On Painting, Interview with Alberto Sughi (Part VII)
|Theatre of Italy
Biagio Maraldi I think that, to conclude, we could say (as you implicitly and explicitly already have), that your painting does not represent reality in its immediate form, nor, even less, that you can be called a "painter of daily events", as some critics have labelled you.
Alberto Sugi I have now read so many opinions of the characters in my painting, judgements that end up resembling each other... However, many artists are identified by certain characteristics of their work, even when they have completely lost them.
A thousand changes occur in life, so many variations. Even painting, if it does not want to become the mere exercise of a talent, will have to measure itself against everything that is going on in the mind and emotions of the painter.
In my painting, I have tried to understand something that belongs to my time: restlessness, love, and the search for truth, disappointment and loneliness. Perhaps I attribute too much importance to my work. Perhaps I consider it more important than it really is. I speak from my own point of view, naturally, and I don't want to appear overconfident about it.
And yet, what I say can only express that rather dangerous part of my reasoning and convictions, feelings and certainties; the other, more secret part, which perhaps contains the deeper reasons for my being a painter, may also remain unknown to myself. I have tried to answer your questions honestly, restricting myself to what I believe I have understood about the work that I have been doing for forty years, now. Since I have spoken of my painting, of what I do every day with love and commitment, I cannot have maintained the correct sense of detachment that circumstances require, and I apologise for this.
BM This is a declaration of your poetics, a highly lucid judgement of
your condition as a painter and as a man, of your way of living intensely, and your devotion to your art. Obviously, one could claim, with conviction, that painting is essentially form, that is, colour, line and tone; but it is not only this, and you confirm this with strength and passion.
AS The highest possible freedom that an artist can reach depends on his conscience, and on his ability to resolve the problems that art itself sets in front of him
The freedom of the artist is not the freedom that he takes with regard to the external world. It is, perhaps, the commitment to free himself from some of his own prejudices, in order to follow the path of knowledge freely.
BM When you paint, do you imagine the public who will see your painting? Do you have a particular public in mind, or do you paint for yourself, without thinking of your public?
AS I don't think I know how to paint polite, tasteful paintings, to hang on the walls of the houses that we see in magazines, also because I can't imagine any particular public.
A painter, for his paintings, thinks only about the walls of an imaginary museum, which never exists.
BM I would like to ask you one final question, to consider something that will take us through the whole of your work. Does your painting contain well-defined moments, different periods, from the point of view of style and execution, which can be identified within the long journey of your artistic career? An answer could be drawn from what you have already said, but I ask the question for the benefit of the reader, who has followed us to this final phase of our conversation.
AS Yes, as happens to everyone, I have had different experiences. It is easy to identify, in the socio-cultural condition of Man, the most constant characteristic of my work. Whoever wishes to skim through the pages of my career as a painter could not fail to notice the various aspects of an artistic progression, which testifies the sense of curiosity that drives the artist in different directions.
There are periods, for instance, which seem to indicate an attention to a particular area, which, if not actual surreal, is certainly imaginary. I refer here to the cycle Isole (Islands), to the Ville sull'Adriatico (Villas on the Adriatic), and the more recent cycle Oggetti della casa (Objects in the home), which, in their apparent naturalism, have a rather metaphysical function. At other times, my art shows a more analytical viewpoint: I'm thinking here of some paintings in the "green period", of the bushes in which the leaves appear singly, one by one, as if wanting to go from the outlines of things towards their deeper meaning.
More recently, after Teatro d'Italia, which has become the central experience in this conversation, I have created a series of paintings in which the themes of evening, of reflection, of passing years and the marks that they leave, have become a kind of diary.
It is an unusual diary, in which I use large canvases to jot down notes.
You don't go from one idea to another with the intention of diverging from your own choices. There are paths crossing our own, and we cannot avoid stepping along them.
I have never believed, in fact, that there is anything from which one cannot stray. The more our convictions seem absolute, the more I am tempted to question them.
It seems wise, to me, to follow the wind of curiosity, now and then, for no other reason than because you need to.
Alberto Sughi, 1994-2005, Rome
(Translation: Joëlle Mary Crowle)
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