By Chrom-Art Director Javier Lauret
Ernesto Romano is an emerging Italian artist living in London, who has already participated in a substantial number of exhibitions his native Italy, Saudi Arabia, Spain and of course, in London. We meet Ernesto in a local café in the Truman Brewery in Spittalfields as we both live locally. The area is thriving with art initiatives and new exhibitions every week, and I am not surprised Ernesto has chosen to live nearby, it feels truly like you can connect with different art scenes (established art galleries, street art, live art) almost in every corner of the neighbourhood. This blending of art styles in the locality felt like the perfect location to discuss the strange blending of images in Ernesto’s work. Knowing he had a degree in Architecture it did not surprise me the balance, the proportion and the harmony of his compositions. His artwork is aesthetically impeccable, precise... and mysterious. I was intrigued by Ernesto’s unusual combination of images, he juxtaposes the natural beauty of the plants with the medical science, the flowers with the X-rays, the matter with the soul? I had to find out.
How and when did you start creating art?
I started creating art in 2008 when I started a first series with my own x-Rays. I had them at home and always wanted to do something creative with them. My first ever piece involved my brain scan and an hibiscus flower followed through its life. I grew myself the plant at home and took pictures of many flowers until I got the one I liked. Hibiscus flowers only last one day so I was photographing the life of a flower during one day from opening to dying. It's a reflection of how ephemeral we are but how powerful at the same time human mind is.
Talking about cultural origins. Would you say the fact that you are Italian is reflected in the detailed aesthetics of your work?
I think it may be possible as I have always been exposed in my country and during my studies to a certain type of aesthetic so I think I am naturally attracted to certain types of compositions in art and only like some type of images that convey an aesthetic and harmonic look. Like a type of classical iconography if it makes sense? I hate chaos, disorder, crowded compositions. I like to keep it simple and clean. It may be due to a mix of my origin and my taste, development, research.
What are your main artistic sources and influences?
I always liked Michelangelo since when I was quite young, especially his architecture. I liked the emotions that Michelangelo was able to transmit. And the tensions in his sculptures. Moving towards more contemporary artists I like Max Ernst and love the surrealism in general, De Chirico, Dali. Max Ernst is probably my favourite of them. I like their metaphysical paintings and the dreamlike state that they somehow evoke. In general I am attracted and influenced by anything that has to do with conveying a dreamlike state, not necessarily in art. On the other hand I think a big influence for what I do is obviously science. And this is interesting because if there is anything that is not dreamlike this is science. Botany and Anatomy curiously interest me in the same proportion. The fact that I mix them but sometime I don't is something that interests me and I need to understand why sometimes I do it and some other not. Probably just natural evolution of my work.
Did moving to London help shape your work in any particular way?
Definitely. It's a big cultural hub and it's super inspiring plus it gives you access to different things all in the same place. I am not talking about opportunities, that's another great feature of this city, I’m thinking about things you can find here and get. I like to describe London like a small planet in one place, if you are looking for something in particular you will find it in London, if you don't find it then it doesn't exist. So for me it's inspiring to know that for example I have Kew Gardens that is home to amazing plants and rare species or I have places like the Welcome collection for medical stuff and also the universities are extremely helpful here for art related projects. But also, you can find all sorts of small genuine shops and places that have for example rare prints, rare papers, all sort of incredible findings that only this city offers. Not to mention the exposure to images that in this city is amazing. A font of inspiration that never ends.
X-Rays and flowers are an impactful combination. How do you choose the themes of your works?
I like the contrast between nature and the technology applied to medical science: X-rays, MRIs, artificial limbs. It all reconnects in my mind to what we are inside and the questions where we come from, where are we going to? The beauty of a flowers reminds me of how mysterious is life and how great at the same time is to be alive. When I choose the themes for my work I like to keep this in mind and celebrate life. I choose X-rays because they are beautiful and they show how beautiful we are inside and outside and I add flowers to convey that we are part of the same universe making the same journey. Even when I only use X-rays and don't mix with flowers then I make them really colourful, like a garden of skulls.
You also use other materials such as silk, as canvass for your work. What drives you to choose one or another?
I did my first prints on silk earlier this year. It is something that I always had in mind. I am in the process now of making silk scarves with the print of The Importance of Being Earnest because I think it can work very well as a scarf. If this project works well I am sure I will make some more scarf pieces In the next months. I would not mind doing some side fashion project. I think my Gingko pieces would work good also on silk. But generally, when I don't use silk, i love the Perspex reverse mounting for my C-type prints. It's an amazing technique, expensive but worthwhile. It gives a different life to the image, bringing an amazing light to colours, I find it stunning and elegant. I am obsessed with glossiness, I think glossy artworks are my thing. When I go to exhibitions and I see glossy surfaces, like Perspex, or resin, I am suddenly in love with them. Resin can be my next thing, the look of an epoxy resin piece is simply terrific!
Tell us about "The importance of being Earnest"? How did this series originate?
This piece has a curious story. It all started when I decided to print my skull on a silk drape. I wanted to select different colours for my big silk skulls so I started writing combinations of Cyan, Red, Magenta, Green, Yellow and Blue. I wrote 20 pages then carefully put each one into my skull in Photoshop and chose finally 40 coloured skulls that could be a good selection, I was looking for interesting colours. And because I wanted to see them together in order not to have repeats but a nice blending list, I put them in a matrix 5x8 and then realised that this on its own was a great artwork! And because it's my skull and I like a bit of self-irony I gave it this title. I think it's a very important piece for me because it's starting to push my future work more and more into great colours. I love artworks made of colour on a white background! And this is the perfect example!
What projects are you working on at the moment?
I just finished a piece for a group show called Queen Themed, curated by Ben More of Art Below. It's a great show dedicated to the Queen's 90 Birthday with big names in it like Chris Levine or Gavin Turk amongst others so it's an honour for me. My piece it's an x-rayed Queen with an x-rayed crown, obviously! I am now working on a new body of works where I will use old anatomical charts and give them new life with colour, taking over the same language of The Importance of Being Earnest, and the concept expressed in this artwork of beautiful colours on a white background brought to amazing life thanks to the super contemporary Perspex reverse mounting. I am looking especially to use Antonio Scarpa who was an anatomist native of the area where I come from in Italy. My father who is a doctor used to have a couple of amazing prints by him in his study when I was a kid and I remember always loving them. Also I like Andreas Vesalius, Bartolomeo Eustachi and Albrecht von Haller.
What would be your ideal artistic collaboration?
An interesting collaboration would involve displaying my art in public/ commercial spaces. I think what I do works quite well for those type of spaces, some pieces are quite eye catching and I can see them very well in a public space where lots of people can appreciate them. Another interesting collaboration would be curating an exhibition where famous Londoners are willing to give me their X-rays to work with. Showing the inner part of themselves and be exposed to the media in a way they have never been before. I did this for a famous woman in Italy back in 2011 and since then always had this project in mind.
What plans have you got for the near future?
My plan is to recognised from my style and my work to a wider audience and to do so I will have to carry on making art and showing it around which is what I am doing now so I guess I am on the right track.
More information about the Artist available on www.ernestoromano.com