interview with Ariana Vairo


Arianna Vairo is a graphic artist from Milano, Italy, part-time residing in Bologna and Rome. We got to know about her work thanks to ubelievable chain of coincidencies, after which we discovered many common points between her work and the Balkans scene in which we happened to be actively involved.. Arianna is active in fields of graphic art, illustration, poster design, street art painting, and, of course, comics.

RP: I guess that the first view on your work leaves a watcher touched with the slightly dark atmosphere of your style, as something in your works resembles that famous painting by Giorgio De Kiriko, “Mystery and melancoly of a street”. We know its not so thankful to ask a visual artist to use words to explain his work, but can you briefly tell us about possible spectrum of references in your art, whether they are consciously chosen or intuitevely discovered, or noticed later by an independent spectator?

A sentence from one of my favorite poems says: what you really love is your concrete heritage.
I grew up with a big poster of Schiele's painting in my room. I love Otto Dix, Grosz, Ensor, Bacon, Max Ernst, William Kentridge, Jan Svankmajer, Theo Jansen.
            But discovering Rafael Dussan, a painter from Colombia, has been my first real meeting with a teacher, I was 18 years old and he explained me how to consider pencil an extension of my hand.
            Another big teacher have been incision techniques, personified by the printer Moreno Chiodini: trough them I learnt a lot about composition and use of colors, about necessity of listening materials you are working with, and error as new path.
            During my studies of illustration I met the comics of Josè Munoz and I started to construct drawings cutting light from black shadows, or vice versa.
            My work is illustration, not pure expression, and it's completely connected with words and books. I'm sure that lot of references come out from literature: Borges, Kafka, Conrad, Pessoa.

Of course artistic identity melts into personality: I've been attracted for long time by strangers, mysterious things and people, hidden in the corner, crazy and dangerous maybe but very clever, anyway full of life.

RP: Your contribution for the Risha website tells a story of international connections, love and violence. Moreover, thats a true story..during your growing up in Italy, how much did you relate to Istanbul as an imporant part of your personal identity?

It is a true story! There is a big true connection between Turkey and my family, my father started to go there very often when he was very young. As i tell in the comic, in the beginning he was working in a touristic village, after that he was importing carpets from Istanbul to Italy. He had lots of friends there. I narrate about one of them, letting the real story stay hidden in the text. He was a carpet seller, very calm and generous man, good as bread. His story is complex cause when he was young he  killed a man, even though his nature is extremely pacific: his sister has been raped, and at the time he was the only man of family. For those reasons he decided to fight for his sister' honor, killing the rapist. He payed as well, with jail. I didn t want to tell this story in a literal way, but to evocate it.
            I didn't want to be explicit, i wanted to keep this heavy secret in a metaphore image of his job of carpets' seller: his shop was so full of carpets that i was imagining this secret from the past sleeping under them.

RP: Lately, small part of your work developed in direction of non-figural experiment, which is I guess important step and contribution to further development of your style, to free yourself from the boundaries of taught conventions..What were the basic poetic principles that you sticked to?

The passion for the shape of human body describes my first approach to drawing and visual expression: for years I portrayed it in a surrealistic way, as territory of confession and narration. Probably to understand its shapes has been very comfortable from my position, and i felt as a natural thing to start to communicate with it, to experience its metamporphosis trough a drawn chaotic dance.
My poetic has been always intimist, for long time too much, sometimes I thought that my relation with reality was made by conic waves, passing from inner analysis to another.
            Ability to listen is an important concept for me, it comes from my nature, it made me an illustrator, and helped me to change many times, as chameleon, to live and illustrate very different atmospheres in my life.
            To move, to create movement, even if it means something disturbing, is another principle which I still stick to: I think about illustration as a way to say things in which the reader is not just receiving the narration, but has to activate his own narration and rebuild it through the elements chosen by the drawer. Narration is something that doesn't live in present, but if you look at a good illustration, or a symbol, I believe it is possible to have narration as a concrete experience.

RP: You have illustrated number of books in your career so far, can you tell us which one had a special place in your experience so far, which one gave you the most?

I would say many, each of them changed me a little bit.

RP: Recently you started running a course at the academy of fine arts in Milano. Was this a completely new role for you? How did you find yourself in this experience, and what were the outcomes of this process, did it influence your work as an artist?

The course was called Words and drawings - narration trough images. It has been totally new role for me, I experienced many public presentations of my work and every time it was dramatic;
I've never been shy but if I had to speak in front of more than 10 people I was getting nuts and stupid and no words were going out from my mouth.
            Anyways i accepted this job offer when it arrived, and it has made me a better person, as i had to jump over a fear.
            Attendees were students of painting department and not used to be communicative with their creations, I had to explain them the importance and beauty of narration and to organize this argumentation. I consulted with friends from different fields of experience and started to gather examples, books to read and materials to show.
            The relation with students is a real exchange, I really love it, i've been full of new stimuluses, and the new experiment that we were talking about before came out from this experience: the necessity of trying new personal method of visual narrative.
            After that, I accepted to have a program every 2 weeks in a radio, to talk about drawers' scene and make interviews with artists and people who are active in culture. It could be impossible some time before! Program is called RADIOCROMIE, and prepare yourself to receive a call soon.
            And again, one week ago I taught xylography to 67 students from high school!
            I really would like to put this role close to my role of illustrator.

RP: Is life and daily routine of an illustrator a hard thing to handle?

It is, because it's strictly connected with personal energies. I don't have an agent, so jobs arrive when I'm moving a lot, showing my work in exhibitions or in other jobs. If  something happens in life that undermines personal energies and the freelancer has no strength to propose himself around, its time to find another way to get money. I was very lucky and i could work with drawings for the most of time in my life, but 2 years ago i had to find a steady job, cause i was not able anymore to row inside public relations or to have a stable production. And again i was lucky to find it. I'm back inside freelance's jungle since november, and so far i'm completely happy about it, i can watch at my hand, promoter of my job, as a rocket bringing me in new countries, meeting interesting people, or interesting topics to study and to work on.

RP: Political aspects of contemporary reality skillfully manipulate psychological need of people to belong somewhere, to a certain group or context, they demand that BELONGING has to be defined, expressed, clearly marked and even fought does that relate to art, in your opinion?

I think that the underground side of this argumentation is full of importance. It has the shape of net, that goes over geographical borders, or a big wheel of concrete culture. It permits to know people, and trough them to know reality, to develop relativism, space of activism becomes bigger and faster.

RP: And, for the end, please tell us about the future of the world from your perspective.

World is in big danger, globalization brings craziness and power on a scale difficult to fight, or control.

Discover more about the work of Arianna Vairo: