First published: Spring 2019
"There is a certain inner ghost that one should be able to paint, and not the nose, the eyes, the hair that is outside [...]. A fluidic being that does not correspond to bones and skin [...]. The face has features. I do not care."
– Henri Michaux (1899–1984), artist, poet and writer
The words of Henri Michaux will resonate with anyone familiar with the work of Curzio di Giovanni. The creator of a distinctive and unusual collection of portraits, di Giovanni found inspiration in the pages of glossy magazines and the images of models in fashion shoots and advertising campaigns. He did not replicate the images – on the contrary, he ignored the established rules and principles relating to the proportions of the body and the structure of the face; instead, he bent and manipulated them, and explored the true identity of his subjects to create new and disconcerting versions.
Born in Lodi, in Italy’s Lombardy region, in 1957, di Giovanni has lived with a medical condition and a form of autism that affected his mental and intellectual development. At the age of 22, he entered the Fatebenefratelli Centre, a psychiatric rehabilitation unit near Milan. Years later, in 2001, he began to go to the unit’s on-site studio to draw. His striking creations caught the attention of two artists, Teresa Maranzano and Gabriella Vincenti, who encouraged him, gave him magazine images to work with and followed his creative development.
Di Giovanni’s approach to image-making was innovative and unrestrained. Starting with a magazine image, he would trace the main elements of the model’s head in pencil. He would then transform the drawing with a mass of details – defined shapes and juxtaposed forms which created areas of shadow and light, wrinkles, creases, dark circles, swellings, strands of hair, and other specific characteristics and irregularities. With its attention to the different planes and facets that make up the face, di Giovanni’s method led to a mosaic effect, an archipelago of distinct shapes, with the face appearing fragmented and lacking in cohesion. Next, the fragments were re-assembled like the pieces of a puzzle or a building game and, thanks to the colours that the artist energetically applied in coloured pencil, the features of the subject were pulled back together. The face then re-emerged in all its vibrancy.
This is an article extract; read the full article in Raw Vision #101