Born in Naples, Italian artist Italia Ruotolo‘s creative voice immerges from her paintings with vibrant fluidity and striking composition. A student of ancient Greek and Latin, she graduated from the Fine Arts Academy of Naples and later worked as a goldsmith and designer. Utilizing a myriad of techniques to invoke imagination, Ruotolo ignites the palette between reality and idealism while encompassing a diverse range of art nouveau. – Bella Harris
**Original interview by Pietro Rotelli, edit/rewrite by Bella Harris
In general, what does art represents to you, Italia?
Art is my reason for living and because I feel everything revolves around it, it’s almost impossible to imagine my life without. It allows me to look beyond what I already know, connecting me to imaginary worlds of pure freedom and magic. From the philosophical viewpoint, I believe that art embodies the human being in its highest form.
It is such a broad, misunderstood term. It’s my opinion that anyone who creates well is an artist. Every person who is capable of making humankind better in some way is an artist. All actions taken to their highest degree become art, in this sense, even life itself can become art. It is an instrument of consciousness because I feel it discloses reality.
What part of yourself do you feel is incorporated into your work?
I am primarily a curious person. My concern mainly focuses on human nature and the dynamics from the physical to cerebral. I am an investigator of the soul, a “soulnautic” to use a neologism. I like to operate through the process of Maieutics, a belief that lessons cannot be taught by a transmission of knowledge but instead by interacting through the experience. In this belief, I extract and decrypt answers from myself that are shared in the collective unconscious to better understand them when placed on the canvas. I incorporate my emotion, dilemmas, and anguish. I believe the act of making art puts you in touch with a deeper current of your being. Personally, I feel at ease in the guise of Sibyl, the priestess of the god Apollo who gave cryptic responses to people who went to the temple. My paintings have an evocative value and allow the viewer to evoke emotions, possibilities, and feelings.
With such an interesting perspective on art and humanity, what encourages your creative development? More simply put, what inspires you?
I have a continuous stream of ideas and therefore whatever I perceive can be utilized as a starting point of inspiration. However, there is a difference between ideas and inspiration. I think the idea reaches the mind of the viewer, but the inspiration finds their emotions.
To be inspired means to go through the gate that allows access to other levels of reality. For me, it is a rare situation when the range of brain frequencies becomes slower or faster and the quality of art produced becomes different, more mysterious, and perhaps more darkly communicative. The muse does not feed on ordinary emotions. It takes passion or a great pain to create mood. I produce work because of ideas, work because of inspiration, and then let the viewer distinguish one from the other.
Your work conveys eroticism alongside characteristics of the metaphysical. How do you combine these two diverse themes?
I love the antithesis between such these elements and therefore tend to work in this direction. I like to construct contradictory images apt to generate questions. Without contrast, we would not exist. I’m concerned in putting the strain into the image but it has to result optically calm and compositionally serene. My settings are always solemn and similarly seen in art of The Byzantine Empire. The drama of the movement is absent but you can feel the calm before the explosion.
With opposing diatribes, some of my paintings portray both life and death, depending on the mood or focus. In this context, there is evident contrast between the Eros and Thanatos theory. Eros is the greatest force that exists and what moves the universe…the glue that keeps the atoms cohesive, and all my paintings are a tribute to this force, which is life itself.
Italia, why is nature such an obvious component in your work?
The human being is a product of nature. As a culture, nature is our backdrop with a very dominant importance. More than scenery, nature is the blood that flows in our veins. I was lucky enough to spend most of my childhood in the country, spending my days near the peaceful sea. I’ve grown up with a deep sense of belonging to nature. For this reason, I don’t relegate it to merely being my background but rather being molten together…where each thing in the world is part of everything.
I’m not interested in using nature to emphasize elements in foreground because for me they have the same importance. In fact, my paintings are often an intricate maze of things, and all highlighted in the same way. The natural elements in my paintings come mainly under the form of animals that often have a demystifying function. The overlaying of black roaches with a bouquet of pink roses and oozing blood is a representation of personal drama. An insect can walk quietly on a corpse and does not stop because nature does not stop. It is a continuous dynamism and in this, there is terrible beauty.
Your subjects convey a strong sense of power. Who are they and what do they represent?
They are my mirrored figures, my alter egosthatact as intermediariesbetween the viewers and me. It is not the realitybut rather apossiblereflection. They, like Sibyl, don’t offerexact answers and do not make judgments. Their task is to provoke questions and set in motion a process that will later lead to answers.
Describe your creative process.
The process begins with inspiration and a state of mind that gives form through my sketches. I start by drawing on a sheet of paper, using large movements and letting my hand go where it want. I look among the lines to discover what appears and begin laying down a concrete sketch. Then I search for items and photograph them for references. Sometimes I use the photos stored in my large. After this, I finalize my idea and transfer it on canvas using pencil.
Lately, I’ve been using a dead layer technique where the first draft is completely monochrome before adding layers of color. First used by Flemish painters, it adds a greater volume to the picture. The materials I prefer are oil paints, turpentine and linseed oil, all first quality because the appearance of a painting depends on the quality of the materials as on the artist’s talent.
What are your goals for the future? What are you currently working on?
I’m going back to my old love, jewelry. I intend to complement my work as a painter and jewelry maker by infusing my style and sense of life into unique pieces of art. I do not want serialized objects, and each work with its own life and place in the world. I’m also collaborating with musicians, writers and poets to illustrate their works and create album covers. I am methodically organizing my body of work from over the last five years to bring together a great exhibition.