Gianni Giuliano is a talented painter who lives in Montreal, Quebec. I really like this interview because it reveals the inspiration behind his work and style www.gianni-giuliano.com, yet Gianni remains real and accessible as a human being. You certainly see this in his work. Here’s our cool chat.
MICHAEL: Hey Gianni, Your work seems very pensive and almost allegorical. I'm not sure what the stories of your paintings might be, but it seems that there should be a painting before or after each one to explain the actual one I'm seeing. What do you think about this?
GIANNI: Actually Michael, I like to think that my paintings are a snapshot into a timeless setting whereby the viewer captures a glimpse of a subtle action that exposes a facet of our human condition. The title of the work is the birth for a narrative that weaves the viewer further into the painting, but then abandons them at the climax so the viewer is left alone to decipher the remaining plot on their own. My work is definitively pensive; they are social, political and emotional commentary on the mechanical/technological world of my time.
MICHAEL: I would imagine this kind of work requires serious concentration. Do you listen to any particular type of music or does you studio have to be a certain way to created a mood?
GIANNI: No, I don't necessarily need to be in a pensive mood, but I definitely need to be in a meditative state during my creative process. Does that make any sense? My focus remains on the creative process throughout regardless of the type of music (classical, rock, heavy metal, punk, electronica, etc) that I am listening to that day or any other sounds that may be playing in the background in my studio. Similar to the hyper media of my time, whereby in some way or form we become de-sensitized to it, I seem to disconnect from any distraction and concentrate solely on my work; the real.
MICHAEL: Are all of your subjects real people? Also, why do you paint yourself? How do you approach human subjects and what are you trying to capture with them? What do you want us to see?
GIANNI: All my subjects in my work are real people; friends, family or acquaintances. When I use myself in a work, I don't necessarily consider them as self-portraits. They are works in which I needed a model, but I was not able to find one at the time that satisfied my needs for that particular painting. The use of the figure allows me to portray narratives in my work while simultaneously exposing the human condition to the viewer. My paintings reflect the triumph of man as the world heads towards an uncertain future.
MICHAEL: Aren't you also a serious marathon runner? Is there any connection for you between your art and your running? Or do they exist in different parts of your mind?
GIANNI: LOL! Seriously? I’d like to think so, but far from it. How did you find out about this information on me? LOL! I started running about four years ago and the sole purpose then was to keep in shape. Today, I realize there is a meditative aspect to my running which I really enjoy, but it does exist in a different part of my mind.
MICHAEL: Duh! Facebook? I thought that since both running and art require inspiration and meditation of sorts, that perhaps there's a connection between the two or perhaps you thought about painting while you're running. Anyway, I like the "Old Masters" way that you create light in your work. How important is this?
GIANNI: The meditation involved both in my art and running pass through different channels and rarely cross. The light in my work is crucial, influenced by Caravaggio who mastered the idea of chiaroscuro and who is also one of my many artists I admire. I like the way it adds a theatrical aspect to my work which complements the staged plots I setup in my paintings.
MICHAEL: Where does your talent come from? Do you come from an artistic family? What was your first experience with art?
GIANNI: It's strange how no one in my family is artistic, but I still found myself at a very young age always drawn to art, with sketches/doodles here and there. Then in my teenage years, I was introduced to comic books. Wow! The creative world had exploded wide open for me and I instantly found myself avidly collecting them mostly for the artist I favored and the storyline was least important. I was admitted in college to the fine arts program with a portfolio that consisted mostly of drawings of comic book characters. LOL! Thinking back at it now, I recall how awful it was. However, it was only in college where I first held a brush on a canvas, and that's where my passion for painting grew. Over the years, I was fortunate enough to be surrounded with professors and colleagues who had a strong understanding of anatomy and they have helped me train my eye how to better perceive. In my case, it's all about determination, hard work and practice, no talent there. Trust me when I tell you that even today when I sit back and look at a work that I have just finished I tell myself, "I gotta work harder.”
MICHAEL: What is Montreal like for artists? Do people there support living artists? Also, I'm a native New Yorker and would love to visit Montreal, but I've heard it's not a friendly city for people who don't speak French.
GIANNI: Montreal is a great multi-ethnic city with a vibrant artistic milieu. We have solid fine art colleges and universities where I have seen some strong visual artists flourish. However, the artistic support is not up to par yet, I guess when compared to cities such as New York City it could look quite small actually. However, I have seen it progress by huge strides in the last few years. It is getting better. The city of Montreal welcomes tourists from all parts of the world. When you do plan to visit, give me a shout and I will prove it to you.
MICHAEL: How do you feel about being an old school painter in such a contemporary, transitional period for art? So much art now is digital photography, installations and conceptual events.
GIANNI: Actually I feel that both figuration and painting are coming back stronger than ever. Good examples of it are artists such as Borresman, Harrington, Currin, Saville, Yuskavage, etc. In any case, I never considered myself as an "Old School Painter." I’d say more like a post-realist painter whom paints and exists in the present time. The knowledge, life experiences and emotions I transfer onto a painting exist in the present, the way the internet is constantly refreshing itself with up to the minute news. The difference is when I create my work it is a temporal process and not mechanical, but unique because of the human touch involved with painting. Just like 3D technology tries to imitate that "real life" experience, a painting does just that and more.
MICHAEL: Interesting. What's your routine? Do you paint in the morning or evening? Where's your studio? Are you a full-time artist? If not, what else do you do?
GIANNI: At the moment, I am studying full time on my Master’s degree in Visual Arts here in Montreal. It is a two-year graduate program, so my studio is temporarily setup at the university. However, I get to take advantage of the natural light that comes through the huge windows that I did not have at my other studio, so most of my work now is done during the day. My schedule is flexible, but recently I’ve found myself working mostly during the week.
MICHAEL: What do you think art school is giving you as an artist that you wouldn't get otherwise? Also, with the world economy in its current state, shouldn't you be getting a law school degree or MBA?
GIANNI: I had reached a point in my artistic career where I felt that my work needed to be challenged. My paintings consisted mostly of only studio work. The emphasis of the university where I chose to do my graduate program is on research, theory and studio. Hence, it is really pushing me to dig deeper into myself. The lectures and questioning have provoked my train of thought, which was exactly what I needed. I could not see myself do anything that is not art related as a career at this stage of my life. Ideally, I want to fully concentrate my career as an artist-painter but the MFA will also open other doors like the possibility to teach at university level.
MICHAEL: What do you think about the art world today and how it functions? It seems to me that most gifted artists don't have wealthy collectors or a lot of art gallery backing.
GIANNI: I am still trying to decipher today's art market with its roles and functions. The picture is getting clearer, but still lots of work to be done. I think that artists today need to be better equipped with the tools to market themselves more efficiently. Talent alone will not necessarily get you to the level you would like to reach.
MICHAEL: Finally Gianni, what role do you believe art plays in the world and what do you want to achieve through your own work?
GIANNI: Wow, that's a loaded question Michael! Art can play so many different roles. I really feel that one of those many roles is to record a current global state of the world as seen through an artist's life experiences, emotions and researched knowledge. Art is like a time capsule without being mechanical nor technological. Equipped with the artist's figure print (human touch) and fully-charged with an intangible power of emotions, it goes beyond just being a picture. That is something that also seems to pre-occupy my work as of late. How can I remove myself from the esthetic concerns of my work and go beyond the image.
MICHAEL: Very cool Gianni. Thanks. We’re done.
GIANNI: I really enjoyed the experience and you have helped me dig further into myself. Thank you once again, appreciate it! As I have said, let me know when you are in Montreal!
Check out Gianni’s work at www.gianni-giuliano.com.