Talk to Nicola Verlato

Petra Lossen  0:04  

How is the art scene ticking everything we always wanted to know about art, a podcast of Petra lossen. Nicola Vallarta is an Italian painter, sculptor, architect, musician and video maker. He started to paint and model sculptures as a child and sold his first artwork at the age of only nine, you will find his artworks in big collections and museums around the globe. In 1992, he has started to implement his working process with the new CGI technologies. And this field is certainly a pioneer, if not the very first to have combined traditional painting and digital modeling. Nicola will explain us in this podcast, what working with CGI means. And much more. Hello, Nicola Villa Otto.


Nicola Verlato  1:01  

Hello, Petra.


Petra Lossen  1:02  

Hi. I'm very, very happy that you are with me in this podcast. And we will talk about you and your work. Yeah, as I learned you, you started very, very early as a kid, right? How old Have you been when you started with painting and sculpting and so on?


Nicola Verlato  1:25  

I don't even remember when I really started because I was so little. They say that the first thing that we're starting to do in the say, let's call it creative field was like to play with legal matter was two years old. At least that's what my mother tells me all the time. I was really obsessed with that. But then soon after that I started to draw to sculpt because I was living in the countryside. And we have a very good, very good terrain there. There was almost clay, you know, so I was making a lot of little sculptures. I was like, I really wanted to be a sculptor when I was a little kid, you know, but then, you know, I mean, also, you know, on one side, I was obsessed with sculpture. And then by I was also very insisting with my parents, so I was able to get to a sculpture laboratory nearby, my home, and they were working with marble butter, there was no way to have such a little kid there in that environment. So it's right. Yeah, super dangerous. And so had so my father, you know, but I was so insistent that my father had to bring me there. No. So I saw with my eyes it was more possible. So then I offered the for drawing, and then painting. And I remember when I was five years old, I saw for the first time in a book, I had a lot of art books at home, you know? And I saw kind of agile when I was five years old. And I was it was almost like, you know, airily, Jews, mystical experience. I wasn't even able to talk after seeing the paintings or Caravaggio. This is what my mother says all the time. You know. So that was where my beginning after that, you know, I started to paint in oil when I was like, six, seven years old, and sell the paintings when I was nine.


Petra Lossen  3:16  

Yeah. And do you still have some of these works? These early works? Yes. Yeah. Also the sculptures and so on. Oh, that's fantastic. It's


Nicola Verlato  3:26  

gorgeous. Not because, you know, I didn't have a technique at that time. You know, I didn't know how to cook them, or these kind of things, you know? Yeah. Otter is more difficult, but it has like, it needs more, let's say technical abilities. Yeah. With the painting, at least, you know, at the beginning.


Petra Lossen 3:45  

Yeah. So you were absolutely clear. What your, what your profession will be for you. Do you have siblings? Yes, yes. We were like, four. Are they also into art?


Nicola Verlato  4:00  

You know, in a way, but not like me, you know, so not, let's say not about painting or sculpture. But my sister studied the singing and music. We all studied music,


Petra Lossen  4:10  

as we are the families into culture.


Nicola Verlato   4:13  

Yes, very much. It was particularly you know, both my father and my mother, you know, my mother, I think she did in a more like passional way, you know, encouraged us a lot. But in the end, you know, my brother of right poetry's my sister studying music. And we also the use case again, you know, must she didn't more seriously and but in the end the painting sculpture was just me. Yeah.


Petra Lossen  4:41  

And then so when you when you grow up a little bit, and then you started and you studied a lot. So it was architecture, music, and art painting and sculpting. Why so, so many? I don't


Nicola Verlato  4:57  

know. I'm, for example, When my mother decided to make us all study music for me, you know, I everything I'm doing and doing in a kind of obsessive possessive way. Everything that is about art, let's say in music, it became immediately. I don't know. I was super unbelievably involved into it. I studied even in a conservatory, no, I studied composition. As soon as I studied the, I learned how to read music, I start to write music. And when I was like nine years old, you know, the music. Of course, you know, in the end, I understood that didn't have the same, let's say, talent as I have in drawing and painting. So a certain point became like a less important, but it was a big struggle to decide between the two. On the other side, architecture, to me is just an extension of drawing and painting and sculpting is the same thing. You know, there's no much difference, in my opinion, if that's reflecting sort of way, you know, what is always being for the Italian tradition. And also, if you think, in the Renaissance, you know, everybody was a painter, sculptor, architect, they were doing all these different things, because the way in which we approached with different disciplines was through one common tool, there was like an idea of a representation in perspective and models, you know, creating models video simulating everything, before being painted or sculpted the own or planned as an architecture as architecture into models. So there was a certain you know, contiguity between a very strong continuity between these different disciplines. If you think even you know, Jocko Jocko he was a painter, but he was the architect of you call it the bell tower nearby the Santa Maria the fjord in Florence.


Petra Lossen 6:52  

Yeah, yeah, that's right. Many architects they also paint. Yeah, I also started a bit architecture. And I also painted a bit because it's a creative thing. I guess, why? Why these kind of people are addicted to two. They're all related.


Nicola Verlato   7:08  

Yes, complete.


Petra Lossen  7:13  

You also your first exhibition was an age of 15, right?


Nicola Verlato  7:18  

Yes, that was the first serious one because before I had the seventh exhibition when I was like, 9 to 10 years old, but he was the word in, you know, I grew up in a very little town in the countryside. So every year they were this festival for the harvest of a grape serve the wine, the new wine, all these kind of things, you know, they were big production of wine, that area, you know, so we were doing this little town festivals everywhere. Also art exhibitions. So when I was 19 years old, I was participating in this is


Petra Lossen  7:53  

the name of this, of this place.


Nicola Verlato   7:55  

We were called the sag re in Italian, Saturday's mini like festivals. So let's say a place where I grew up. It wasn't mainly though is a super little town. Nearby Vicenza. Yeah, okay, so no, in Veneto not far from the any sir. Yeah. And I was born in Verona, but my family moved after a few years in the countryside of change to produce wine, because that was that what my father was doing, you know? Ah,


Petra Lossen 8:24  

are you also producing wine? To me?


Nicola Verlato  8:26  

No, my family? No, no, no, not anymore. No, since a long, long time, they stopped bitter many years ago. It was like Anttila was like Tylenol 17 centuries


Petra Lossen  8:36  

now. Okay. So your artwork hinges materialization of modern and ancient narratives and mythologies, to demonstrate the absolute continuity of the central themes of mankind, that continually adapt to the changes of time while maintaining their recognizability explain us what what does this mean?


Nicola Verlato  9:02  

Is it sounds complicated in reality is not so complicated is meaning and, you know, if you look all that, no, I think that, you know, what we do as humans, you know, for remember, largest part in terms of in terms of culture, is to constantly creating narratives and mythologies, you know, is, in a way probably is our main activity. And I think by working with these narratives, what's happening, that you discover that they're always the same thing that is constantly adapted to the new needs that we have, you know, but in the end, the structure are always the same. So why, but by painting them isn't a way to to show how much this new narratives looks like the old ones, you know, in by doing that, you discover a discontinuity of a human kind, you know, and there is a continuity in time in space, you know, because mythologies from Africa are super similar to the ones from Finland To reverse in Japan to reverse in the Mediterranean. So, there is various common structure by you know, making these paintings, I like to underline this OJT and contiguity. in time and space, particularly time because we suffer a lot of these English, you know, that, you know, on one side, the, our culture is telling us how we are going to progress toward the future. But by doing this, we also have a feeling of a loss of what we left behind us, you know, and then you see that by working and comparing different narratives coming from different times, you see that there is no loss of anything, we are always the same thing in nothing is changing for real, that's in the deep structure of our understanding of the world, that we are still the same thing, you know, nothing changed the Minnesota way, you know, when people 3000 years ago, even more, yeah, they see you in a way, you know, what's what are, in my opinion, does if he's approached in a certain way, you know, because after does many different things, but, of course, my way to approach it is to underline this continuously, they continue to have a human race. Yes, away.


Petra Lossen  11:14  

Yeah. And the style you you are using, can we say it's photorealism?


Nicola Verlato   11:22  

can even be say that, you know, might be honestly, I think that it can be said that


Petra Lossen  11:31  

it's not really photorealism?


Nicola Verlato  11:33  

No, no, because, in fact, is based on a completely different kind of basis of in photorealism. photojournalism, of course, was like a VESA assumption that the photography is the way through which we see the world. And then you know, the painter was, let's say, assuming the structure of photography, as a foundation of painting, in my opinion, what I'm trying to do is to overcome completely photography, with new media, sir, and I'm building up my own markets, let's say, as an architect does, you know, which are like a figures and everything is the painting is prepared already know, three dimensionally, then copy from this market. So this isn't the case can be made in clay, or I make them in CGI income with a computer, for example, more recently, so I'm trying to overcome the photography paradox to enter into a new one that is the one we are living today that is the one CGI, the video games, all these kind of things, you know, so I'm moving out from that, you know, of course, my work is on one side is very realistic. The other side is, is also very idealized because I come from a construction.


Unknown Speaker  12:49  

Yeah, when we look at it, then it is so detailed. Let's see. So how long does it take to paint a work for example, one by two meters?


Nicola Verlato  13:00  

It takes like a while is more or less near the end? No, after many so many years I'm working I'm being able to tell you more or less how much easier it is but it's never really clear, you know, is around 40 days or something like that.


Petra Lossen  13:14  

Okay, yeah. Okay. All one word. Yeah. No. You use for these paintings. They're so called CGI technic.


Nicola Verlato  13:24  

Yes, CGI is a computer graphic is an images generated by the computer. So in this, I think, I think honestly, I was the first one ever probably into painting to start to use that kind of technique to include that technique in my process of work as a painter, because I started in 1992 1981 Sorry, to use these techniques, which is meaning that the images that are built with the CGI were computer graphic imagery, and they are what we do, what I do is to build up the models, you know, we are like a digital models that can be seen from every possible angle, they can be you can put the virtual lights onto them, you can put them in certain perspectives. So there is a lot of possibilities you can operate with these kind of tools. But on the other side, you know, it is something that is creating a new kind of aesthetic. Because the since everything is artificial is generated by mathematics, and geometry, he creates a different kind of aesthetic. But that to me is the most important is that I discovered this in 1982 When I saw for the first time that sci fi movie throne and which is a very we're moving I don't even like the movie much. But it was the first movie in which we were like entire sequences generated with a computer. Yeah, you know CGI. And I was in super impressed immediately because some of those images, were looking exactly like the some drawings made by the Renaissance painters at the beginning of the 15th century, I was thinking it is exactly the same thing. Yes, 100 years after laughter. So I understood immediately that if I wanted to keep working to this classic kind of area, you know, expression, I had to ask you to appropriate these techniques that were being there revitalization of classic imagery, you know, so, of course, in during the 80s was super complicated, you know, because it was too expensive. It was even too complicated just to learn those things. But during the 90s, things started to be more, let's say, cheaper, and easier to approach. So finally, I was able to have my own computer, my programs. Yeah. And then I was able to get this step into the process of painting making for me.


Petra Lossen  16:09  

Yeah, so did I understand, right? You have these models in the computer, and you can turn them it's a 3d, but you don't produce from from that starches, you use it for your paintings?


Nicola Verlato  16:24  

Only as a reference, I paint completely from scratch for the cameras, that


Unknown Speaker  16:29  

protection on the canvas? From the No. Okay, so you your paintings are freehand?


Nicola Verlato  16:37  

Yes, freehand. Yeah, completely. You know, for some elements, I transfer some elements, you know, just to say I put some carbon behind the prints of some elements, they are transferred them over canvas, because maybe they are more geometrical elements. But the thing that I think is extremely important still is never to never underestimate the moment in which you start to paint on the canvas. You know, it doesn't have to be Justin as a crucial or suffer is mean may be made us aware as to be something that you really you elaborate on the cameras, you know, painting you thinking, you know, you think the form, you can't avoid that, you know, so I use them just as a reference.


Unknown Speaker  17:23  

All your subjects are figurative, and your paintings are provoking and they are full of energy. For me, it's a very special way or style, how you show the movement? Because when we watch your paintings, we can feel that they are in a movement


Nicola Verlato  17:45  

still. Absolutely, absolutely. I'm very happy that you underline that, because that's exactly what I want to convey with my paintings, you know, because I'm fascinated, I'm clear, you know, by seeing by watching my paintings, you absolutely see that the only such a time interested about is the body movement. I'm super fascinated by the idea of crystallizing time into space. dressform what is embedded into time? Yeah, to something that is part of our space, which are we leaving you with other bodies, you know, so it's all about that, you know?


Petra Lossen  18:21  

Great. And to just to get back to the CGI technique. You taught this way of painting for several semesters at the New York Academy, right in New York. Yes to students. Yeah. And all your fingers as I mentioned before, they can be shown in a very provoking way. And is this I mean, the provocation is Do you think this is something we can we should and we can expect from art I think


Nicola Verlato  18:53  

is part of that you know, of course you can make art in so many different ways the way in which I'm interested is like, trying to you know, I need this kind of very violent aggressive provocation because because it's always what they liked. Also, when I was since I was a little kid, you know, the my first love in painting was Caravaggio. Theravada. is one of the most aggressive and violent artists ever and proper this my own the take on art you know, so I need to be shaped by art on the other side that that's a way to make you know, the prices of his feet painted the figures more to say pricing the same in our world. Yeah. Isn't a certain way that the figures telling you hey, look at me, I'm yeah, we you. Yeah, yeah, it's like, bam, that's another thing I'm Italian you know, I grew up in, you know, among all this more maintain sculptures and paintings. And you just enter into churches, you see paintings of martyrs domes people cutting pieces. So there's no way to get out of it right? No, no dramatic point of view on the market Kiko exactly. I mean so it's very theatrical everything you know, on the other side is like a very close to this Greek Roma roots also, you know that they test through catalyses minor with a certain point in order to see it adapted to this roots. And then they started to embed this imagery again, in Christianity, you know, but the actual roots of it the origin of all this is really coming from ancient Greece, tragedy, you know, the to show, you know, the the inner absurdity of life in a sort of way, you know, this constant conflicts, you know, that we are going through in our life. So, by doing that by insisting or that is still, you know, the same thing, we're talking since the beginning, you know, water makers, still the same kind of humans, as we were, like, 5000 years ago, even more is this sort of way, this incapacity to get completely the meaning of things, you know, so the serenity of life shows itself through these conflicts. And that's why you're representing them is always showing how we never change, you know, because if you read some Greek tragedies are the most astonishing piece of literature ever written, because they put you in front of this difficulty that we have to understand what we do in this place.


Petra Lossen  22:02  

Yeah, you know, you left a couple of years in Los Angeles, and you also lived in New York. So when we know they are not Italian, have you ever got any negative feedback on on the power Ness on the aggression of your works,


Nicola Verlato   22:20  

but rather live that much longer? Thymeleaf Decker 14 years United States, I lived the seven years in New Yorker seven years in Los Angeles. Yeah, I never really got much negative feedback in United States, because, you know, it's like a such a big country that the market is you just have so many different kinds of opinions. Of course, or maybe they didn't tell me and I got recently some very negative opinions about some paintings, but it's because United States, they're going through a very complicated phase of very serious thinking, this moment, I got more negative feedback here, you need to, you know, really unbelievable. Yeah, because contemporary art in Italy, wants to detach itself from the cultural tradition of Italy, you know, there is this feeling to that. There is a, you know, a kind of a contrast, you know, between contemporary art and the, let's say, let's call it the cultural identity of Italy, that is what we were talking about before, you know, so at least the people who are working in contemporary art, were trying to detach themselves through this cultural identity. And so I got more negative feedback here, because they want to be more American than the Americans, you know, more British, the British


Petra Lossen  23:44  

people understand is that


Nicola Verlato  23:47  

it's almost like a character tool, or something else.


Petra Lossen 23:51  

From my point of view. I mean, if art is not an a kind of a provoking way, then it is so yeah, softly. I think it was Monet, who said, Life is Strange enough, or hard enough. So why do you want to have art also, with difficult things, but for me, it needs to be like this. But this


Nicola Verlato 24:15  

blood, we're thinking? Yeah, I never like the the work of monet.


Petra Lossen  24:22  

Yeah, I can imagine that you are. Can we say you are the opposite?


Nicola Verlato  24:30  

Thank you. It's a big honor to be that.


Petra Lossen  24:35  

Your work people and your work they are often naked. Why? I mean they are fighting and they are in situations you usually you are not naked. And you mean the muscles and this looks so fantastic.


Nicola Verlato   24:53  

You know, the reason is exactly again the same, you know, because I want to create more emotional involvement because isn't it Also because this thing has been studied recently in neuro psychiatric, neurology, you know, sorry, in neurology, and then he came out that we are extremely sensitive to the depiction of the human body, you know, of course, because we feel in our self as a simulation of what we see. So for example, if I see somebody movement, you know, all the muscles are thing that the movement, we feel that in our brain as we are doing the same, so hiding the body is mean that I won't ever portunity To feel ever in the same way, the same intensity of what I see when what I feel when the body is naked. Yeah, so, but I think this is an explanation I give to myself after a very long time. I was keep painting naked people all the time, you know, it's like a, I think is almost side is because I always like the classic art, you know, and most of the time people are not represented naked. But on the other side, they are represented naked, because even in the classical times, they wanted to create views. Very strong emotional involvement.


Petra Lossen  26:20  

Yeah. I never knew that. That's interesting. And can we find yourself in some of your paintings?


Nicola Verlato   26:26  

Yes, yes. I'm several times in several paintings. times is because the way it was the last minute I don't find the more than I don't find the right face to put their thing I put my face and say, Okay, I get that there's no special meaning. Why some time I'm into this painting so many times is that oh, maybe there is a special meaning, which I still have to understand why, um, I put myself there, you know, can even be Oh, yeah. Interesting. Yeah. So many times one of the best self portraits is the crazy self portrait the Michelangelo made in the last judgement in which he showed itself as were skiing of St. Bartholomew is like a, it's just a name of the skin, you know, but you see that it was in you know, the face completed the form the without the body in it? Yes, it well, the most dramatic or Refik self portraits ever made, I think,


Petra Lossen 27:25  

yeah. Nicola, where do you get your ideas from? For your paintings?


Nicola Verlato   27:33  

I think I'm, as all of us, you know, we are completely embedded into all this media system, you know, that is made by Internet, TV and music and movies, and books. So radio. So what's happening the time getting my ideas from the media world, practically. And there are some stories I'm very attracted to. So I don't know I can. For example, one of the main projects I'm working on is about Pasolini, Nora Paolo Pasolini. He happened because I heard some people talking about him in the radio, and then I was thinking, Okay, I want to do something about him, because I was very impressed by the story. So let's say that all my ideas are coming from these kind of, there are two kinds of ideas from narratives. And then from my reflections about painting itself, there are two sides of my production essay. The beside that is a more more conceptual essay that is about artists itself, you know, and the other one that is about narratives,


Petra Lossen 28:38  

yeah, and which one is the most important work for you from from your works?


Nicola Verlato  28:44  

Well, they're both important. You know, it's like a writer that is also a philosopher, let's say, on one side, you write a story, right? And over. On the other side, you write little treaties, about your ideas about writing, for example, they're both important. Probably, let's say, the final goal for me is to work on these narratives. That's probably what I'm trying to do for real, you know, like, my favorite to be a possibility going to be the my contribution. And society in a way is about representing this narratives. Probably, probably, you're right, probably that one is the most important.


Petra Lossen 29:23  

Okay. I have seen a drawing of a Michael Jackson temple. Yes. Well, is this a project you


Nicola Verlato   29:32  

realize? No, no. It's just one of several utopian projects I set up during the years. And probably, I don't know if it was the first one maybe. Yeah, it was the first one. Yeah, again, you know, because I heard the news about Michael Jackson who died. Immediately I was thinking I want to make some paintings. I want to make some sculptures about him. And then we're thinking about why not creating also a temple to which we spent is going to be located, you know, maybe to be built, where he died or where he was born, or where maybe started to see, you know, too, because my main thing now is to figure out if it's still possible to make some art that is completely rooted in a specific place that is very special or the place. So I'm working on several labels, let's say, but one of the labels is also Viswa, you know, trying to see if it's possible through Arthur to express some narratives embedded into a territory in order to defend the territory from further from exploitation, for example. So because I understood that art as this possibility, because it creates a sort of sacred, nothing is really related to the territory, that define the territory, you know, if you in the end, a little construction, or even a big construction of a moment, which contain all the symbolic aspects, create in the in the people the idea that that territory cannot be touched anymore, you know, so is it a very kind of ecological kind of idea? You know, I'm working on it since like, last 10 years, destroying the you soul about Michael Jackson is kind of one of his several others.


Petra Lossen 31:29  

Yeah, I've seen it. Yeah. Your works are present in big collections and museums, where can we? Where can we go if we want to see something from new


Nicola Verlato   31:42  

ver presidented, for example, the martyr Museum in Rovereto in Italy, the beautiful contemporary art museum, and they are part of a collection, but they're not. On the walls. They say they are in the you say?


Petra Lossen 31:59  

The collection? Yeah.


Nicola Verlato   32:01  

If a collection of a museum, I have a painting has been bought by the Lucas Museum in Los Angeles that is opening up, maybe in 2023, then I have


Petra Lossen  32:13  

it will be on display in 23?


Nicola Verlato  32:16  

I don't know. Hopefully, yes, it will be great. Absolutely. Yes. There's a beautiful big museum that is about narrative art. Hmm. And I'm very curious to see what you're going to be because it's so much close to how I intend art to be, you know, to me something that is able to express narratives, and being in having a very direct playing approach to the relationship with the people, you know, with the audience.


Petra Lossen  32:48  

Yeah. And what are your upcoming projects? What are you working on


Nicola Verlato  32:54  

now and working on exhibition I want to have hearing of Rome, next year, in March, in a very beautiful public space that is called the chairman of Diocletian, the location chairman, and is a huge, huge ancient Roman building.


Petra Lossen  33:12  

Do you have the date of the opening? Yes, we're


Nicola Verlato  33:15  

going to be March end of March, beginning of April, we still have to define exactly the day


Petra Lossen  33:20  

just let me know because I will be at that time around that time, maybe we can


Nicola Verlato  33:28  

do that will be great. Yeah, this is a huge that this this project about Pasolini is I'm working on the purchasing for seven years. And finally, I'm going to show there are going to be like six big monumental paintings. Eight, nine sculptures. They architectural an architectural project, a huge drawings of 30 meters. 30 meters large by three tall drawing, and then video.


Petra Lossen  34:05  

That T meters.


Nicola Verlato   34:07  

Yeah, 30 meters drawing. Sketch, let's say, Well, yeah, that's what I'm, I'm, I'm not to me so far, you know, to make these things. That's what I really like to do. Yeah, like, be. Yeah, I can. I'm a disgrace for my galleries. You know,


Petra Lossen 34:27  

fortunately, people can buy this for the living room, you


Nicola Verlato   34:31  

know. It's always a problem. So now I have an exhibition up in Copenhagen. And I have a painting that is like, four meters tall by three, you know, so it's like, we have to find somebody with a house that can host a painting.


Petra Lossen  34:49  

Exactly. Yeah, that's that's a challenge.


Nicola Verlato   34:53  

But they do also smaller thing.


Petra Lossen  34:55  

Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, but the big ones are the impressive ones.


Nicola Verlato  35:00  

Yes, that's because you are scanned and you know, you are getting on the same scale with the figures in the painting, you know, so sometimes the figures are even bigger than so this is like a very strong relationship between the viewer and the painting. Of course, even small paintings creates this lemony you know, important emotional relationship but the big Largo large monumental scape for me is my favorite.


Petra Lossen 35:27  

My to definitely eagle eyed was so great to talk to you. I learned a lot. It's really, really interesting, I must say, and I'm looking forward to to see what you're working on. And that was going on. Thank you so much that you took your time for us to explain your work and the background and everything.


Nicola Verlato  35:49  

Thank you so much for this opportunity. It's been really great talk with you better. Thank you. Okay, you