Indomitable animal. An exchange of opinions and th...

Indomitable animal. An exchange of opinions and thoughts with Giacomo Modolo on his latest works

At the CRAG Gallery in Turin, Giacomo Modolo (1988) presents Blaze, a personal exhibition where he shows a series of works resulting from a long period of reflection on his pictorial practice. For the occasion, I had the opportunity to confront the artist by having him tell me the peculiarities of his current research.

Giacomo Modolo: Everything is consumed in a sort of purifying rite. Among the flames and psychedelic fumes, the images burn and regenerate in the continuous change of lines, aimed at giving shape to the weaving of a plot. Decoration and gesture create iconic imaginaries, almost graphic posters with fluid, theatrical and openly illustrative features. And it is in this ritual that flags, wild animals and relationships are thrown into the fire, that is, everything that becomes a symbol of my daily certainties such as the sense of belonging to something or someone. Blaze is not a pictorial cycle. Using musical terms, which are more friendly to me, it is not a complete album, rather, a “demo” of a few songs: written in the middle of a career that has already started and committed to drawing a page, albeit experimental, of an aesthetic and spiritual change.

Giacomo Modolo. “Blaze”, installation view at CRAG Chiono Reisova Art Gallery, courtesy CRAG Chiono Reisova Art Gallery (Torino)

Domenico Russo: The fact that you evoked the flames of a purifying rite kindles in me the hope of an art that hurts the world. The wounds are the marks caused by the sacrificial instrument, a great psychedelic fire that you have started in this series, Blaze, and that changes the arrangements of the form you had accustomed me to. It’s nice that you tell it like a music demo. Few songs in the middle of a career. What is music if not the manifestation of a substance with transcendental potential?! The animal. The rite. The art. I thought. A few evenings ago in Reggio Emilia you were wearing a light denim jacket with the outline of a feline, similar to a tiger like the ones you paint. The inner core of brilliant sequins sparkled on your back. It is the animal that, in some way, tears apart the urban present and reunites us with the world. Sometimes the symbol is enough. The flag is, instead, the compulsory sign of our presence in the world. Another kind of symbol. The first causes an inclusive movement, which integrates us. We enter the world through the animal. The second marks an occupation. Us, on top of the world. The animal can be the painting that reunites us with reality. You have soaked both symbols in the thin liquid of the shape, extracting a primordial testimony from them and then the change of colors and the strong combinations are surprising. Who knows what painting, this unpredictable animal, became during the phases in which the figures flamed by waving over too human icons. When exactly did the regenerative force of painting ignite in you, the one I was saying being able to wound, to tear apart reality? If you have a way to describe how you have gutted these figures, to the point of expelling their historical redundancies (flags, animals become something else), please let me know. The terms of the landscape, which you know well, having experienced them to the core in the more gestural works, have changed and stylized (I don’t know if that’s the correct word). They have, in short, found stability by varying more towards the light; and I keep seeing a breakup. A break with a part of your previous production. How did this happen? What movements have added or disappeared from your usual acting during this production?

Giacomo Modolo, “Magic Smoke”, 2022, mixed technique on raw cotton, courtesy CRAG Chiono Reisova Art Gallery (Torino)

Giacomo Modolo, “Blaze”, 2022, mixed technique on raw cotton, courtesy CRAG Chiono Reisova Art Gallery (Torino)

GM: The landscape that I enclosed in a sort of spin-off dedicated to research and experimentation with matter was exhausted for me. Disappearing (or green cold river) was the coldest and most cynical cycle I’ve ever painted, although almost abstract and silent. In a short time it took everything and left me a lot. The good thing was that Karin and Betta didn’t organize a solo show during that period so that, the green paintings series remain floating in an indefinite space of time, straddling the pandemic. Blaze recovers an illustrative language interrupted by a two and a half year long hangover, overdone by technical and intimist painting, by the bad things in life and a long period of non-production. Now I go back to the theater. At the beginning of my career I was an illustrator and I know that I can’t quell my pop attraction. Whether they are beasts, flags or flames, everything falls within the image of a coat of arms, almost like a fan club… there is folklore. It’s about making an event an icon, like the little bird crushed under the paw of Sacrifice‘s tiger.

Giacomo Modolo, “Blaze”, installation view at CRAG Chiono Reisova Art Gallery, courtesy CRAG Chiono Reisova Art Gallery (Torino)

DR: In Sacrifice the action lingers on itself, while it becomes thinner and frees itself from the superfluous. The event becomes an icon. Is it from your “underground” past, so to speak, that you grab the memories to vitalize this illustrative and pop vein? I would like to explore the common points with the language of posters. Posters that, as I recall, were mostly representative of the punk music scene, right?
GM: Since I was a kid I’ve always been fascinated by graphics and I started drawing illustrating concert posters, records and t-shirts for a musical fringe linked to the underground. In that context the concept of self-production was strong and I exploited very poor means such as photocopies, collage and hand drawing to create an aggressive but rational imagery. That type of aesthetic strongly contaminated my pictorial inclinations. I am still interested in the layout in the painting, where the freedom of a gesture is controlled and packaged in an almost obsessive way. In fact in Venice I didn’t attend painting classes but the decoration atelier, where the contaminations were among the most varied, starting from the materials. I believe that the manifesto setting you are talking about re-emerged in this period particularly in the strong contrasts and forced trivialization of certain forms. I used clearly 2D images, as if they were paper stickers, cut out and superimposed. It’s an almost ironic attitude, which I’m still developing.

Giacomo Modolo, “Snakesucks”, 2022, mixed technique on raw cotton, courtesy CRAG Chiono Reisova Art Gallery

Giacomo Modolo, “The Ritual”, 2022, mixed technique on raw cotton, courtesy CRAG Chiono Reisova Art Gallery

DR: When I was talking about the technique, I wasn’t just thinking about the management of space and the distribution of color, but also about how this seems to have reacted to an unusual material: in some places there is a watercolor effect that I can’t easily explain . Can you give me more details on the technique you worked with?
GM: All the paintings from this series were done on raw cotton fabric. It is this material that has often conveyed the creation of the shapes. The canvas, absorbing the water color in an irregular way, creates dilated spots from the eaten and almost burnt perimeter. It is a non-calculated, unprecedented margin, exclusively dictated by the relationship between very diluted color and the texture of the fabric. This step surprised me and, using bright colors, I was able to play with transparency. In some parts the surface has no thickness, it is watercolored and enhances the cotton.

Giacomo Modolo, “Blaze”, installation view at CRAG Chiono Reisova Art Gallery, courtesy CRAG Chiono Reisova Art Gallery (Torino)

DR: Color bursts bright with visionary force, somehow passionately revealing your vital essence. You are well present among the 2D forests; tigers and flames keep you company in the midst of incredible tonal games, where two silent canvases with human figures also appear: Magic Smoke and Kid with a wood gun. How were they born and how do they fit into the Blaze universe?
GM: They are guardians of this carnival. Magic Smoke‘s Woman is a tribute to Larry Clark and his first photography book, Tulsa. They are more instinctive canvases and worked without second thoughts.
DR: You call it carnival, the riot of fantastic colors, this dreamlike jungle of a silent but deeply energetic self. At the same time, it is the vibrant manifestation of a painting capable of affirming the present, of dividing itself into a feast of colours, symbols and icons, making the physical world into which humanity has been thrown an apparently pleasant game in which to immerse oneself, get lost and finally recognize each other.


Giacomo Modolo. Blaze
27/10/2022 – 26/11/2022
CRAG Chiono Reisova Art Gallery (Torino)


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