First Class Magazine Coverstory, Issue 101, February 2013:
Text and Translation: (Courtesy of First Class Magazine):
The Unbearable “Heaviness” on Canvas
Just looking at Antonio’s studio, you can figure how special his works are.
Many could put their paintings one on top of another. But Antonio keeps a certain distance between each of his paintings. It would break the painting’s texture if he puts them together. The texture is solid on canvas. Antonio made a wood “painting shelf” especially to store his paintings. It’s like a giant multilayer bookshelf.
Many could frame their paintings in regular stretching bars. But Antonio needs to strengthen the frame with several battens to increase the weight capacity. His paintings are too heavy so that no ordinary frames could bear them.
Many could wait till their paintings dry naturally. But Antonio needs a particular room as a “drying room” for his paintings where a dehumidifier works constantly and the light never goes off. It’s like a science lab. His paintings are too thick so it takes quite a long time for every layer to dry. 24-hour-lighting prevents the oil from oozing which could cause the color to turn grey.
Therefore, “solid” and “heavy” are our intuitive feelings about Antonio’s paintings. When he “moves out” a painting from the shelf, we still feel quite astonishing when we see it. Its heaviness is far beyond our imagination.
Lotus Blooming in Layers
It’s a brightly colored painting of lotus. Just like many artists in Blue Roof Art Village, Antonio enjoys the moonlight of the lotus pond. Lotus always inspires artists to create their works. More than a few artists paint lotus here. But they paint differently. And Antonio’s lotus is truly special among them all.
It seems he looks down at the lotus pond. The leaves with a deep green color cover each other and make up many different spaces. Layers of petals bloom solidly on canvas. The yellow stamen looks like it’s standing on the painting, so vividly. This might be the first time we see a three-dimensional lotus painted ever.
It’s not just us who are amazed. At the end of 2012, Antonio held his first solo art show in China at the New Art Experiment Center in Chengdu XLY Museum of Modern Art. Just like the name of this show “Structurism”, he uses heavy colors and solid spaces in the structure. Many viewers wondered if it really needs only oil paint to finish such paintings. Are these paintings or sculptures? The answer is obvious. Antonio wants his paintings to be different than anyone else’s. And heavy color is exactly his unique art language. It takes time to pile up the heavy oil paints. He can only paint a next layer after one layer is completely dry. It takes several months to finish one painting. But Antonio is in no hurry. In his mind, only such a “Structurism” that made from lots of oil paints and made through time can bring people “the shock of passion and excitement”. The reason why he chose such an expression is also his own amazing experience back in his childhood when he saw the similar type of art in a museum for the first time.
Stay without A Plan
A philosopher once said, one’s behavior and choice can be found in his/her early experiences, which is known as the driving force of subconscious. Facing the same pond of lotus, Antonio makes such special art because he himself is special. Among the artists in Blue Roof Art Village, he is the only one with a big nose and white skin who stays long-term here, known as the “exotic artist”. When you see this man walking in the roads and fields or by the side of the lotus pond in Sansheng Village or hear him speaking in Chinese with an English accent, it’s hard to believe this Zurich-born Swiss has been living in Chengdu for only a year. Antonio loved to draw when he was little. But his father disapproved because in his mind it was not a stable profession being an artist. But it had no effect to his study of structurism oil painting which is characteristic of heavy colors and textures since 2002. He also held several art shows in Switzerland. At the age of 25, Antonio decided to go out and see the world. So he traveled around the world aboard a cruise ship as a photographer and art director. After living in Wudang Mountain for two months in 2011, he and his wife came to Chengdu. It was supposed to be a stop-over but later became a long-term stay without any plan. Antonio says “it’s a place where I can do whatever I want,” and “my heart told me since the beginning that I love it here.”
Foreign artists mostly have the natural power of mastering colors, especially bright, saturated and warm-toned colors. These colors make Antonio’s works eye-catching, especially for the collections of “Lotus” and “Natural lifeblood” (AW).
The “Natural lifeblood” (AW) collection is the theme that Antonio paints the most. There is no concrete subject, only heavy and fine textured colors of blue and green distributed crossly, just like illusions made of color lumps bump up in the head when we close our eyes, also like the secret life stories hiding deeply in the secret corners of our nature. They are very abstract. Antonio says that “painting is a kind of feeling. There are no lines planed out. You can never predict the final track of your brush.” His paintings are between unconsciousness and consciousness, which contain some factors of randomness and improvisation.
During his stay in Wudang Mountain, Antonio lived in a Taoist temple. He climbed the mountain, grew trees, and did some Tai Chi and meditation. So it’s not hard to understand how he describes his own creation state: ”It feels as comfortable and peaceful as Tai Chi when I created this collection.” The pictures often showed themselves in his mind when he meditated. Then he found a part that attracted his most attention on which he focused his mind. And then he began to make it perfect with his conscious and finished the details till the entire work was done. This might be the reason why he named this collection “Natural lifeblood”. Natural conscious is uncontrollable and free. Everything is from the heart. He says he will paint “Natural lifeblood” with blue and green colors from AW1 to AW99, and then the canvas will “grow” red, yellow and towards more colors. And AW happens to be the Initials of his name.
In Antonio’s arts, you can find an obvious oriental character in the collections of “Buddha” and “Landscape”, which can be regarded as the oriental stories in a Swiss eye or heart.
But he doesn’t see Buddha the way we do. His Buddha has desires. Being a Buddha yet holds a gun. Antonio says “they are bodyguards!” just as a Buddha maxim “A Buddha is a Buddha in any shape.” No matter in Christianity, Buddhism or Taoism, the “Buddha” in every religion is the ultimate reflect of the heart. You see what you want to see. In the painting “Buddha with flower” from the Buddha Collection, people from Chengdu see a panda but people from Japan see a sumo wrestler. There are numerous possibilities under Antonio’s brush which all show themselves in our hearts.
The landscapes in his paintings look so familiar yet different. Antonio shows the oriental elements like dragon and phoenix, Greeting Pine and Flying Guanying and even Chinese ink paintings with his own colors and in Structurism. It feels like magic and quite strange. The East and the West meet each other in his paintings.
“If I didn’t come to China, there wouldn’t be such paintings”. There is always a special perspective in Antonio’s paintings, which is the way a western artist understands the oriental culture. And this specificity will go on.