A graphic designer, art teacher and illustrator from Lombardy, Fabrizio Spadini has been living in Tuscany since 2009. Here he has been inspired by the light and landscapes that lead him to paint en plein air every day, just as the members of the Macchiaioli group used to do in the second half of the 19th century. Looking at the young artist’s works, the viewer is struck and transported to a past between the surreal and the realist: elements of the iconography of Japanese animated series from the 1970s and 1980s are elegantly combined with the realist style and atmosphere of the 19th-century painting tradition. The new heroes and fantastic icons, now in the collective imagination, materialise on a realistic plane: an imagined and surreal future made up of waiting, motionless and silent atmospheres, made possible by the fast, non-material brushstrokes.
His artistic poetics are already appreciated in Italy, England and America, and he is part of the Contemporary Italian Art in Netherlands project supported by the Manzoni Kunst Galerie in Oosterwolde.
We get to know the artist Fabrizio Spadini better with five questions:
Many people have asked you why you combine 19th century art with fantastic characters from Japanese manga and anime and cult TV movies/series like Star Trek and Star Wars, would you like to explain this to our audience? If you could go back in time, who would you spend your day with? And if you could get into a comic book, which one would you choose?
I believe that certain narratives belonging to the mass cultural imagination, conveyed by cinema, television, science fiction literature, comics, are at the basis of what is our present. In fact, they constitute established cultural models that have become tradition, in the same way that the pre-industrial visual imagery of the 19th century can be considered as the infancy of the society of the first decades of the 21st century. Juxtaposing these ‘visual and cultural roots’ through pictorial artifice seems to me to be a good way to make people reflect on our contemporaneity. If I could go back in time, I would spend my day with a mid-nineteenth century peasant, one of those you might see in a Fattori painting, I think he would have a lot to teach me. If I could be in a comic book, it would be a story by Milo Manara.
How come art between the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th century is the protagonist of your production? Have you ever thought of experimenting with Renaissance or Baroque art, for example by creating a combination of Japanese sorceresses and Madonnas, even though the theme could become sacrilegious?
Stylistically, I am interested in the transition and evolution of painting at the turn of the century. The spread of photography has allowed painting to break free from the purely mimetic representation of reality, and since the reference models in my works walk the line between reality and imagination, I find it interesting to visually address the pictorial language that developed during that historical period.
I am planning a series of works that deals with the theme of the “wizards” of Japanese animation, but in relation to a theme that concerned the female figure in particular in the first decades of the twentieth century, but I do not want to make anticipations for the moment.
How do you approach the artistic idea: tell us all the secrets of creating your work?
I usually jot down ideas about a subject, a suggestion, but often in front of the empty canvas new ideas emerge and consequently I work quite quickly. I don’t usually make a preparatory drawing and paint freely. Then, when the subject is emerging, I do some iconographic research and look for references to use as a guide for the painting. I often listen to radio dramas or audio books while working. Instead, when I want to get charged up, I listen to cartoon theme songs or film soundtracks that at that moment can reconnect me to a state of mind that I want the work to convey.
The theme of imprisonment: how did the artist Fabrizio Spadini deal with the forced closures caused by Covid-19 in 2020? Has art helped you not to fall into oblivion by creating great new works?
Loneliness has never been a problem for me and my work. I have tried to resist the temptation of trying to tell the present through my works in a didactic way. I am interested in the relationship between man and technology, artificial intelligence, man and the media. In this sense, the course of history is accelerating, which we will only be aware of in several years, and with hindsight we will be able to draw objective conclusions, for better or for worse. The current situation in relation to what is happening in the world since the end of 2019 is creating many divisions, the archetype of the “enemy” of the alien, the rhetoric of war, only emphasise these aspects. I prefer to immerse myself in the colours of my works where the “red zone” is the one that refers to the last rays of the sun at dusk.
Do you have plans for 2021? I know you will be working on Japanese Magpies: which is your favourite and do you already have the ideal setting in mind?
In 2021 I am experimenting with new narrative strands in view of upcoming exhibitions and shows for 2022. In particular, I am working on large format canvases in relation to the Masters of the early 20th century. Although she is not exactly a sorceress, but still possesses uncommon powers, Lamu (or Lum Urusei Yatsura) is definitely my favourite. I’m currently painting a large canvas depicting her in a nocturnal Venetian carnival.
I would like to thank Fabrizio Spadini for sharing his world and his artistic thoughts with us. I invite readers to view the page dedicated to him on the criticoarte.org website: Fabrizio Spadini – Italian art by ELisa Manzoni (criticoarte.org)