Talking to poet, writer and professor of art Lucio Giuliodori, I learned why he is not a fan of Dali, what kind of art is the most philosophical and how book covers made him interested in painting.
You can read Russian version here.
Kate: Why have you chosen surrealism for your studies?
Lucio: When I did my thesis for my PhD*, I studied the Russian philosopher Pavel Florensky. I’ve written a thesis about his metaphysics and his aesthetics. And then after the PhD, studying by myself, reading, researching, I ended up, also, in surrealism. Why? Because, first of all, I’m a surrealist too since I dream a lot every night! (Laughing) And the next day I wake up and I remember what I dream. My first book was called “I dream therefore I am”, and it’s a collection of dreams; dreams I have had and I have written down. So, let’s say that I have a strong connection with the world of dreams, and surrealism is the kind of art that investigates dreams. For this reason mainly, and also because I like art and philosophy… and surrealism is, in my opinion, the most philosophical kind of art. The deepest kind of art.
*PhD – Doctor of Philosophy
Kate: Now the most popular surrealist is Dali, but some people think that he is just a “soap bubble”, kind of empty inside somehow… What do you think about him?
Lucio: I don’t like Dali very much, I’ve never liked him. And after I read one of his books which was called “La droga sono io” (In English “I’m the drug”)… I started to like him even less. I’m really not fond of him. I didn’t like the book at all.
It’s strange, because when I say that I’m interested in surrealism and so on, people immediately say: “Ah, do you like Dali?” – because he’s the most famous. No! Because surrealism is not only Dali! It didn’t die with him but continued growing and nowadays it’s very alive, there’re so many contemporary surrealist painters around the world! And something exciting always is going on: a lot of exhibitions, a lot of conferences. It’s a really cool and big scene. If you’re inside this world, you can sense it’s a great community.
Kate: I see. What was wrong with the book?
Lucio: I found it very… first of all, very “simple”. There was nothing deep in it. He wanted to be provocative, but he wasn’t, he wanted to be cool, but he didn’t pull it off. In one statement, he said that he’d read the complete work of Nietzsche in a few days and he dismissed him out of hand… how can anyone say that?!
It is one thing for him to be eccentric in his appearance and his paintings and that’s great but I don’t think this eccentricity transferred well to writing, at least in that book – which is the only one I have read.
Kate: There is a conviction that surrealism is not just an art movement of the XXth century, but a style which you can find in many artists’ works. What is your opinion? Who was the first surrealist?
Lucio: It was Bosch. Definitely. Five hundred years ago. But he didn’t know it! And nobody knew. But he was the first. Why? Because he painted very weird creatures in dream-like scenarios and that was very surrealistic, especially for that time. He was a genius, he was ahead of his time. He was doing something that only arrived five hundred years later. He was the first. So of course, I agree with you: surrealism somehow was born long before.
Kate: And after Bosch? Were there some other surrealists before the XXth century?
Lucio: Well, some people say, there is “some surrealism” in Giorgio de Chirico’s metafisica. His paintings are rather oneiric as well but we’re talking about the XIXth century already…
If I think about the XVIIth or XVIIIth centuries, it’s difficult to find something like Bosch, probably only William Blake is worth to be mentioned but still something different anyway.
Kate: What other movements in art do you like besides surrealism?
Lucio: To be honest, I’m very focused on surrealism. I can appreciate some other stuff, but it’s nothing more than just appreciation. I’m fascinated by surrealism and more precisely figurative surrealism. This is a quite strong connection, something I can’t even explain… I’m a surrealist to the core! (Laughing). However… I could say I find Edward Hopper awe inspiring. I also like some other contemporary artists like Marina Abramovic for example, but still my strong passion is only for surrealism.
Kate: Any names?
Lucio: Well, I don’t even start! The list would be infinite and I’ll definitely forget someone! It’s practically impossible to make a list… really… as I find new painters almost every day on facebook. But you can have a look at the artists featured in my books for example and then: Dino Valls, Michael Pearce, Steven Kenny, Renata Palubinskas, Madeline Von Foerster, Pamela Wilson, Scott Hess, Neil Moore, Patricia Watwood, Jolanda Richter, Rodney Wood, Simona Bramati, Alessandro Bulgarini, Ilaria del Monte, Saturno Buttò, Michel Ogier, Brigid Marlin, Jeremy Lipking, Jaroslaw Kukowski, Daniela Montanari, Aron Wiesenfeld, Alexandra Manukyan, Aleah Chapin, Shinji Asano, Ray Caesar, Alex Kanevsky, George Marshennikov, Caleb Brown, Michael Borremans, Harry Holland, Melissa Hartley, John Hunn, Timothy Cummings, Shinij Asano, Fred Einaudi, Rose Freymuth-Frazier, Caitlin Karolczak, Heather Nevay, Shoji Tanaka, Caroline Westerhout etc. etc. etc.!!! Ah and of course Alejandro Jodorowsky and Franco Battiato!
Kate: What do you think about the future of surrealism?
Lucio: I think the future is bright, because you know… What do surrealists do? They try to paint the unconscious and we don’t know what the unconscious is… When we go to sleep, we don’t know what’s going on… where are we going?!
Science hasn’t conquered the unconscious yet. We don’t even know what it is exactly, I mean “scientifically” … But what if in the future science eventually uncovers its secretes? Surrealism and science will have an unbreakable connection and surrealism will be very useful in the understanding of ourselves –it already is somehow, even now…
Kate: So it’s the art of the future? Because at the moment the majority of people can’t really frame this movement… Do you think science eventually will provide the understanding of it?
Lucio: I don’t know if I can say that it’s the art of the future. But there will be a greater connection between science and art. Maybe it will be more mainstream in society, it will be more important than it is now.
Kate: Who is your favorite artist?
Lucio: Dino Valls. He’s a Spanish contemporary “surrealist” — somehow… too long to explain now… Anyway, he graduated in medicine, he’s a surgeon. He never worked as a doctor and he turned to painting after graduation. He’s a self-taught painter and, above all, a genius… his paintings are really amazing. Usually he paints “patients” (or what can be referred to as patients) and mainly adolescents. These figures he paints are androgynous, and it’s difficult to determine their age. He plays with opposites: female-male, old-young, healthy-sick… I’ll be talking about it tomorrow, ‘cause tomorrow there is a conference about childhood in surrealism and I’ll be discussing Dino Valls as well. I’ll say that, ultimately, the figures he paints represent his soul. He doesn’t use real models, he uses a “meditative” technique of Karl Gustav Jung called “active imagination” through which figures emerge from his unconscious… these later will be painted.
So he’s very interesting as he’s a deep painter, his paintings feature a lot of quotations from literature, philosophy and culture. Needless to say, in my opinion he’s much, much better than Dali, just another level, much higher! Valls doesn’t need to be provocative to be original, he already is original and, last but not least, he’s much more educated than Dali.
Through his paintings, he sets in motion a real psychological and philosophical process. What he does is not only “art”… He literally investigates the unconscious: that’s what makes him unique and utterly fascinating. And he’s a doctor, so he’s got a scientific background which, coupled with his artistic talent, make him a very peculiar figure, an extremely interesting artist.
Kate: Have you ever tried to paint?
Lucio: You know, it’s strange: I was thinking about it today, when I was preparing the speech for the conference. When I was little, I used to paint, like every kid does at school, and then I gave up. Later, I started singing and playing guitar, I was in music for many years during my adolescence, that’s how I started to write…
I never started to paint seriously. I even don’t want to. Perhaps I’m so fascinated by painting itself as it’s something very far from me.
When I see some paintings like Dino Valls’s which are very detailed, it scares me! (Laughing). It seems so unachievable and that is what intrigues me… I could never be a painter I guess!
Kate: Do you want to have your own art collection of surrealist pictures some day?
Lucio: Yeah! Definitely! The first on my list is The Chemical Wedding by Madeline Von Foerster which is the cover of one of my books: Arte Regia, a collection of esoteric novels.
But anyway, you know why I started to be really interested in surrealism? Because I wanted to find covers for my books about ten years ago and I started to search on the Internet. One day I ended up on some surrealist websites. That’s how I discovered many painters and, literally, fell in love with them. The next step was trying to get in contact with them.
Kate: Was it complicated to get in contact with painters?
Lucio: Very easy!
Kate: Everyone has an account on facebook?
Lucio: Yeah, and especially painters, because they advertise themselves. For painters the internet is something amazing, anyone can see their works immediately, it’s a kind of art which is very easy advertised. If I write something, if I write a book, I can’t post my book on facebook, you have to read it, it takes days, maybe a month… For painters, you post your work and everybody sees it. That’s it! Awesome! (Laughing).
Kate: And what about literature? I know you’re a poet, so tell me please about the poetry in your life.
Lucio: I started to write poetry long ago, when I was eighteen, nineteen, twenty… When I had fun being a singer, I needed to write the lyrics… And my lyrics always were a bit poetic. That’s how I started. My second book is called “Musica Dentro” (“The Inner Music”) – it’s a collection of songs (poems) I made.
But then, when I met surrealists for the first time, that was something different…. Something higher, much more philosophical, much more “alchemical”… Presented with pictures I liked I would instinctively begin to write something. It was, and it still is, a very, very direct process, a real stream of consciousness, a very irrational process, that’s why purely surrealist I should say! It’s as if I’m “reading” paintings, if I find their (or mine?) language… decoding mysteries, because paintings are full of them… And this is what I’ve done with this book (in front of him just now: “Spiriti Volano — A Flight of Spirits”).
The image cover is by a painter from Austria, Jolanda Richter. She is one of my favourite surrealists. Her paintings speak a lot to me: when I saw them the first time, I started writing. I adore this idea of a dialogue between arts, like painting and poetry for example, which in my case takes shape.
Kate: Do you find your inspiration only in art?
Lucio: Art and Knowledge, the latter is crucial in my Weltanschauung: the most precious thing I have.
Kate: Thank you very much! Good luck with all your endeavours!
Lucio: Cheers! Thank you!
Lucio Giuliodori’s website: http://www.luciogiuliodori.net/