The first time I skyped with Clelia Catalano (our actual first contact), roughly a month ago, to pre-discuss this interview, I was sure she was an artist. She was an artist in the way she was expressing herself, in the cuteness of the way she moved her head shaking those beautiful and tangled curly hair and in the fierceness of her eyes when she was talking about her work and the way she could see herself in an undefined future. Clelia has a dreamish look about herself, a sort of naive feeling to her that may mislead her interlocutor. However, when you listen to her for more than few minutes, the same interlocutor will realise that Clelia is a beautiful creature with clear ideas. Which is something not granted when you come from a society where is almost N/A (not applicable or not… thinkable?) that a person can make a living through Art. She was borne with a gift – to be able to draw – and never thought this could be her “job”. So, between my set of questions and a glass of wine, I asked her… “If you had not become an artist, what would you be today?”. She shrugged and said with a big smile “No idea… Because I cannot do anything else!”.
Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Clelia Catalano…
Q1. Summary – a little background about yourself (study, experiences, awards)
I was borne in Palermo 29 years ago. I grew up there and I was raised in a family where everyone could draw and/or paint. At the age of 19 I went to London to escape the routine and see new things. Back then I just wanted to see and explore the world and I did not know that in a city like London that meant working 2 jobs in order to pay the bills. I was living with my cousin in a tiny flat in Notting Hill. One day, after almost 2 years I was living there, someone broke into our flat and stole everything that had some value: phones, PCs, jewellery… so we were left with nothing at all and we had no money to go back home for Christmas that year. In that very sad moment, both me and my cousin (who could also draw, no exception there!) started making hand-made X-mas cards for the whole family… the result was impressive and there and then I realised for the first time that I could actually “live” of my art. So shortly after this life-changing event, I left London and moved to Florence, where I attended the School of Comics (Illustrations). I started selling my first works when I was barely 24 and I had almost finish the degree. Today I live and work in Rome, where I have a studio flat where I can produce also big-scale works and paintings.
Q2. How would you describe your work and your style?
My paintings are really personal and inspired by basic human feelings. They have nothing political and social. Just human.
My style, on the other end, is really broad: from abstract paintings to gothic style and imaginary scenarios (very Tim Burton!), with romanticism being at the base of each and every painting. I also like to explore new means through different collaborations, such us the ones with the photographers Alessandro Passerini (whose pics have featured on Vogue and National Geographic) and Davide Currao.
Q3. What messages are you trying to convey with your works of art?
I have no messages to divulge or to tell people – I paint just for myself and based on my emotions. Maybe I am in a bit of a “selfish” period of my life, I am not sure, but right now it is simply so. However, one day I would like to be involved in more “socially engaged” projects.
Q4. What means being an artist in this era?
Even though there is some crisis right now, I also have the feeling that artists have more freedom of expression, of executions. In the past, the dependence from church and state was something limiting for the artists – nowadays an artist can express whatever he/she likes, but this obviously also implies the risk of “not being liked” by the public. Everyone is free to do whatever he/she likes. For example – one day I would like to write and produce stories (straight from my imagination) through video-art. Actually, my very first short movie in stop motion, realised in collaboration with Davide Currao, is now in the post-production phase and it will be presented to contemporary art festivals in 2015 and onwards.
Last but not least – I also believe that being an artist right now also means being part of a “machine” or structure which includes powerful players, some sheer luck and a lot of contacts.
Q5. What would you say to people that think “I could have done that, too!” when looking at a contemporary art work?
I also said that for certain works of conceptual art…. And honestly this is just because of the work itself (like the bowl with the water which I touched once I visited the MAXXI Museum in Rome and I was told off by the guard, screaming “DO not touch!! This is a Work of ART!!” … this was just water in a bowl!). Artists are trying to send messages, sometimes also stupid ones, and I have the impression that trying to be so philosophical eventually just result in commercializing the message itself through symbols and simple objects. So yes, I could have done that but I am proud I did not, cause I found them stupid.
I think Art is still beauty and I like to think I will leave something behind in this world that has told a story or has a story to tell.
For people who think they can do it: why they don’t they just go ahead?! This is the best solution. If you have money and someone powerful behind, anything is possible!
All Pics courtesy of the artist(s)
Interview @CarmelaTfr (*Artemporary)
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