A conversation between Thierry Goldberg Gallery and Carlo D’Anselmi
Thierry Goldberg: With its vivid colors, lush settings, and incorporation of flora and fauna, your work evokes of a number of art historical references, from Fauvism to the Garden of Eden. Who or what are the points of reference for your practice? Where does your process begin?
Carlo D’Anselmi: My process begins in the world around me. I begin by collecting things around me through the act of painting them. Once I draw or paint something, I can internalize and add it into my visual vocabulary. I am fascinated by the work of other artists throughout history who mythologize the world around them in order to build a new one. Recent influences have been Edvard Munch and Dana Schutz, among many others. I am constantly entranced by the inherent optimism of nature and plant life.
TG: There is an eerie or sullen quality to your drawings that is not as present in your paintings. Could you talk about your use of shadow and lighting in this body of work?
CD: In this group of drawings, I was dealing, as we all were, with the pandemic. I was turning inward, and trying to build interior rooms by using different memories or inventing new spaces. Physically being indoors was a clear influence on the work. I think much of the anxiety of the last year carried through and changed the quality of the work, giving it that eerie quality. This, combined with the light streaming in from the windows, gave the work a drama caused by the extreme darks and lights and saturated colors. I used Sumi ink to really darken areas and pop out the color, which signified the light.
TG: There’s also an interesting play on perspective in these works; a simultaneous flattening and expanding that offers us glimpses of interior spaces both from the inside out and from the outside in. How does perspective play into your works on paper?
CD: Creating a new pictorial space gives me a lot of freedom to bend the rules of perspective. As long as it fits on the page, I am able to make it as expansive or as shallow as I want, or give multiple vantage points in the same scene. Then I can furnish it with any plants or chairs or dressers I like, show what might be outside, and hang artwork on the walls. I had a lot of fun drawing these.
TG: Both in your paintings and your drawings, there seems to be a dialogue between interior and exterior space. Plants and animals appear just as frequently, and with as much focus or attention, as human figures or architectural structures. How would you describe the tension and/or co-existence between the natural and man-made world in your work?
CD: I always feel the tension between humanity and the natural world. It’s an ancient idea that I love to think about and reference because it is so real. Humanity is always trying to dominate nature to greater or lesser degree, and nature is always fighting, no matter what, against this control. It’s a battle. Sometimes, there is a truce. Ultimately, death wins. Humanity is a troublesome part of nature. In my work, nature is usually a chaotic but benevolent entity, while humans tend to be more absorbed in the minutiae of their own drama.
TG: The figures in this body of work are depicted in solitude, which feels particularly apt as we come out of a year of social distance and isolation. How has your practice reflected upon – or perhaps developed in resistance to – this moment in time?
CD: I feel that I absorb a lot of things while I am working that are much more apparent in hindsight. Looking at this work now, it is very much about solitude. This pandemic has impacted a lot of artists differently, but I think artists (in general) can handle solitude a little better than most. Artists have to spend a lot of time alone anyways, as making art is a pretty solitary thing to do. In one sense, more solitude was a gift. But in another sense, it was sort of overwhelming when there was no other choice, and life outside was terrifying. I think my practice became much more intense out of necessity.