Angelo Bellobono is a great artist who lives part-time in New York, Morocco and Italy. When I first saw his hauntingly beautiful paintings on his website www.angelobellobono.com, I knew I had to chat with him. Here’s our cool chat…
MICHAEL: Hey Angelo, First of all, you have a super cool name. Angelo Bellobono! Love it. When I look at your work, I think about evolution, transformation and the changing nature of things. Your abstract works seem to show figuration in them and your figurative works seems like they're coming from abstraction. Am I right?
ANGELO: Hi Michael, Nice to hear from you. You really caught the abstraction and figurative content of my paintings. My work is related to the weakness of the identity. Everything is in continual transformation, the geological aspects and biological adaptations.
MICHAEL: Are you saying that human identity never reaches a final destination? Are we not basically the same people we were as kids growing up?
ANGELO: Now, more than ever, humans are in a constant anthropological experiment connected to the geopolitical shift, but now this change is accelerating excessively compared to adaptations that the environment can support. Maybe the final destination is not too far away.
MICHAEL: Absolutely. There also seems to be a great deal of fear out there because things are changing so much and so quickly. But aren't we ultimately responsible? I mean, the earth isn't polluting itself and things like greed and murder are man-made creations.
ANGELO: The point is that the planet on which we live is a living body just as we are. Its organs and systems get sick and the planet reacts by putting in place systems for defense, antibodies against pathogens that undermine the safety. Perhaps at this point we might be seen as viruses, parasites to fight with. Art is one of those codes that humans have chosen to use ... that contribute to some systemic harmony.
MICHAEL: Back to your work. I notice that you don't use a lot of color. You have lots of black, white, gray and blue hues. I love that. Do you minimize color for dramatic effect?
ANGELO: Basically I'm not interested in the decorative aspects of the work. I try to paint atmospheres and not images. The painting is an excuse to take you to see what is happening outside the frame. But I do not dislike color; I use it when I feel it gives balance to my visions. Recently and in the past, I have used color, but in my way of painting, even if I know the project I'm working on, every single picture is a world that generates itself in front of me and I have to follow it. A work is based on the balance between form and content and I always try to take them into account.
MICHAEL: I get a sense of haunting aloneness in your work. The images seem almost like ghosts, No?
ANGELO: I understand this feeling. I think it’s more related to the moment at which something becomes something else; the change of state of matter, of men. The ice melts and reveals stories, the steam covering a picture, a snow storm that mixes the light.
MICHAEL: Aren't you also a ski instructor? What's the Atlas Project?
ANGELO: Yes, I'm a professional ski coach and I did international races for many years, so mountains and ice are part of my life. Having spent two decades as a ski instructor and coach, the elements of ice and mountains are frequent metaphorical elements in my work. Ice represents the planet’s archival memory, and mountains depicted as hinges and not barriers, connecting different cultures rather than dividing them. In 2011, I created the Atla(s)now project in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Atla(s) now is a community platform for cross-disciplinary collaboration and an artist residency program where art and skiing are used as a means of social and economic development of the Berber villages of Imlil, Oukameiden and Asni. As a relational art project, the artists in residence are invited to prepare a site specific work and workshops along with the community, by using local resources and labor to create the first Atlas Spread Out Museum, to activate art workshops and training for local ski instructors and mountain guides, to empower their knowledge and reinforce the local micro-economy.
MICHAEL: Morocco seems like such as exotic, exciting place. Are you living there now? What's it like there? Also, I keep hearing that Italy is in such trouble now. What's going on there?
ANGELO: Morocco is a mix of worlds and landscapes that remind me very much of New Mexico, but also reminds of certain corners of Brooklyn, NY that still keep a cultural authenticity that no longer exists even in old countries. Currently because of the Atla(s)now project, I spend in Morrocco about six months a year. Then, about five months in New York and the rest in my beautiful and mistreated Italy. I believe that the whole world is going through a bad time; great civilizations that have marked the millennia now clash with the knowledge and the desire to be all powerful at the same time. This and one's awareness of democratic processes and the web is a time bomb.
MICHAEL: Are you saying that more people want Democracy and they also want their concerns to be heard? What role do you think art plays in all of this?
ANGELO: In reality, everything is tied to the virtuality of our existence, determined by the technology and the web. Thanks to the web compared to the past, there is a greater knowledge and awareness of democracy, but that perception, which is more virtual than real, always conflicts with genetic defects of man, always the same since millions of years ago. For too many people, democracy means power to assert themselves, instead of sharing the same world. Art should come out of this look at the world. Then it would be a different voice and not relegated to what the world wants.
MICHAEL: Being an Italian artist, do you feel that you're carrying on the tradition of the Old Masters? Or is it more important to have your own voice as simply an artist of the world?
ANGELO: It's important to consider the past in order to get freedom and to pass it is important to acquire knowledge. Looking back to go ahead, not just go ahead and doing the same things of the past, so both.
MICHAEL: What feeling do you have when you have finished a painting? Also, how do you feel when you have sold a painting? Are the feelings the same?
ANGELO: In this period, with the big of engagement with the project Atla(s) now, I'm suffering a lot for not being able to spend my days in the studio. I love the routine of the painter, the long and dilated thinking, the fast action of painting. I love to discover new routes in the paintings. Painting opens up to you and you have to follow it. When a painting is finished, look at him for long. I look at him again before going to sleep and in the morning when I wake up. According to the sensations that it gives me, I decide if it is finished. Selling an artwork, especially these days, I like it.
MICHAEL: I think you should move to New York or London or Los Angeles where more art people will see your work and you can have gallery shows. What do you think?
ANGELO: I do have the studio in Brooklyn and I know very well the New York art world. There is a lot of competition there. Of course, I'm looking always for a better venue to show my work, but the exasperation and speculation of the art system is something I don’t agree. It's all about showing power. I prefer to show the life and the truth. Each place is the right one if it is the place for you. I know lot of people parked in New York for many years and waiting for recognition. Recognition is a nice and welcomed option, but not the main focus.
MICHAEL: I understand. Finally Angelo, art is so difficult. It's difficult to sell, so many people don't appreciate it and the art world is so tough. So why be an artist? You can do something else. No?
ANGELO: Being an artist, it's not a choice. I did not choose art - it is art who chooses me. When you can’t live without make art, when it is an obsession, then you are totally into it. I live quite well with my art, but I also help myself with skiing and professional sports. With art, it’s important to create the conditions to not damage ourselves.
MICHAEL: Thanks Angelo. This has been great.
Check out Angelo and his work at www.angelobellobono.com.