On Painting, Interview with Alberto Sughi (Part I)

Theatre of Italy   flash
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI
Part VII

Teatro d'Italia (Theatre of Italy) is the title of a large painting by Alberto Sughi, made in 1983-84, which is now owned by the Cassa di Risparmio bank in Cesena. It is regarded as a work of fundamental importance in the career of the painter from Cesena..
Alberto Sughi does not usually make preparatory sketches or structural drawings for his paintings. He works directly on the canvas, making corrections, erasing and modifying his work to obtain the result he had envisaged.
It is therefore easy to understand the importance of a photographic record, which, on this occasion, the painter had the foresight to make while the work was progressing, and to preserve for posterity.
These are lost images recovered, precious documentation of the artist's work and the development of the different phases, with all the modifications that the painter regarded as essential to create a precise sense of rhythm and balance.
The painting also offers us an opportunity to try to reconstruct Sughi's whole intellectual and artistic "career", through this interview, which can be considered as a kind of self-portrait of the artist, and shows the spontaneity and honesty of his replies.

Biagio Maraldi It is often said that an artist's work is a "mirror", a reflection of the man and his life. In other words, can you tell me whether you feel that the development of your painting has followed the story of your inner life: of your passions and ideals, loneliness and pessimism?

Alberto Sughi There are, obviously, biographical references. But I prefer to regard my paintings as having a life of their own, which is not always connected with my own personal history.
One day, when exhibited, other people will be viewing my works. They will translate the images captured by the artist into thoughts, according to their own intuitions and cultural background. Then, perhaps, my paintings will become the "mirror" of those observing them. But "mirror" is an unforgiving word, and I prefer not to use it myself

BM One of the constant characteristics of your paintings seems to be a pessimistic view of the world. The figures in your paintings are almost always enveloped in a tragic atmosphere that seems to portray your relationship with reality and your fellow men. I can think of two examples to illustrate my point: II sottopassaggio (The Underpass), 1957, and some images in the cycle La Famiglia, painted almost thirty years later. We could consider these paintings as the outer limits within which almost the whole range of your artistic activity lies. Do you always identify yourself with this interpretation of your work and career as an artist?

AS The feeling of sadness and loneliness expressed by a work of art does not necessarily reflect the sadness and loneliness of the artist. In my paintings, I suppose I have tried to gain a greater knowledge of the contradictions that man has always burdened himself with, up to the present, to post-modern Man. For instance, I have tried to determine how difficult it is to establish strong communicative relationships within a society that has made communication the most banal aspect of its own identity.

BM I would like you to talk about your relationship with your own work and, more generally, about painting and the work of a painter.

AS Painting is a kind of translation: what was thought, reflection, and conceptual analysis is transferred into image.
To tell the truth, we shouldn't even regard it as translation, as if the painter's creations already pre-existed in some other form of expression. Painting is nothing more than an autonomous way of confronting reality. It is true that art, whatever form it takes, always alludes to something else. However, the object on which a painter works, and the way he expresses his art, means that he is under no obligation to bear this in mind.

BM How do you get the idea for a painting, and what mental processes are involved in its development?

AS A painting is created from all those that you have painted previously, and from what you have already learned about painting; but, above all, it is created from a wish to explore the world, to discover what continues to escape you.

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