Interview by Simo Capecchi
USK correspondent (Naples, Italy) [blog]
Italian artist Stefano Faravelli will be in Rome at the Oriental Art Museum Tucci tomorrow february 26 to present Giappone. Taccuini del mondo fluttuante, a book with sketches and paintings from his japanese trip, with a documentary by Stefano Folgaria. Trailer with english subtitles here, other short videos were uploaded from Japan: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Original sketchbooks will be exhibited since march 13.
Drawing on the spot. Why do you like to draw on location and, when you draw, what happens around you?Gathering around me, children watch as I dip a brush into the salt water of a rock pool, where I have placed an octopus that I have just caught with my hands. I’m painting the octopus while, like Proteus, the old man of the sea recounted by Homer, it changes into rock, seaweed or a pool of shadow on the worn stone.
When I paint I am always surprised by how the hand, the eye and the brain can give a different form to this life, how drawing and painting can penetrate its changing unity and celebrate its amazing beauty.
Drawing on the spot is a necessary condition for grasping the substantial unity of the perceived world, as Pavel Florenskji used to teach, without any mediation. This is only possible when "the soul merges with the perceived phenomena".
Drawing makes this fusion possible, through an extremely complex back-and-forth relationship between the gaze, the hand and the signals that travel through the cerebral cortex, and which are one with the object that we are looking at, with the light that enables us to see it. When I draw, I become an octopus, a rock, a piece of seaweed or a shadow.
Then, there is that whole world of interactions that make drawing on the spot such a fascinating experience, that generate unexpected reactions in the spectator, setting in motion interesting situations. I have wonderful stories to tell, stories which have inspired many pages of my books.
Organizing the trip. How do you prepare for a new journey and how do you organize your work? When you return home, do you use other iconographic sources or photographs?I have a personal notebook, which records my studies and direct approach to reality, as well as the books that combine my personal work with the demands of more complex communicative and narrative schemes.
In this case, the work that I do on the spot, which remains the backbone of the book, enters into dialogue with the work that I carry out in my studio using sketches or photographs, with inventions or interventions of graphical “philology” coming from the books. I always write the texts separately, in a special notebook, and then integrate them into the page later.
My sketchbooks are not intended as a spontaneous demonstration of technical skill, but rather as a narrative account of my spiritual experience of a country. I try to capture a whole world in these books, offering the reader the miracle of travelling without moving. The page must be able to bring about a shrinkage of time and space in order to unleash these later at a narrative and symbolic level. In this sense, the preparation for a journey is fundamental.
When going to Japan, I didn’t even look at a tourist guide, but I read everything that Mishima and Tanizaki wrote, as well as Zen philosophy, Murasaki, Harris and Fosco Maraini. Not to mention my strong relationship with the Japanese figurative tradition, which has inspired my work for years. Once I arrived, I felt like I had already been there an infinity of times, seeing through different eyes. Having said that, it is nevertheless true that the work that you do “on the spot” has a special energy which plays a crucial role in the finished book.
Writing and drawing. Your sketchbooks are filled with writing. Years ago I never used to write anything in my sketchbooks. In fact, it was you who encouraged me to take this step. Why is this so important?I use writing not only in the form of mnemonic notation: for me, the text expresses a thought, which is at the very heart of what is visible. My texts are not only captions for my drawings, but become other images, images that are simply expressed in another way. Consider, for instance, the importance of calligraphy, one of the most important forms of art in the East (including China, Japan, the Islamic world). In a work of calligraphy, what is image and what is writing?
Perhaps the best example of what I have in mind are the medieval maps of the world: it’s amazing how writing and images are woven together in these maps to form a real support for meditation. They were not a tool to navigate the meridians and parallels, but rather "mystical machines", where words and drawings permitted mental and moral pilgrimages, real journeys for those who remained in one place.
Drawing reality. What is your relationship to the things that you portray in your sketchbooks? Do you add, remove or distort reality, or do you try to be faithful to it? Why do you add fragments collected on location, like scraps of paper or small objects?What does it mean to seek to be faithful? Our gaze is certainly always selective, because our way of being in the world is selective – we are always a “point of view”. I choose to recount certain things and not others, but the point is to "save one's soul" when we choose how to recount them. It is this sense that I reduce “subjective distortion” to a minimum. The insertion of objects like paper, leaves, monkey or camel hairs, creates a further connection with that substance, drawing the world into the sketchbook.
(thanks to J. Pratchke for translation).
• Stefano Faravelli web site.
• Visit Stefano's studio in a short documentary
• Three of his sketchbooks in video.
• Italian version and more here.