Coffee with Alessandro Roma
Author: Yoli Terziyska
“It is impossible to know where you are here, only your direction is known”
Of Walking in Ice, Wednesday 4th of December, Werner Herzog
Alessandro Roma, born in Milan in 1977, is a multi-media artist living and working between London and Milan. He studied at the Brera Art Academy in Milan, and has since participated in a number of group and solo exhibitions in London, Rome, New York, and Berlin. His most recent body of work includes painting, collage, ceramics and installation—all of which are exemplified in his current solo show at the Yamamoto Keiko Rochaix Gallery in London called A Vivid Dream: can dreaming save us? The exhibition’s title unequivocally points to the artist’s intention to guide us through a walk of chance, urging us to abandon the certainty of reality when entering his works. Alessandro and I met to speak about his current practice and some of his future projects.
YT: Alessandro, viewing your works is a sensory, physical and psychological experience. Like having a lucid dream. Is that something that you strive for?
AR: Yes, my aim is to provide people with a unique experience. I have always tried to arrive to a state of reverie with my works, like dreaming with your eyes open. You are not certain whether you’re dreaming or whether you’re awake. You belong to a different reality. The space between dreaming and wakefulness is very necessary for my work.
You work in a variety of media. What does that do for you?
At heart, I consider myself a painter, even when working in other media. For example in my recent ceramic pieces, I still employ my painting processes. When it comes to my choice of medium, I do not decisively determine the type that will be used for the completion of an artwork. I let the materials speak to me, I allow them to impart a feeling in me—the feeling of novelty associated with experimentation. One of the main reasons for why I use different materials is because I cannot allow myself to become complacent. I seek dynamism and change.
Staring the surface of the moon, 2017, oil on canvas, 150cm x 122cm
Is there a reason for using a particular medium or is your choice always intuitive?
The choice of materials belongs someplace between the conceptual and the intuitive, and it is always in flux. I always choose media that I can mold with my hands, and often times this choice is influenced by my current environment. For example, I never produced ceramic works in Italy, despite their strong tradition there. What is unique about the use of different media is their particular temporal qualities. My collage work has always been quite fast, whereas my experience with ceramics is the opposite—I like to play with time, as this allows me to fully understand the object. The use of different materials determines that process in its entirety! It sometimes takes months to know if an artwork is ready to leave the studio.
At a glance, your works appear to walk a line between the fragile and the beautiful, the garish and corrupted. What relationship does beauty have to your work?
Beauty allows viewers to engage, it is an entry point, however it is not the end goal of my work. Aesthetics is not the factor that propels my practice—it is intuition. There could be a misconception when it comes to aesthetics, as viewers tend to focus on the pieces’ physical characteristics—instead, they should spend time with the art and let it carry them away. It is important for the audience, and for myself as an artist, to abandon knowledge when interacting with the work in order to fully enter it. When I came to London, I had to unlearn what I knew from my experiences in Italy, and rethink my practice. I started reflecting on what beauty meant to me, allowing my [new] environment to affect that process.
Speaking of process, do you draw inspiration from other artists?
The connection with the past is very important to me. It is difficult to admit that you belong to a particular tradition. What is also challenging is recognizing previous artists’ influence in your own practice—it compromises the notion of originality that most artists struggle with at the beginning of their careers. If you are producing art, you ultimately reach something that is yours. After all, you have to abandon thought and use your hands while making. What comes from that is art that is uniquely yours.
What kind of experience do you hope viewers have when interacting with your works?
I would like the audience to surrender thought and allow themselves to experience the works. I would like them to have the freedom to experience them, enter them, and discover something personal. Going back to the notion of reverie, I hope that the artworks encourage viewers to enter into a dream-like scenario, to dream with their eyes wide open. The space between waking and sleep is very pivotal to my work, as it outlines my relationship with reality.
Untitled, 2017, ceramic, 34cm x 54cm x 3cm
What relationship do your works have with nature?
Nature is not central to my work, but I keep going back to it as the “ideal” place. For me, it is an environment that cannot be controlled, similar to a dream. You can take a walk in nature and experience it, sometimes even lose yourself in it—similarly, my aim is for viewers to take a walk through my pieces, and allow to lose themselves in them.
One of the most notable elements in your works is your use of colour...
I study colour closely because I want to uncover the kind of response specific hues can elicit from the viewers. I want to determine colour’s capacity to lead a spectator to a psychedelic place—hence why my colour choices veer towards the instinctual. My palette constantly evolves as I never want to feel comfortable with a specific range of colours. Comfort compromises one’s ability to push themselves in discovering new ways of expression. That is why I do not want to be recognised by my use of technique, but by the way I see and interpret things.
What's next for Alessandro Roma?
I have an upcoming solo exhibition in Faenza at the Museo Internazionale Delle Ceramiche (International Ceramics Museum). One of the show’s goals is to display the relationship between my ceramics and my other, two-dimensional pieces—it will be up next year!
Portrait of Alessandro Roma
Top Image: Untitled, 2016, ceramic, 45cm x 30cm and wall painting on gallery wall, courtesy of Yamamoto Keiko Rochaix Gallery.