My path was destined to something totally different. I started studying at the scientific high school and after having worked a few years in a moving company that bankrupted, I decided to get back to school and with the support of my parents, I started the academy of fine arts in Brescia.
My mother has always been very artistic too, my father is more pragmatic therefore it was more difficult for him to accept an artistic path because he did not see any future for me. However they pushed me to do the academy, where I took the class of classical decoration techniques and during these years of studies I was lucky enough to meet Walter, founder of Orticanoodles in Milan.
He simply asked me if I would like to start collaborating with him and from there we started a durable working relationship. Now, my collaboration with Orticanoodles represents 70% of my work.
And with Orticanoodles, what do you do exactly?
Working with Orticanoodles is a big opportunity, because alone, I have not done anything significant yet. Walter, the founder was a graphic designer and he decided 10 years ago to embark on an artistic career. He manages to use his advertising skills and collaborates with students and former students for their artistic and technical skills. He was a professor at the academy so that’s how we met.
Making an artist’s career, however, is not easy every day … I can live and survive from art, because I do not have any bills to pay still living with my parents, and I have a regular VAT number to be able to “practice” my art legally. In the last 2 years the amount of work has greatly increased. Orticanoodles has formed a laboratory located in the Ortica district of Milan, slowly transforming their activity into a real urban guerrilla campaign.
Since 2004, the street art has made its appearance in the streets of the main European cities, first with stickering and gluing posters, then with creations based on a pop code focused on the use of the stencil technique. The most recent works are based on the new concept of stencil on stencil, where portraits of famous leaders, iconic characters or artists overlap with words to create a continuous relationship between the subject and the message.
Are there any recent artists who have influenced you or inspired you?
Banksy is a very special character, I can not say that he has influenced me because his art is very subtle and he makes an explicit propaganda, very political, his messages are often very strong, very impactful. The technical aspects are perhaps a bit more ransom, even if through the stencil, he manages to get beautiful results.
I get more inspired by great artists like Obey, who have a more decorative form, while also maintaining a very specific meaning. Other artists that I really appreciate are Patrick Commecy with his trompe l’oeil which are wonderful works and C215 – with his technique of stencil that mixes spots of color, and shadow / light.
Street art has also become a bit of a trend …?
Yes, it’s also the right time to take this path, and street art now has a very special meaning.
In fact, street art has evolved very fast. Street art is a very generic term that indicates the art that takes place in the street but it is divided into many forms. We need to distinguish graffiti, an exclusive form, which tends to exclude people who are not part of the graffiti world. Sometimes they are codes, we do not even read them, it’s a way of social protest. Although now graffiti has evolved and there are some beautiful works, nobody will pay for graffiti because they do not allow you to enter their world.
Muralism, or wall decoration, is inclusive. We can see its origins even before the 1920s in Mexico, but muralism is also present in the Bible! It allows you to give an identity, to talk about the origins of things.
And then there’s a mix of the 2 things, the big cauldron of street art, figurative, legal, abusive, etc …
Speaking of identity, in some of our works, the meaning is very much sought after, on a work we did in Milan, the poppies are the symbol of the workers’ struggle, for someone who does not know it, it is just a flower theme, we say that our work is stratified, for one who knows the meaning of the poppy, and especially the place where it was painted, a former factory, then there is an extra layer.
I saw many of your works on social media and the floral theme comes back very often …
It is actually something we are doing now, we started with the representation of faces as early works, and now we focused on the floral theme for technical reasons and more administrative reasons, working closely with the administration, they need to agree on the painting… Really, it is the difference with Banksy, he works completely anonymous and in lawlessness. We have a client, and therefore we must always reach a compromise with our patron.
So how does it work, can you tell me a little bit about the process in order to get a job?
There are many ways to get a job, public calls, word of mouth, agencies and clients (for social responsability) that we often rely on. It is a very difficult world, an artist needs, for example, to know what kind of VAT number he needs to open. As artists, we only think about what to achieve, but behind there are a lot of mechanisms, like opening a building site, land occupation, because in the end the wall is a public space!
There are still many things to define, despite being a very old job. Sometimes they make calls on surfaces that we can hardly do, for our work we have to be at least 2 people, in order to make a surface of a certain type, we must be in 4 or 5, have a license for the crane, or meet a deadline, and have technical skills that are sometimes greater than the artistic ones. There are those who accept smaller surfaces and work freehand, and their works are incredible.
Certain things are unattainable on limited surfaces because you would not have an overview and that’s why the most important part of our work is the design and construction part. Sometimes, companies have a budget to position themselves as social responsibility and therefore choose to invest in art. These companies, often, remain anonymous, or advertise themselves by posting videos of the construction site on social networks, for example.
I’ll give you another example: the administration in Milan has some problems with graffiti (in open spaces), and thefore asks for help from street artists. The achievements are normally made with the help of sponsors. The last work we finished was in fact funded by Fastweb. Fastweb does not appear at all, but for example in this case the work had to be done in their company colors.Then a plate is placed with the name of the artist and the sponsor.
In that case, the flowers, the azaleas represent the women of the Zaro neighborhood, women are famously strong because in that neighborhood many men went to jail and so they had to carry on by themselves and take care of their families. Historically it is a bad neighborhood, not anymore though, but it represented the history of the neighborhood. It is always a stratified message, not always obvious, but if you dig a little more, you understand the “hidden” message .
As for the technique, what do you use? How do you paint?
The sketch is made by hand or computer, and then this sketch is digitized in vector format, to print the matrices of the sheets and put on the wall the proportions of the design. Then we cut these lines with cutters, and with glue the sheets are placed on the wall in maximum line, so you can already see the contours of the design. After that, we put a fixative primer, which makes adhesion between plaster and paint and then we proceed with external acrylics.
We have done other jobs with industrial paints, or quartz but the best performance for the exterior is acrylic.
The fact that the temporality of the work should not be a negative factor, because of the investments made, we try to make it optimal. The acrylics we use last about 5 years, and the vinyl protection for the rain is to be put at the end of the work. They are more or less shiny or opaque mediums. You can not always use them because you must also think with the humidity … otherwise it would form bubbles.
Tell us a little bit about the history of the mural you made in Cremona near the station.
The process started more than two years ago. We did it in June 2017. Almost two years ago, I had sent an email to the city of Cremona to propose my services. I wanted to do something for my city. Initially they had given me another wall and I had planned something else, and then this request of the state railways arrived, they gave a quota for the realization, also because the district of the old customs is a developing neighborhood, which they try to renovate. The project should not end there, I was thinking about how to continue the work, I proposed to continue the work towards a park that they want to create. Let’s see what happens…
With the undulating part of the wall, it was a bit more complicated, but in the end the wall is slightly sloping! It was possible to work well … it was just a question of defining the shaded areas well!
Is there also a musical theme on this work? No time no Space is a Battiato song … why this choice?
The truth is, this work was presented as my thesis, and I had thought of this title no time no space, because during the car trip to go give my thesis, I heard this song. it is also related to the fact that the journey is part of the place … The journey is part of human nature. Sometimes one can do something, and only after a while, he sees and understands the meaning, the art can be very intuitive.
They opened a street art museum in Berlin, what do you think?
One of the terms today that is much discussed in street art is the “gentrification” which is a phenomenon that goes hand in hand with progress. When there is progress there is gentrification. The intention is to create, a district is upgraded and acquires value, then a new middle class settles, a middle class which has commercial needs (hipster bars, craft beer, Mexican restaurant) and the street art is involved in this phenomenon because it has this value of being urban. If we look at the old customs in Cremona, just by making a mural, we have delimited an area where they now can make investments to make it more dynamic.
Another example: the Isola district in Milan, the fashion district, of finance today, in the 80s was full of graffiti …
These activities of gentrification can be seen even without street art, the cities expand, the poorest are incorporated, and then there is a building speculation to have a better life.
Blu in Berlin was one of the first to set an example for this phenomenon … if the work is decorative and layered, regardless of who lives there, it touches a wider audience.
Are you working on something new?
We have finished the work of the poppies (Orme). Think that most of our activity is generally done from March to October. At that time, we make 90 percent of the turnover …
During the winter, you can work on smaller places inside.
I’ve made some of the most personal paintings during winter time, but they do not convince me, I’m still looking for my style. Reducing the size of the work means drastically increasing the detail … On a painting I would like to give something more personal, to have my own direction. Some of them are at home in the cellar! 😊
However, this year has been a full and very positive year. The next 2 years, we already have 16 murals due in Milan, so we will already be full of work, already booked.
Do you want to experiment with other techniques? In the future?
I want to deepen my personal paintings. It is not a simple road but if one has the passion, noting is impossible!