by Sebastiano Bazzichetto
SOMEWHERE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ATLANTIC OCEAN – It must have been a couple of years ago that I was flâneuring the vast lands of The Gram, also known as the Gramshire, or as many know it, the Instagram, when I happened to lay my eyes on Mr Sclocco’s account.
His Klimtesque inspiration, his Neo-Renaissance artistic stroke caught my attention and since then I have been intrigued by his art. Although we never met in the flesh when we were both in Toronto, this past December brought forward the opportunity to (online) sit down and have a compelling conversation about Fabrizio’s career, background and work.
Fabrizio, let’s rewind the tape and talk a little bit about your childhood.
I was born in Pescara in 1989. My father is Italian and my mother is Canadian, hence I was born with dual citizenship. I inherited my creativity from my father, who was a cabinet maker in his early years. I started drawing on stocking packages, when I was around 3 years old. As a teenager I attended an art school and at university, I went for architecture but I dropped out after 4 years.
What didn’t you like about the faculty of architecture?
Restrictions. I have always been passionate about architecture but there are too many restrictions and bureaucratic components. I believe architecture gives you a very important foundation in communicating forms with a few simple strokes.
What made you move to Toronto?
I was having some challenges with my family at home, and I wanted to create my own independence elsewhere. That’s when I dropped out of architecture and I moved. Maybe Toronto wouldn’t have been my first choice but things fell into place and I landed here when I was 21 years. Throughout the years, it was necessary for me to expand my horizon and to move into a new culture.
Did you start painting right away?
For the first 4-5 years I did not paint at all after my move across the pond since I was focussed on surviving in such an expensive city with 4 jobs. I tried to attend OCAD but unfortunately my English was not the best: I wasn’t even able to attend school as I did not pass my English test.
What did you do then?
I started working in different industries. I worked as a visual artist, in a loading dock, as a waiter, and as a florist. I met an art director in the movie business while I was working as a visual merchandising and visual display artist in Rosedale and Yorkville. He suggested me to work as a set designer. And that was in 2015. Since then I have been working in the film industry. After feeling financially stable and finally having my weekends off, I felt that I could go back to painting.
It was and is a strong need. I think everybody goes through a period of time that is an actual transition when you move to another country. It can be very tough, it depends on the way you live. Literally, the first five years I put everything on the side and I was trying to survive. To figure out what was happening in my life. I was coming from a country where art is so predominant because it is everywhere. And I landed in the very opposite situation.
What were your first works?
My first paintings were minimal and abstract with predominant architectural components where I would play with textures and finishes, such as matte, satin or glossy. I used to work a lot with black paint which symbolises the unknown, the displacement with my family, and the feeling of being lost in translation.
What do you like about set designing?
I simply love it because it suits my interests. I create all the technical drawings for carpenters and painters to build the sets. What I love the most is the constant change of scenery. I cannot really linger on a project for too long. We change productions all the time and I can draw different sets, from a hotel to a swimming pool to a book shop and so forth.
On your website one reads «Feeling comfort through discomfort.» It is a very strong message that conveys so much. What do you mean by it?
It refers to the moment where you go out of your comfort zone and you venture into your “uncomfort” zone. It sounds hard to interpret, but it is as simple as going on a trip by yourself. Wandering the streets on your own, without any device that can distract you. Or by accepting that we are all different from each other. The comfort is the present moment where you are acting as your true self. I can recall having moments of discomfort in therapy which feels like an elevator of emotions that get to different floors.
Do you think this is a common feeling as an expat?
Displacement is a very common feeling amongst ex-pats, something hard to vocalise. I carry with me so many stories and confessions from friends, acquaintances or complete strangers, stories that greatly resonate with my artworks. My former manager from a department store told me that it took him 6 years to finally feel somewhat re-rooted in a new culture. Personally, I thought I was just leaving my country to have an experience abroad. I would have never thought that ten years later I would have been interviewed by your magazine and live in Toronto.My first years were very hard on my mental health. This is when I was learning about post-landing depression and there are several countries in the world with the highest number of cases. As for expats and immigrants, I met a gallery owner in Toronto who told me that she was touched by my art as a fellow immigrant. She suggested me to embrace this subject and how I felt as an expat, not only as an Italian.
What do you think you have learnt in Canada so far?
Canada and Toronto have taught me how to be independent, to be grateful, to stand strong on my feet. I’ve also learned to be proud of who I am despite what people think about me or my work. Despite all sorts of microaggressions I have experienced. I’ve learned how to change, to readjust and to keep moving upwards and onwards. Being able to make sense of all of this is a great endeavour.
What do you mean by microaggressions?
Well, I have experienced microaggressions, and sadly it still happens, a few times a week I’d say. I am aghast by some culturally insensitive comments I receive from people in the workplace and some scenarios in the art-design field. Perhaps about my accent, the look, the dark tones… I once had a meeting with a gallery owner that specifically told me that they were looking for “more local” artists, while he kept remarking on my accent, interrupting me several times because he couldn’t understand me and made comments on my appearance.
Do you find it is common in your field?
I share the same experience with many other friends of mine, non-English artists as well.
It’s not necessarily that you’re a person without manners if you commit a microaggression, but rather that you need to be more aware of your biases and impact on people. We all need to commit to working on these factors in order to create a more harmonious society.
After a black period, I see busts and body pieces in red, like fragments of classical statues. What do they represent?
While black refers to the unknown, my awakening was a radical shift after a complex and toxic relationship with a pathological narcissist. Thanks to this experience and through therapy I was able to deal with my years of unresolved issues and remote memories that surfaced all at once as fragments of life. Here comes the red, a colour of uncontrolled emotions, whether it is fear or passion, anger or embarrassment. I also use yellow: the bile, the emotions that come out from inside of me. It is like regurgitating something. It represents an element that is inside and has to come out.
What about the gold in your work?
The usage of gold in my work is very recent, therefore I cannot tell you yet the meaning of the reflection this material creates on the canvas. It is definitely a reference to Byzantine art or to Medieval triptychs, where the figures really stand out from the golden background. I must say though, that using gold to form shapes such as domes and rectangles embraces even more the negative space in my artwork. Then you have the hyper-realistic parts of the painting that are the memories, deeply rooted within myself.
What do the limbs that you paint in Neo-Classical or Neo-Renaissance poses symbolise?
With no doubt they are inspired by my heritage: deteriorated busts, fragments and body pieces are all symbols of recurrent emotions or deeply rooted memories within myself. They represent a rebirth from the actual Neoclassical world. The limbs evoke columns as our own foundations, hands as forgotten caresses, or feet representing a more stable ground. They go back to a complicated, toxic relationship with a narcissist. Certain parts of this ruined bust were parts of my own body that had been affected. It is a way for me to purge. After that messy period I had the urge to go home and see beauty. The bust is a classical element that I truly missed.
What are your plans for the future?
As soon as the pandemic is somewhat under control, I want to travel freely again. Artistically speaking, I would love to expand into interior design by creating wallpapers, fabrics and pottery as well. I love exploring new territories in general.
Three adjectives to describe yourself?
Spontaneous, shy, and stubborn. I am a Libra…(laughs)
A movie that inspires you?
Can I say two? You know, as a Libra, I like taking my time to make the right decision… So, The Great Beauty and the series Mad Max.
What are you reading at the moment?
A couple of weeks ago I started reading “Emotional intelligence” by Daniel Goleman.
Favourite Italian artist from the past?
A fairytale you like best?
I can think of Disney movies actually and I’d say Dumbo.
What’s the first thing you do in the morning?
Being extremely anxious… Coffee, breakfast, sit quietly and look at the sky.
Your favourite building in Toronto?
The Flat Iron, which not a lot of people know about, but the famous one in New York was inspired by the original built in Toronto, but on a much bigger scale.
Red or white wine?
All are welcome.
Are you a good cook?
That is what I’ve been told, but my girlfriend is an excellent and skilled cook too. I am very good at risotto with apples and Italian speck.
Before closing your eyes, you think of?
I think about what I have learned during the day and what to be grateful for, which is extremely important to me: we easily forget all the good that comes our way.
3 thoughts on “(Re)thinking art to (re)place one’s soul. A conversation with Italian artist Fabrizio Sclocco”
I enjoyed that very much.
Thank you John!
Truly moving. This young artist has suffered and evolved, like a phoenix rising from the flames. A very gifted, conscious being. We are blessed to have you with us, Fabrizio Sclocco.