy them all. Nothing has remained of those years. These were the best years: an obstinate, courageous, careless apprenticeship. There was no observer, no audience, no critic, no gallery no owner…nothing. There was only the painting and I remember I used to try to understand the way in which it germinated, grew, as it become what it must be. I was also pissed off, I couldn’t talk or make myself understood by others, I was misunderstood or at least so I felt; I was strange. What I did sucked most, I had anxiety attacks, it was perfect.
AT: Are there any person who has been significant in your breakthrough as an artist?
LDL: The coffee maker was very important. I met the best teachers in front of a coffee, along the corridors or outside to smoke a cigarette. I didn’t even use to smoke, just passive smoking but in discussion with my companions and friends I was hyperactive. I still remember illuminating sentences, prophetic delusions, quotes, speeches of many friends and companions of those years. Even now, when I meet a person similar for sensitivity and temperament, it happens the same, I remember and I drink everything. Everyone is my teacher. Anyone who speaks to me or wants to do something with me is my teacher, mentor, prophet, murderer, friend and enemy. Everything. Giulio Catelli is right when he says that “painting is not done alone”. Like all truths, the truth of painting also contemplates the paradox.
AT: What is your first approach to the work? How would you describe your practice?
LDL: It is actually difficult to describe it, because in my opinion, the approach to painting is not arbitrary or rational. I don’t decide what to do; painting is more like an event, a physical process that gives live to the painting and that is not previously decided. Obviously, I have my own way of doing and feeling, that basically they are the same thing, and that for me is enough as a “program”. I know that what I write may seem confusing, but I think it is correct to feel things like these. Here is it the approach: to be ready for everything; be prepared to be surprised while you are helpless and equipped at the same time. You feel somehow in danger when you paint and you really become an idiot. I always say that for me the space of the painting is like an open space which allows you to ask things to the painting. With this I’m trying to express what I mean when I say that I expect always different things from it. I don’t work with a project, I am not able to manage the work rationally and I am not very interested in doing it. Even the idea of series throws me in crisis and I think it is sometimes too arbitrary. I can’t last qualitatively like this. I paint what I feel and each painting is unrepeatable.
Exhibition view at Yellow, 2017 | Courtesy Yellow, Varese | ph. Cosimo Filippini
AT: What do you aim to reach with your work?
LDL: I dream of creating something as frightening as a mountain, a piece of nature, something that lasts, and I refer to the strength of the images and not to the artefact itself. A mountain is a piece of nature that doesn’t speak itself but it somehow changes. It alters the personality or feelings of those who walk it or who sleep there one night, or those who feel changed just by looking at it, as they start asking questions about themselves or wondering about the nature of the mountain; yes, it somehow changes. This is what a work should be in my opinion: the encounter with something that perhaps is not entirely understandable but that really pushes you to go beyond certain limits, that are just yours; it questions you. I want to make a journey, a walk in painting, as far as I can and obviously I want to explore some of its areas as much as possible.
AT: What are your favourite tools and materials for working?
LDL: I am a traditional painter: I use canvases, wooden frames, cotton or linen canvas, wooden boards, paper, cardboard, acetate, plastics. Above all I use oil paint which allows me to do everything I want. I don’t need much else. The whole experimental and research aspect doesn’t come from the materials, but from way of proceeding in making and building painting, which is always different. I consider myself an experimenter, because I believe, perhaps wrongly, to put myself in front of the picture every time in a different way. I also don’t have a modus operandi, even if two paintings may appear similar, they come from different paths.
AT: What do you feel while you work? Do you usually think about the final outcome beforehand?
LDL: When I paint I feel all kinds of emotions and feelings: serenity, joy, anger. frustration, dissatisfaction, tiredness and boredom too. There is no dominant feeling. When I start, I obviously have a sort of mental image which in any case painting usually denies almost immediately. Painting is very funny from this point of view, it tells you immediately when you lie to yourself. That’s why I prefer not to know how it will end. In my opinion, in painting you can’t know too much, you can’t be an expert. In painting, cunning doesn’t repay. I believe that craft and cunning are symptoms of a small or large failure because the craft is too readable for the eyes of another painter. When it happens to me to use the craft or worse, if “I solve (horrible word) a painting with a bit of cunning, it means it was a bad day. That’s all right, but it could have been better and you just have to be honest with yourself.
AT: How do you understand that a work is finished?
LDL: In my case I believe that a work is finished when it survives me and my indifference towards it. If a work returns to the studio after an exhibition or even several exhibitions or, if it has been in my way for years, probably it will be easily repainted or destroyed. In my opinion, painting is an extremely experiential fact; so much so and in such a radical way that once that what I call “the adventure of doing” is over, I become extremely indifferent to the physical future of the work. I don’t care, I don’t keep track of the physical movements of the works that they can remain for years at my friends’ place, in some garage or warehouse, in some gallery or even under the bed. In Bologna during the academic years I worked mainly on the idea of unfinished. It used to happen that as soon as I started painting in the classroom, as I had no other place to work but the academy itself, some of the other students passed by. Most of the time I had just started painting a new surface and almost nobody could keep quiet. In fact, it always happened that one, passing by, exclaimed: “good job”, “beautiful”, “so cool!” “Why don’t you leave it like this” “I think it’s over.” To sum up, at some point I played or was played from those extemporaneous points of view. I walked away, looked at the painting and unfortunately I also used to think a lot. I have worked on many paintings where I left most of the white canvas untouched. I let the gaze of others work with mine. I don’t know if it’s wrong, maybe yes, but I l’ve learnt from those daily experiences. For me there are no finished paintings, there is just what I have to say and sometimes I may have said it in a few moments, other times it takes years. Time is the true theme of painting.
Tenda di Grizzana, 2017, Oil on canvas, 80×60 cm | courtesy Yellow, Varese | ph. Cosimo Filippini
Tavola di Grizzana, 2017, Oil on canvas, 80×60 cm | courtesy Yellow, Varese | ph. Cosimo Filippini
AT: Where does the inspiration for the work come from?
LDL: There is no inspiration but there is work. When I work, I work and when I don’t work it’s a problem for me and for my painting. Inspiration is simply to work every day.
AT: Are there any artists who influenced your works? Why?
LDL: I fall in love easily and in painting I declare all my loves. I have in my mind a nice quotation, I think, attributed to Manet “I am influenced by everybody. But every time I put my hands in my pockets I find someone else’s fingers there.” I am also obviously influenced by certain painters, I would say now considered traditional, but I don’t live it as a problem, as in some way I feel that painting is like this. If you feel you have to make a gesture on the canvas or you feel that you want a certain vibration of the material on the painting, you have to do it and, at that moment, it doesn’t matter if someone did the same some time before you. I am not that someone and I do what I need. Doing other stuff than what you actually feel is a lie that doesn’t stand up.
AT: How important is the role of social media for you?
LDL: I know, you shouldn’t answer one question with another, but why haven’t we wondered if the invention of electric light has changed the way we see the painting, previously done by candlelight or in the sunlight? I mean, we know it now, however I don’t think that many have thought about it, even if the problem has been raised by several voices and it is more relevant, I believe. I can’t understand what kind of changes social media have brought. Certainly we have witnessed the massive use of the new media by practically everyone. Everyone has used them as they thought it was most appropriate way. As I am sceptical about everything, I think that things deeply change more slowly than we tend to believe. Of course, the world has changed and will go on changing, but if the big underlying themes, the main matters, don’t variate, I don’t know how much a real change can be ascertained. In an apparently paradoxical way, in the period of the new media we have come back to use traditional techniques. This is not an unimportant signal in any way we want to look at it.
Niente da dire sempre molto da imparare, 2018, Oil on canvas, 30×24 cm
Ocretto, 2018, Oil on canvas, 40×30 cm
AT: As an artist, what is your point of view about the contemporary art system?
LDL: I haven’t got a very precise idea. The moment we live in is so critical that jeopardizes everything, including what we used to call, in a generic and imprecise way “system”. If a system is made up of several parts and each of them performs a function inherent to a purpose, I would say, that this is the perfect moment to create a real system, as it hasn’t happened for a long time. Structural issues can now be tackled; for instance, it would be possible once and for all to clarify what are the whole series of figures which are moving and working actively in order to produce culture for the state, as the state itself currently seems to be more or less covertly ignoring their existence. Anyway, the topic is broad and I am technically poorly competent, but doing for once really network and working together or even struggling together you could achieve significant results and, at least, for a certain lasting period.
LDL: What do you find to be the most challenging or daunting thing about pursuing art? What is the most rewarding part of working as an artist?
LDL: In recent years the most rewarding thing for me is certainly the work in close contact with other painters. They are precious to me. I can’t deny that I always become very attached to the people I respect and, luckily, I value many colleagues. The more the time passes, the more I owe them a lot of what I do out of the studio. Many exhibitions, many occasions and projects start from the invitation of a friend. I’m glad of it. Sometimes they are tiny things but extremely precious to me and I am not ashamed to admit it, even though I may seem a small, stupid provincial. Sometimes the most frustrating part is to understand that you run up into your own limits, most of the time always the same ones. In the cyclical disenchantment, with sometimes the desire to destroy everything. It happens that I have long stops, months in which no leaves move in nor out of me. I am extremely moody at work. However, to tell the truth, I don’t know if I live all this as something that discourages me, as I hardly feel discouraged. I can go into trouble and suffer but I’m a good fighter and I hardly give up.
AT: What do you do besides art?
LDL: I have many other passions and sometimes I don’t have enough time to explore them all as I would like to. I really love reading, watching movies and I have a fairly obsessive passion for chess, that I would like to live actually as a true agonist. I also like philosophy and I love poetry, I like walking, I like mountains, woods and mountain villages. Last but not least, I have a very serious candy addiction, I like gummy candies, a lot, maybe too much.
AT: What are your goals and expectations for the future?
LDL: Actually I have no expectations but the desire to paint more and for as long as possible. If I succeed, I would like to do it for a tirelessly period. I dream of painting for ten years on the same canvas every day. The next projects are all connected to other painter friends: a great and affectionate group organised by Davide Serpetti, an exhibition with Lara Braconi and the writings of Marta Sironi. The last two are very people for my work. Furthermore, I also dream of cooperating with Alessandro Saturno Martinelli in Bologna. Everything comes very naturally, everything is uncertain and in power. In my opinion this is the best way to work, free and concentrated or even free and very loosely concentrated.
Studio in Penne, Italy
"I am a traditional painter: I use canvases, wooden frames, cotton or linen canvas, wooden boards, paper, cardboard, acetate, plastics. Above all I use oil paint which allows me to do everything I want. I don't need much else. The whole experimental and research aspect doesn’t come from the materials, but from way of proceeding in making and building painting, which is always different. I consider myself an experimenter, because I believe, perhaps wrongly, to put myself in front of the picture every time in a different way". Lorenzo Di Lucido (b. 1983) is an Italian painter currently living and working between Milan and Penne, Italy.