Grimacing faces are the main distinctive features in the work of Italian artist Gianna T. While usually working on big canvases, Gianna T’s imagery embodies an array of coherent features and characters. Against the plain-pattern background, his protagonists dominate the canvases through a range of simply-shaped bodies executed in a black-coloured outline and shades of vivid colours. Gianna T (b. 1993) chooses the technique of spray paint and acrylic to render his visualizations. His figures appear in wide dimensions and in prevailing positions over the surfaces of the canvas.
Words: Yannis Kostarias
Having a closer look at his paintings, the unbalanced relationship between the face and the rest of body is evident. The artist gives a greater emphasis on the faces; they demonstrate a clear fascination on the figure’s upper part, whereas the rest of body, such as arms or legs, unveils a diminutive appearance. Executing compositions rapidly and spontaneously, Gianna T’s works showcase indirectly disfigured and naively monstrous characters depicted by a personally undisciplined and mischievous configuration. The spontaneous use of the spray paint, the violent colour-washes, and the intense paint- dripping are vibrant features of his artistry. The whole painting is constructed on a tumult of forceful and dynamic creative methods.
Besides his actual painting stories and depictions, the artist’s output on canvas conveys vibrancy and intensity as well as playfulness and violence. Absorbing these heterogeneous energies, a contradictory alliance of notions is revealed which surprisingly brings up a creative aggressiveness in painting methods and brutal spontaneity in motifs, unlike the nature of his simplified arrangements. The dynamics between the childlike or seemingly effortless compositions are in contrast to the artwork’s conveyed message.
Playing with their body shapes, these characters not only envisage exaggerated features, theatrically grumpy and irritated expressions or gestures, but also finally sum up effects and results that can be both funny and grotesque. Recent paintings, such as New Cross’ State of Mind (2020), Keep it Cool (2020), WTF (2020), present such artistic qualities and style connotations. Based on previous painting values and motifs, GiannaT’s newer paintings (Honeymoon, 2021, or Have a Day Full of Smiles, 2021) aim to present some new versions of his cartoonish creatures. The artist emphasizes the background of the canvases that is either a semi-built brick wall or tiny dots, like small stars or flowers, in an excessive repetition. Romantic or flowerily settings cover big areas of the artwork’s surface and create a visual contradiction with the ghostly, sad or spooky shapes and moods.
Producing geometrically enlarged silhouettes and using bold colour mixtures, the artist establishes a distinctive sort of artistic pattern. His visualizations are continuously overlaid with vigorous brushworks enhancing a colourful disturbance that showcases the artist’s forms of gestural figuration. Evidences of spray paint smears and deliberately tough smudges underline the sweep of the artist’s hand movements. The overall tone of his work ambiguously underscores a well-balanced childlike brutality. The use of this painterly template is highlighted by simplicity, honesty and style.
Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
Every time I have to get started with creating a new artwork, I like to walk for a while so as to free myself from the burden brought about by my inner emotional contrasts. Once I have done that, I normally go to my studio: that’s the place where I am given the opportunity to turn my body into a brush and dance while painting.
How would you define your work in a few words?
I’d say my work is bold, ironic but, first and foremost, sincere.
Could you share with us some insights on your ‘AN INCH AWAY FROM WEEPING, (2021)? Is there any particular story behind this painting? (if there is another work, you’d rather talk about, simply do it).
I’ve made this painting during the previous lockdown. Back then, I was cycling all across South East London as a Deliveroo rider. I used to spend entire days chewing up kilometres on my bike, which often made it impossible for me to even step into my own studio. At a certain point, I decided to set myself one goal: dedicating the few breaks I had from my Deliveroo job to create a new painting full of daisies. After realising that the work was not coming out the way I imagined it would have, I got incredibly upset and began to repeatedly throw paint and water against the left corner of the canvas to the point that the whole studio was flooded with water. From that process, characterised by nervousness and uncontrolled gestures, a whole new character had taken shape before my own eyes. The realisation of having completed that painting despite the initial disappointment freed me from any previous burden and provided me unexpected relief. In the following days, I fully immersed myself in the painting adding the daisies I had thought of at the real beginning so as to confer the artwork a more delicate touch.
Have any artworks emerged from random experiments you developed in your studio or do you always come up with a particular concept or narrative in the very beginning?
I usually start with a given idea which, however, inevitably evolves as I progressively immerse myself in my work and experience the most disparate emotions. What I do is basically translating everything I feel onto the canvas, just like a projector does with images on a plain wall.
Is there any particular theme that utterly triggers you to engage your art with?
Human states of mind and moods are my main sources of inspiration. My goal is to make opposite extremes dialogue through art and its most extravagant expressions.
What would be the best way to exhibit your work?
I tend to look at the world around me as a huge art gallery. The idea of making my work interact with a minimal environment such as the White Cube truly fascinates me, although one of my biggest dreams, in this regard, is doing an exhibition at a retirement home.
Besides working on making paintings, you are also very much into creating video performances in which you first become one with your artwork, making it seem like an alive walking painting creature and then you decide to completely destroy it at the end. What does it mean to you to this game of deconstructing or destroying your paintings?
My preferred art mediums have always been videography and photography. When I first became interested in painting, I felt like I spent a lot of time failing at it, but that’s exactly how I gathered inspiration to further develop my craft. In fact, one day I chose to film myself while interacting with a rather ugly painting I had done. That experiment, which came to me quite unexpectedly, made me understand that my goal is to become one with my artworks on canvas; unfortunately, this often implies the destruction and subsequent loss of my paintings. Still, I really like this sort of ephemeral dance that originates from the interaction between myself, the artist, and the canvas, my object and artistic medium.
Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
Mario Giacomelli is a photographer who has inspired me ever since I started forming myself artistically. His project “Verrà la morte ed avrà i tuoi occhi” (Death will come and it will have your eyes), which captured the elderly living in the retirement homes of Senigallia, struck me to the point that I decided to work as a volunteer in a nursing home for two years. However, since I moved here, I love to spend hours observing and interacting with the customers of the most authentic pubs of South East London. To me, those are the most intriguing, fascinating personalities one should look at when wanting to collect new inspiration.
Does humour play an important role in your art in a relatively unusual way?
In my work, humour plays a crucial role, as it allows me to create ironic images that mock my own troubles and frustrations, eventually serving as the trigger for a cathartic process. In fact, all my concerns and fears are overcome whenever I manage to snatch a smile from the viewer.
Do you wonder if additional work was needed, when an artwork’s making process is finished?
Through my artworks, I want to express and convey what shakes me emotionally at a given moment. As it often happens, emotions only pervade you for a limited period of time: that’s why I always try with all my means to project them onto the canvas before they vanish. Whenever I finally feel that the painting reflects what I initially felt, I consider the work finished; at that stage, continuing to work on it would no longer make sense because the original emotion – which is the real engine of my artistic process – has already been represented. In case I am not sure about it, I ask my girlfriend, Matilde, for advice.
What about the place where you work? What does your studio space look like?
My studio is located in South Bermondsey within a building that used to be a shopping mall. It’s situated on the premises of an industrial area which shows the early signs of gentrification. When I find myself in my studio, the boundaries between my artworks, the walls around me, the floor, and my own clothes vanish in an atmosphere that continuously challenges my perception of what surrounds me, thus providing me with the stimuli necessary to create new pieces of art. That’s something that I experience whenever I paint or work on my videography content. I always feel like I need the freedom to express myself through movement, dirty my clothes, and play around as if I was a kid drawing on the walls of his house. In short, my studio is a proper disaster, yet it’s the only place where I fully feel at ease and able to develop my own ideas.
What does your dad think about your art?
Mauro, Gianna T’s dad: “I love how he becomes one with his artworks through which he continuously comes back to life and dies in a cyclical artistic process. So freaking cool!”
Which are your plans for the near future?
The first thing I want to do in the near future is hugging my grandmother Ida, who I consider my soulmate. Then in September, I will have a group show curated by Trans-curatorial at The Koppel Project (London), where I will both exhibit paintings and perform, I can’t wait to show you what I’ve worked on over the last few months.
All images courtesy of the artist