Artquotes interviews Alberto Sughi



Dion Archibald, painter and editor of interview with Alberto Sughi


1 Why are you an artist Alberto?

Even when I was a child, my maths teacher used to say I was wasting my time, always scribbling and flicking through arts catalogues, instead of paying proper attention to the class and studying my school text books. This was not entirely true, but those who did not interpret my behaviour as a response to an uncontrollable passion in life, dismissed it as lack of effort and commitment on my part.
My passion eventually prompted me to decide to become a painter, and
it is basically the reason why I am a painter now.
I know I have not answered your question directly, but I no longer understand what the word "artist" means today. It seems to have become an over-used and highly-inflated term.

2 Could you tell us some more about your paintings?

I can only say how I interpret my work as a painter. Hopefully, this will help people to understand my work better, too.
… It's like when you go to the cinema and the film has already started, so you start watching without understanding exactly what is going on … trying to pick up the plot from the setting and the characters as they appear on the screen, without knowing whether they are the main characters, or just walk-on parts; in fact, without even knowing if the film has only just started, or is coming to an end.
When you think about it, everyone enters life when the show has already begun. We all do our best, in the time we have available, to try to understand the meaning of our own particular story.

3 You seem to be very aware of the history of painting. Where do you see painting today?

The word painting has no meaning outside the context of its own history.
Today we often believe that we have come back to our origins, and the limelight is always captured by paintings that do not openly admit to having a history behind them, but only seem to be influenced by fashion.
But the only purpose of fashion is to become old-fashioned!

4 Which artists have influenced you, and how?

All one's various influences are transformed so greatly over time, and become absorbed and interlinked, so it becomes really difficult to say which artists have had the greatest influence on my work. You also have to remember that often an artist manipulates the work of great artists who have inspired him. In order to produce an entirely original work, an artist cannot avoid betraying the works he most admires.
In case, by saying this, I seem to be avoiding the issue, I can mention a few names, in no particular order of preference: Caravaggio, Velasquez, Goya, Daumier, Degas, De Kooning, Bacon, and many others.

5 What other interests do have (besides painting)?

I read quite a few books. I go down to the local "Trattoria" (informal restaurant or tavern serving simple Italian dishes) to chat about the great and the small things in life with an old friend who has come to visit me in my studio. Sometimes I go to see a film with my companion, by a director we both like. When I'm in the country I go for a ride on my old racing bicycle …



6 What inspires you to paint and how do you keep motivated when things get tough in the studio?

Starting a new painting is like moving in a particular direction. Painting is like going on a journey, sometimes full of adventures, which can take you to totally unexpected places. Oliver Cromwell said that "nobody goes as far as someone who doesn't know where he's going". This may be true, however paradoxical it seems.
In any case, I also believe that you could work on the same painting for an indefinite length of time. When I feel that a painting has its own voice and is coming alive, I want to live with it, talk to it, quarrel with it, and agree with it. In other words, I don't want to put my signature to it, and bring the experience to an end.

7 How have you handled the business side of being an artist?

I have had exclusive contracts with various art dealers; some satisfactory, others less so.
Art dealers are not all the same: some are capable and good at their work, some are like shop-keepers plying their trade, and some are adventurers.
Except that I must say that the similarities between them always outweigh the differences.
The painter needs them in order to be able to devote himself to his work. But you have to try to keep them under control ……
It is never an easy relationship.

8 Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

In ten years' time I shall be 85. Who knows which way the wind will blow…..
I like to imagine myself still in my studio, surrounded by canvasses, easels, paint-brushes and cloths, with the smell of paint in the air, and the light coming through my big window.

9 Could you talk about your latest series of paintings and what you are trying to achieve with them?

I'm working on a painting to which I have given the provisional title of Outskirts, in the sense of away from the centre of things. In this case the meaning should be understood figuratively, as peripheral to a sense of value, and not as a physical location.
It is a very large canvas, which I've been working on all the time over the last few weeks. Of course, I have moments of enthusiasm and moments of discomfort about it.

10 What advice would you give to an artist just starting out?

I would say, as I have said in this interview when talking about the essential qualities of my work, to be absolutely sure about your choice, not to bow to the dictates of fashion and, above all, never stop being yourself.


Originally published by Dion Archbald on, 2004, Australia
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