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How They See - Issue #40: Vincenzo Merola on painting as the most difficult challenge of life

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How They See

April 24 · Issue #40 · View online

How They See will help you to meet artists from all over the globe and understand their perception of art.

ON VACATION

Published weekly on Saturday.


Welcome to the Next issue of the How They See art newsletter! :) I hope that I am finding you, my dear Reader, in a good mood and ready to embark on another artistic journey. This week I am speaking with Italian artist, Vincenzo Merola. 
Reductive art is somehow extraordinary. It has something that constantly attracts me and keeps me looking and searching for different ideas for compositions and usage of colour. There is something universal and well-known about it, as Vincenzo points out, there are a lot of artists who painted or are painting stripes. However, at the same time, it is impossible to resist the impression that every artist creating such works in some way leaves his own, individual mark. 
You can find more about Vincenzo Merola and his art by visiting his Instagram or website.

You were born in Campobasso in Italy. Actually, it is also a home of very good vines. What is your favourite?
My father-in-law produces excellent “tintilia”. But I don’t drink wine. He still can’t believe he has a teetotaling son-in-law.
I am also wondering what are your childhood experiences and whether we can share some of them. Campobasso has slightly more than 52 thousand residents and in terms of size it is quite similar to my hometown, Chrzanów.
Campobasso is a small town. I think it was a nice place to spend my childhood. As a teenager, I hated the disadvantages of living away from the big cities. Traveling is both a necessity and a pleasure. Anyway I love leaving, but I’m always happy coming back home.
Vincenzo Merola, 6 Dice Rolls and 154 Fixed Stripes, 2020, Pigments, chalk and acrylic on linen 130×172 cm (2 parts 130×80 cm each)
Vincenzo Merola, 6 Dice Rolls and 154 Fixed Stripes, 2020, Pigments, chalk and acrylic on linen 130×172 cm (2 parts 130×80 cm each)
When I am looking at your works, I can’t help to ask about Agnes Martin influences. However, if I haven’t guessed, can you tell who influenced your art the most?
I believe that painting stripes is not very different from painting portraits or still lifes. The human figure has a long tradition in figurative painting, in the same way essential shapes appear recurrently in the history of aniconic art. Great artists created wonderful works, painting nothing but stripes: I think of Agnes Martin, but also of Frank Stella, Daniel Buren, Sol LeWitt, Barnett Newman, Ellsworth Kelly, Kenneth Noland, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Sean Scully, Raoul De Keyser, Brice Marden, Giorgio Griffa, Ulrich Erben, Rosemarie Trockel, Beth Letain and many others.
I was definitely influenced by all of them. Everyone recognizes the difference between a portrait by Antonello da Messina and one by Raffaello. Many people are able to distinguish a Cézanne still life from a Matisse one. A few enthusiasts manage not to confuse Bridget Riley’s stripes with those of Gene Davis. I hope someone can also perceive the difference between an Agnes Martin painting and one of my works.
What do you find interesting in stripes and lines? I will risk a statement that this is the major focal point of your artistic work.
I consider my attempt to learn to paint as the most difficult challenge of my life. Despite my best efforts, I still have a long way to go. For now I’m happy with the stripes. When I am old I may perhaps venture into something more complex.
I must admit that it was difficult for me to formulate the above question. And I did not feel comfortable with such a level of generalization, because, in your work, painting intertwines with, for example, works created by typewriting. How do you connect such different worlds?
I have a literary background and I’ve always been interested in verbo-visual experiments, especially in concrete poetry. I admire the work of Henri Chopin, Adriano Spatola, Arrigo Lora Torino, Ruth Wolf-Rehfeldt, Carl Andre. I also believe that there’s a strong connection between language and nonrepresentational art.
Vincenzo Merola, 216 Dice Rolls and 746 Coats, 2020, Pigments, chalk and acrylic on linen 168×168 cm (4 parts 80×80 cm each)
Vincenzo Merola, 216 Dice Rolls and 746 Coats, 2020, Pigments, chalk and acrylic on linen 168×168 cm (4 parts 80×80 cm each)
How do you approach the choice of medium you will use in the creative process? I am asking this question, cause to my surprise, I have found among them a tea. I am referring to “60 Dice Rolls and 211 Coats”.
I prepare my own paints using dry pigments. Making a good vinyl emulsion or tempera is an art in itself. Coffee or tea are often used like watercolor on paper. Painting with tea on canvas requires some more skills: I used black tea mixed with talc powder and acrylic binder in the work you refer to.
It is also fascinating that your paintings are speaking by themselves without using vibrant colours or complicated compositions.
The choice of colors and composition is part of the communication. Malevich’s “Black Square” and Baroque painting both speak. But they say different things.
What is your experience with battling procrastination and burnout?
I work in a methodical and constant way. I don’t know much about procrastination and burnout. I guess procrastination may be a good solution to prevent burnout.
Vincenzo Merola, 55 Coin Flips and 5 Fixed Stripes, 2020, Pigments, chalk and acrylic on linen 60×60 cm
Vincenzo Merola, 55 Coin Flips and 5 Fixed Stripes, 2020, Pigments, chalk and acrylic on linen 60×60 cm
Vincenzo Merola, 108 Coin Flips and 12 Fixed Stripes, 2020 ,Pigments, chalk and acrylic on linen 80×120 cm
Vincenzo Merola, 108 Coin Flips and 12 Fixed Stripes, 2020 ,Pigments, chalk and acrylic on linen 80×120 cm
Have you ever been tempted to use flashy colours in your work?
I feel frivolous even when I indulge in adding a hint of mica to my paints.
Can you give some advice to any self-taught artist or designer?
I would suggest that they carefully evaluate who they want to get advice from.
What is your favourite colour?
The color of pure pigments. I prefer not to mix paints on the palette, if it isn’t strictly necessary.
Thank you for reading my art newsletter! 🙏
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Have a great week!
Piotr
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