“At the beginning of 2015 I made my first painting as a self-taught artist. In 5 months, at the age of 30, I decided to quit my job to become a full time painter”.
AT: Where are you from and how/why have you started to engage with art?
SP: Art was not my first love. I graduated from Industrial Design at Politecnico di Milano about 10 years ago, but I started working before my degree, and I got my first job in a local visual communication studio, in the suburbs of Milan. It was a very small studio, and in between advertising commissions, the studio also used to work with some Milanese galleries, setting up art fair boots, or installing artworks in the gallery space or in private collections. This was my first encounter with contemporary art, and from that moment I developed my interest in art.
AT: When did it become serious?
SP: I worked as an art director in international advertising agencies in Milan for four years. After the first two years, the creative job became very boring and frustrating. I started to develop personal creative projects on the side, in my free time. These projects were mostly about graphic design and illustration. Day by day, this projects were becoming more artistic in a certain way. I started to work with collages, and at the beginning of 2015 I made my first painting as a self-taught artist. In 5 months, at the age of 30, I decided to quit my job to become a full time painter.
AT: Are there any people that have been significant in your progression as an artist?
SP: Of course, but the more I progress as an artist, the more I understand that it’s about the quality of a meeting, more than the extent of a relationship. I mean, you work directly with an art dealer for many years and you think you’re progressing with him year by year; but then, you occasionally meet an artist or just a common person that changes your perspective and you are not even conscious about it. I think these kind of encounters are the most relevant in an artist’s progression. The unexpected ones.
AT: What’s your first approach to the work? How would you describe your practice?
SP: I recently figured out that social networks changed my approach to painting, especially in the selection of the subjects. Let’s think about Instagram for example: we all use this social network to promote our works, or to share our daily experiences. And during a Instagram session, we browse through pictures or videos from people we are following. And since we follow them, it means we have common interests (of any kind). So in a session, I randomly bump into a beautiful landscape, a yummy chef’s course, a detail of a painting, a selfie, a still life, an advertising (tailored on my person), a quote from a poet, a funny sign, a book cover, or whatever…What is important here, is that all these pictures or animations -all of them- are representations of my interests: I save the most interesting ones in a folder (by taking a screenshot), and they constitute a sort of a painting-subject’s bank. I’m very satisfied by this process, because I hate to repeat myself in painting, and this process allows me to be very eclectic. I think this is also a digital representation of a stream of consciousness.
Exhibition view Stefano Perrone and Przemek Pyszczek, In Conversation Chapter #1, 2020, RIBOT, Milan | courtesy the artist and RIBOT.
AT: What are your favourite tools and materials for working?
SP: I work with oil painting; I usually work on canvas for big scale works, and on wood panels for the small ones. I also make a lot of studies on paper, any kind of paper, working with pencils and oil pastels.
AT: Do you leave your work open to interpretation? Or do you think the viewer should engage with your work in a specific way?
SP: My work moves in between figuration and abstraction. I like to play on the edge. Sometimes my works are very explicit, but sometimes especially when I introduce a ‘human’ figure, or ‘avatar’, they are very open to interpretation. Sometimes I ‘design’ the painting in advance, sometimes it develops during the process: this makes a big difference, between a conscious and a sub-conscious work. I’d like and I wish that my audience does not expect what I’m gonna paint next.
AT: What do you feel while you work? Do you usually think about the final outcome beforehand?
SP: The more I see the painting coming out, the more I get excited. But the beginning is usually very slow and flat. I suffer a lot the ‘blank canvas effect’. The execution is a kind of meditative and zen experience, I’m very methodical, preparing the canvas, shaping the tapes… it doesn’t mean that there’s no chance or happenings in my work. The chance always takes advantage during the process, but my intention is to control it. It’s a sort of fight between stringency and chaos but in the end, the final result is never what I expected.
AT: How do you understand that a work is finished?
SP: With my technique, it’s very difficult to retrace my steps. The surface is usually flat and the painting’s layer is very thin. So I cover the canvas’s surface shape by shape, gradient by gradient. The last thing I paint is the VECTOR (the line). So I absolutely know when the painting is finished. And it’s when I finished to trace the vector: also the vector is completely free-hand, I don’t use the masking tape to paint it usually. This also forces me to stay focused until the very last brushstroke.
“Camice su camicia”, 145×115 cm, oil on canvas, 2020 | courtesy the artist and RIBOT.
“Il divano”, 140×100 cm, oil on canvas, 2019 | courtesy the artist and RIBOT.
AT: Where does the inspiration for the work come from?
SP: The inspiration comes from working. Usually the painting I am working on inspires the next one, in a sort of stream of consciousness process. As I said before, the social network works like an image bank, but I’m also very inspired by street life, especially local street markets, daily home situations and routines, XXth century art and design.
AT: Do you think art can be learned or it is something innate?
SP: I think being an artist is like any other jobs, it means that it can be learned. It’s not something innate. But the artist’s sensitivity cannot be learned. You can train it, but sensitivity is something strictly related to your own character. Anyway, nowadays art is much more more about self-branding and marketing.
AT: Are there any artists who influenced your works? Why?
SP: I am a self-taught artist, and I’ve learned painting looking at the XXth century masters in the museums. Lately, I’m having a big crush on Flemish and Renaissance masters. Why? Because I think their technique is so high that it transcends the notion of painting, they’re beyond painting.
AT: How important is the role of social media for you?
SP: Social media was extremely important for me especially at the beginning: as a self-taught artist, not being part of an academic or artistic circle, it was the only way to show my work and my progressions, and Instagram helped me to reach new scenarios and visibility. But if four years ago it was just an alternative way to show your work to the audience, today it is the main one, and it is becoming the only one. The consequence is that we have a sort of art-pollution. Contents’ overproduction and oversharing. This is leading artists, curators and art dealers to lose their criticism and self-criticism.
“Le dinamiche di un panetto di burro”, 49×34,5 cm, oil on panel, 2020 | courtesy the artist and RIBOT.
“Moka su metano”, 65×50 cm, oil on canvas, 2020 | courtesy the artist and RIBOT.
AT: As an artist, what is your point of view about the contemporary art system?
SP: I have nothing to say about the art system. I personally notice that when I talk about “Art System”, I immediately refer to the negative conception of it, the dark side, something related to a closed circle, a sect. Best not to think about it.
AT: 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?
SP: The most rewarding part is the freedom of expressing yourself with no constrains. The most challenging thing is to judge your work with the right dose of self-criticism. The most daunting thing is not having the finances to realize your ideas the way you imagine them to be.
AT: What do you do besides art?
SP: I like travelling. I don’t like spending time always in the same city. I get bored quickly. Last year I started teaching art theory, and I really like it.
AT: What are your goals and expectations for the future? New projects?
SP: Talking about goals and expectations during a pandemic seems utopian. Also expectation only generates disappointment and no pleasure. But I’m very excited about a new body of works I recently started: I’m focusing my attention on local street market signs. I was visiting street food market stands, taking still life pictures of food, and I realized that these signs were catching my eyes, because they had a unique minimalistic aesthetic, I’d say a nonchalance aesthetic, informal, without grace. They’re also full of grammatical errors, illiteracy. They are very sincere and a statement of our very local culture, and I want to freeze, replicate and paint them.
“Fallimemto 5.99 €”, iPhone shot, 2020 / “Fallimento 5.99 €”, 35,5 x 51 cm, oil on panel, 2020 | courtesy the artist and RIBOT.
Stefano Perrone (b. 1985) is an Italian artist currently living and working in Monza, Italy. Perrone is considered a self-taught painter who has developed his own distinctive style: he concentrates his imagery on abstract paintings of figures and still lifes. His body of work presents brightly-saturated visualizations that remarkably depict intriguing concepts of fantasy and surrealism.