In the studio with Jacopo Dal Bello, a visual artist whose practice is transformed through the process of imagination and experimentation. We met with Jacopo to tell us more about growing up in a small village by the north east of Italy, his greatest influences, and what Jacopo hopes to explore in the future.
When did you first begin to see yourself as an artist?
Well, that would be when I started making art.
Where are you from and what was your upbringing like?
I come from a small village in the north east of Italy near Venice. I went to an art-focused school, where I studied a lot of art history from an early age. I think this and growing up in a country that likes to praise itself for its artistic past has strongly influenced my work, which often involves a dialogue within the history of art.
Paint us a picture of your artistic journey. What inspired you to first pursue, and then continue to practice, artistic work? Was there a pivotal moment when you felt you were on the right track?
Once I started university in London, the focus was on contemporary art, which hardly mentioned anything prior to modernism. I liked this fresh look, far from that pressing quality that would have meant studying in Italy. This gave me the chance to reconsider and critically reflect on that imposed respect – often imbued with national pride – that one is obliged to show towards the past, and towards tradition and culture in general. After my studies I started to re-approach that artistic past from a different perspective, without that forced reverence for it. At the moment I am continuing my studies at the Universität der Künste in Berlin which is bringing another fresh wind to my practice.
What’s the message of your work? Where do they come from?
My work is about language, in particular visual language and how this works in a self-referential way. Part of this system are different contexts with each having their own set of meanings and narratives. What interests me is to show the often arbitrary characteristics of some of these narratives. It is therefore driven by a general awareness of the oppressive quality of many of our narratives – which are often justified and formalized by institutions through the use or threat of force. Through my work I try to explore and challenge the rigidity of these meaning constructs. My aesthetic is fragmentary with many influences and inputs from different contexts, that reflects both my intentions and my aesthetic interests.
Who & what are your greatest influences?
My influence ranges from Baroque painting to art movements such as Fluxus, Situationism and Arte Povera. Furthermore, Pataphysics has been central to both my work and my general attitude.
An unexpected source of inspiration?
I collect pieces of paper that people lose along the way, and I got a lot of inspiration from there. Old documents, often bureaucratic, certainly have a certain charm on me despite not sympathizing too much with the worldview they imply.
What do you want people to take from your work when they view it?
I would like people to be intrigued and try to connect the elements of my work, having perhaps a realization or confusion about how they interact. Which might give a hint of how the context in which we usually find these elements already frames and provides much of the meaning we attribute to them. Moreover, acknowledging the continuity that exists not only within the history of representation – bringing on the same level figurative and abstract elements – but in general with any type of visual communication.
What events in your life have mobilised change in your practice How has your art evolved?
Berlin has a culture of recycling and reusing, with many flea markets with the most bizarre selection of so-called junk. Moving here has been influential in my approach to materials which made me explore assemblages and developed my painting practice in a more fragmented way. As for the techniques, they are constantly evolving in an organic way and experimentation is a central factor to it.
What are your ideal conditions or catalyst for creating a “good” piece of work?
There are no special circumstances. Better if I have a few consecutive long days in the studio.
Tell us about the inspiration behind one of your works?
In these works I try to approach figurative painting in its conceptual structure and only hint at the elements that are part of it. Often it is not a question of what is represented, but of what the represented thing refers to, and its role in the system to which it belongs – figurative painting in this case -. We take figurative painting to represent reality but we forget that it is recognized as such because we have learned its vocabulary and language. This is the initial level through which the painting develops, bringing together fragments of different contexts. For example in the work “Cartographic ambiguity” there are elements both from the history of painting like the collaged baroque painting or the gestural marks, but also typographic ones, a map, a graphic and a cartoon. There is obviously a lot of humour and playfulness as it is dogmatism in general that is targeted.
Something in the future you hope to explore?
I am planning to explore the same themes through a more installative approach, reflecting a similar starting point and reflection on visual language.