Soul states of darkness

Luca Cutrufelli, Milan based artist in conversation with Maria Abramenko.

Where is that darkness coming from?

This darkness comes from the need to immerse myself in a space where stillness, solitude and silence reign, a series of sensations that only that black background can give me. After staring at it for a few minutes I can concentrate enough to feel myself there, in that darkness, looking around and deciding in which direction to go, where to direct my steps. There I don’t perceive anything threatening or dramatic, but only something hidden that must be revealed. As a psychoanalysis session step by step I go in search of those sensations that remain submerged in the unconscious and that most influence the soul’s states, provoked in turn by the most significant events of existence, the encounters, the losses, the fundamental bonds, the conquests and failures, the falls and rebirths, the relationship between human beings, nature and God. R.M. Rilke wrote that our being “is preserved like gold in the rock in the abyssal depths” and that is exactly what I think and what I look for in my work. The hard part is to give shape to that, which mainly are sensations to insert into a visual language where the viewer can recognize them, perceive them.

Your latest works are very chromatic and materic, any particular reason why you only use chalk?

When I first approached art, like many young artists, I painted in oil and acrylic. But I realised almost immediately that I didn’t have a real interest in working with colors, it is a practice that I gladly leave to those who have the courage to confront with sacred monsters of painting. Moreover, I found them too “noisy” compared to what I was interested in deepening and expressing. In addition, the painting process was too long, waiting for the colors to dry, mixing them to find the most suitable one, cleaning the brushes … it seemed to me to limit spontaneity, fragmenting too much the time that goes from when you perceive a sensation to when you represent it on canvas (or paper). The technique I use, charcoals, allows me to represent in a fairly short time that intuition, that image that I have in my head without dispersing that set of sensations that make up those moments, the excitement for what could come, the spontaneity of the trait, the fear of going towards a disappointment. Once the black background is made I can immediately work with rubber or other charcoals to look for the right shape to represent my sensations of the moment, but if I do not find it immediately I can continue to dig deep for hours without, like a classic painter, fear that the painting will dry or other inconveniences. In addition, it is a kind of technique where the hands are the protagonists, to spread the black charcoal to create the backdrop, the shades of light and the shadows. So, I create a kind of physical relationship between me, the charcoal and the eraser.

What are you inspired by when you paint?

As I said, the main source of inspiration are the events that condition the human soul and how it reacts. Those events that leave deep marks, scars, in our unconscious which in turn tries to forget them, to hide them. So, I draw by my biography, my past or by what happens daily and that inevitably affects my balance, my psyche. This is what I also have tried to represent in the past through sculptures or environmental installations. In Paris in 2013 I presented a sculpture composed of a glass box with water and two volcanic stones inside, one white, light and floating, the pumice and one black, heavy, the obsidian. These two stones were formed as a result of an eruption, but in the beginning they were volcanic magma. I then tried to represent how that catastrophic event, the eruption, had definitively upset the state of that element and how consequently this had to evolve into something else. Also in this case I wanted to show how certain events mark us definitively.
In a big environmental installation that I did in Rome in 2010 I filled a big space of 250 square meters with twenty cubic meters of pumice stone, creating a white expanse, an apocalyptic landscape, and on this placed some Jericho’s Roses, desert flowers that always survive despite the hard environmental conditions. That too was meant to be a representation of how the human spirit reacts to hostile surrounding events and conditions.

What is your work’s main concept?

“Find” those signs, those scars, those memories, and the related sensations that the unconscious or ourselves hide to survive it, and then find the right language, the right forms to express all this on paper or sometimes through other media. I am trying to create my own vocabulary of images composed of natural elements, trees linked together, roots, branches that break, or figures that constitute barriers, limits, boundaries or paths. Every day in the studio allows me to discover something new.

What are you working on at the moment?

Right now I am working on a new “night walk”, a new series of drawings where nature and psyche merge to create a path that man is forced to cross, to analyse the past, exorcise it in some cases, thus ensuring that our current personality, in the present, is firmer, to prepare for the future, aware that all the sensations already experienced will return to cheer us up or torment us. I like to think, quoting Rilke again, that God (or the divinity that is in us) is “hidden in the shadows that our life creates”.

Soul states of darkness

Artists: Luca Cutrufelli / @lucacutrufelli
Editor: Maria Abramenko / @mariabramenko
Assistant: Antoine Schafroth / @a.schafroth

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