Felice Varini is the master of anamorphosis style of painting. He applies geometric shapes to architectural spaces in perspective-localized manner, an image appears in its true shape only when viewed from a very specific spot. These are extracts from Gil Dekel’s interview with Felice Varini, where he explains his artistic point of view.
G.D.: You do not paint on canvas but rather on architectural and urban landscapes such as buildings, walls, streets. Your works have only one view-point, or a vantage-point, from which the viewer can see the complete painting, which is usually a simple geometric form (a circle, square, triangle). From other view points the viewer will see ‘broken’ fragmented shapes. Why do you use this simple geometric shapes, as well as basic colors?
F.V.: If you draw a circle on a flat canvas it will always look the same. The drawn circle will retain the flatness of the canvas. This kind of working is very limiting to me, so I project a circle onto spaces, onto walls or mountain sides, and then the circle’s shape is altered naturally because the ‘canvas’ is not flat. A mountain side has curves that affect the circle, and change the circle’s geometry. So, I do not need to portray complicated forms in my paintings. I can just use the simplicity of forms, because the reality out there distorts forms in any case, and creates variations on its own accord. The same goes for colors. Usually I use one color only, and the space takes care of altering the color’s hue. For example, if I use one type of red color on a mountain side, the result is many kinds of red, depending on the mountain’s surface and the light conditions. Sunlight will affect the different areas on the surface and the same red color may become stronger or darker or clearer in certain areas, depending on how the sun rays hit the surface. The sky can be bright or dark. And if the surface has its own color or a few colours then that will affect the red that I apply on it. So, I do not need to use sophisticated colors. The reality exists with its own qualities, shapes, colours and light conditions. What I do is simply add another shape and color in response to that.
G.D. : Are your paintings meant to be permanent in the space where they were created?
F.V. : Once I make a work it can be removed and remade in a different place, as long as certain guidance is followed. I do not make an object and move it, but I move the concept, and can remake it in the new space, in the same way that there is a written play and a theatre company can stage it in a few different ‘environmental theatres’.
G.D. : Did you ever consider to construct or create the space itself?
F.V. : No, because I am not an architect. I am a painter, and painting is my main concern. I do not intend to create the reality or manipulate it. The reality is complex enough. Every day you can discover something new around you. It is an ongoing surprise looking at old churches, sub-stations, houses. There are many types of architecture around the world, with new relations and new perspectives created all the time, and once I choose a space I start a new thinking process with it.
G.D. : You work directly on space but you do not define yourself as an installation artist.
F.V. : I am a painter. I consider the reality itself to be the installation and I work on that installation with paint. The reality is an installation work which belongs to all of us and I am working with it or sometimes against it, in order to reach for new forms, new lights and new colors.
G.D. : How would you describe your relation with the space that you paint?
F.V. : With my paintings I am trying to discover more things that we cannot normally see. The vantage point of the works is really very fragile. It is a mechanical point of view in a way, it does not encompass reality. In reality our eyes move all the time, and we cannot see with our eyes like the camera does, taking snapshots. We cannot retain a freeze frame with our eyes, so it is difficult for anyone to stand at the exact vantage point of my paintings. For me, the work is outside the vantage point, where reality allows for all shapes to live. I find it very limiting to paint on a canvas which is closed within a frame of four sides. There is no relation to reality there. When I experience reality outside I do not know where it starts and where it ends. It is open, just like my work.
For more info: felicevarini.org