Constructing a series of evocatively balanced pale paintings, Luca De Angelis’ work explores mainly bucolic landscapes as well as an emotive style of portraiture. Both parameters remarkably collide within the artist’s imagery attempting to convey significant painterly qualities on the representation of a man or a woman as a distinctive human subject on his canvases. These figures seem to be strictly bonded with the aesthetical appeal of his surrounding scenery where his portrait paintings do make more sense, if only they are seen through all the landscape’s enigmatic energy that reciprocally enhances the aesthetic and inner essence of the portrayed subject. Therefore, interpretation eventually comes from the understanding of both parts.
Words: Yannis Kostarias
The characteristic colour palette gets rather distinctive and successfully renders a significant coherence to his arrangements throughout his works allowing the viewers’ eyes to fairly cope with his work even from a distant perspective. Moreover, a mystical and rich plantation is accordingly accompanied by the same sky horizon energy, which augments the artist’s flowing sense of mystery and symbolism. Purple hues in wide array in his works are usually associated with mystery, spirituality or power and operate as a strong visual statement along with red, blue or green colours that additionally govern his body of work. The idea of the unknown invites to be explored and it is stated by the figures’ gestures and facial looks that both unveil this level of spiritual magnetism as if a creative task is given by the painter to the viewer.
Besides this sort of supernatural perception in his artistry, Luca De Angelis puts an emphasis on an eerie bodily physicality. Despite their reserved or less communicative expressions, their gaze remains powerful and strong manifesting a potentially intense background context. Their anatomy underlines lucidity of expression and intensity via an enlarged body shape, long hair and particularly bony upper and lower limbs. The artist clearly examines the art field of a clear and prudent figurative painting work. However, nothing looks unbalanced in these mysterious figurative visualizations; on the contrary, everything contributes to triggering unconscious feelings of the viewer.
Could you share with us some insights on your painting ‘Wanderer of the Nadir’(2022)? Is there any particular story behind this new work?
There is no actual story or narrative behind each of my works; the figures I depict are never the characters in a story, nor are the scenes I paint the fragments of a tale.
I like to think of images as the manifestation of a hazy reminiscence, a familiar memory that is difficult to grasp and materialise.
When I started conceptualising ‘Wanderer of the Nadir’, what I had in mind was a scene that could evoke the simulacrum of a story; I was interested in focusing all my attention on a character whose presence would impose itself through his physicality.
The scene I put forward is deeply rooted in the temporal plane of the present; the absence of elements that might lead you to reflect on events preceding or following that moment contributes to creating an atmosphere of suspension. I am interested in such suspension because it creates otherness and mystery.
Also, by its very nature, the figure of the wanderer represents something that eludes its own identification; it is the symbol of something that cannot be contained within certain boundaries.
I have deliberately engaged in a dialogue with these two opposites, namely the almost sculptural sturdiness of the figure and the precariousness of its content.
There is your new exhibition at Annarumma gallery in Napoli that is going to take place very soon. Could you talk about your new works that you’re showing at that show?
The Annarumma Gallery will host my first solo exhibition at its new space. The project I have developed consists of ten works in different formats, ranging from small to large.
With this exhibition, I am continuing along the path I embarked on a few years ago, which sees the elements of the human figure and nature as the main protagonists of my works.
The theme of figures and landscapes is not new in the history of art, since it is a classic theme in painting that has always fascinated me. I believe that what intrigues me most is to investigate the dimension that is created when these two polarities come together; it seems to me that different layers of meaning can arise from their dialogue, which escape a single interpretation.
Hence the desire to call the exhibition ‘Nadir’, a term whose technical meaning defines the polarity opposite to Zenit and indicates one of the six dimensions that all bodies have, i.e. depth. Of course, I am not interested in the concept of depth from an astronomical point of view. I borrowed this term to describe a symbolic and metaphorical depth – an inner depth that coincides with the geographical location that is most difficult to reach.
Many of your protagonists reveal a quite enigmatic look in your very well-structured compositions enhancing the boarder visual landscape with an attractive contrast between mystery and a severe code of behaviour. Could you give us some more details about your figures that always feature your paintings some of whom they look to have a very distinguished presence on your canvases?
The characters I depict have the task of manifesting a physical and bodily presence. I want these subjects to communicate as little as possible. The communication element is reduced to a minimum, and their movements serve to highlight a tensing anatomy.
These figures are meant to communicate a stubborn physicality, a solid presence that is essential to emphasise the contrast with a context that is fluid and dynamic instead.
Of course, my veneration for some of the great authors of art history emerges from these figures. I cannot deny that the bodies I depict owe a debt to Picasso’s figures of the blue and pink period, or to the representations of Christ by authors such as Giovanni Bellini and Carlo Crivelli.
Your body of work gives an impression of a more intimate relationship of yours with plantation, trees or vast flower fields. Is this assumption adaptable to your paintings? If so, do your works disclose any further significant regarding this sort of plantation to your imagery as well?
I would say that the natural landscape in the background is not only a useful context for the figures; I believe that they have equal dignity, and that they both act as subjects.
Vegetation is a co-protagonist in my work, and unlike the rigid bodies, its silhouette is sinuous and penetrating. While at first glance it can be insidious, I believe it has an ambivalent quality. I am interested in representing something that can attract but at the same time conceal a potential threat, as if its deeper feeling could change depending on the meaning you attribute to it.
The landscape I depict is probably the manifestation of an inner scenario that is ready to be shaped.
What envelops the figures is a cramped, flashy, unreal landscape made up of plants, leaves and flowers that grow to form a kind of pattern.
This tangle of vegetation, which proliferates and reaches every area of the surface, serves to deny space depth. When I think about nature and the figures in my paintings, I feel that they are inextricably linked, as if the figures were direct emanations of the landscape.
Could you tell us about your colour selection? It looks like you put a great emphasis on the combination of your hues and tones.
I am attached to certain colours, and I feel particularly in tune with certain tones. When using them, I feel I am in a comfort zone, a safe space. I don’t want the predisposition that I have towards these tones to be feel forced, but I am certainly not always happy with using certain colours rather than others. I have tried to expand my palette, but I immediately give up if I feel that it is difficult or uncomfortable for me to use certain colours.
To use a colour palette that does not suit me would undermine the atmosphere of the painting. The closeness I feel with certain hues is not something I can explain. The predisposition towards certain colours belongs to a part of me that I do not wish to explore.
Do specific artworks have been created by random experiments in your studio or do you usually come up with a particular concept or narrative in the very beginning of your artistic process?
Before starting a painting, I only have general ideas about what I am going to create. It is more of a starting point that only materialises and takes shape during the painting process.
In the preliminary phase, I think a lot about the elements I want to depict, but above all I reflect on their arrangement within the painting. Composition is a very important part of my work, because it determines its true character; the construction of a narrative cannot disregard the way the elements interact with each other.
When creating the work ‘The Foreign Season’ for instance, the basic idea was to create a figure accompanied by a horse, so I thought about these two characters and their arrangement. I pondered what kind of slant to adopt in order to introduce them. I was looking for something reminiscent of a stage entrance from a theatrical backdrop.
Such tricks, such as making the scene as two-dimensional as possible or looking for a pose for the character that would be as rigid as a hieroglyphic, helped me to move away from a realistic atmosphere and open up to an evocative setting.
Can you mention any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
Like I said, I think a specific part of Picasso’s production has influenced me. I also feel very close to early 20th-century Italian painters like Oppi and Casorati, whose sculptural and angular figuration fascinates me.
Lately, Leon Golub’s painting has been a continuous source of inspiration for me. I love how his large figures invade the canvas, and I am fascinated by how the pictorial texture literally fills the spaces.
However, there are authors by whom I am fascinated and enraptured despite the fact that their way of conceiving painting is diametrically opposed to mine. A few years ago, I discovered painter Susan Rothenberg and was enthralled by her painterly approach; the naturalness and honesty that emanates from her canvases is disarming. I happened to see video interviews in which she explained how her life and works are closely linked. I remember one statement in particular, where she said,“I believe beauty fascinates me, but I do not seek it.” It was a phrase as simple as it was effective. So, when I think about what kind of painter I would like to be in the future, I hope I can also utter that same line without having to lie.
What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space look like?
My studio is a basement of about 60 square metres. It is a space with windows that let little natural light in. Which is fortunate, I would say, because I love working under the artificial light of neon.
It is a quiet place located in the north-east of Milan, a peaceful area that allows me to work peacefully.
Which are your plans for the near future?
The next projects I am taking part in are painting group exhibitions.
In July, my work will be exhibited in a gallery in London – and at Villa del Balbianello, a historic building overlooking Lake Como, which will host a project on historical and contemporary portraiture.
All images courtesy of the artist and Annarumma gallery