INTERVIEW: STEFANO BOLCATO - PUPPET MASTER & THE ART OF LEGO

PUPPET MASTER & THE ART OF LEGO

As a child, classically trained painter Stefano Bolcato loved to play with LEGO. Imagining the strangest buildings and machines, the little colored bricks greatly helped the Italian artist to develop his creativity. In his most recent series of works Bolcato has combined his two passions, as LEGO figurines have taken central stage in some of the world’s all time artistic masterpieces.

Stefano, can you tell us about yourself? 

I was born in Rome in the late 1960s. And that is still the city where I live and work. We children growing up in the 70s had much less choice in toys. I really loved to build with LEGO colored bricks. I liked the manual activity. I always had a good time with it. The tactile game experience was important to me. I imagined machines and bizarre buildings and could really build them. This type of game really encouraged the development of my creativity. I have great memories of that period.

With your paintings featuring LEGO figurines you now seem to have combined the best of two worlds … 

Two different worlds that are still part of my life and artistic sensibility. The landscapes I do evoke impressions, suggests moods. The real-life scenes are related to current events and everyday life. These aim to reflect on important social issues. LEGO was my favorite toy. And as I believe in the tradition, I really like using the technique of oil painting, which spread widely in Europe during the second half of the fifteenth century. I think it is funny, combing this type of painting and a pop subject.

It seems to me you are a classically trained painter. What is your educational background?

Yes, I started as a self-taught artist in the 80s, then attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome and the School of Decorative Arts of the City of Rome. At that time, I had two artists who I consider my guides: Alfonso Avanessian and Giovanni Arcangeli. I thank them for their teachings. I studied, and worked with drawing, painting and sculpture.

In your latest series featuring LEGO figurines, you re-imagined famous paintings from Botticelli to Warhol.  Seeing your classic style, and you being Italian, it should perhaps come as no surprise you painted several Renaissance master pieces. Are you an admirer? 

I strongly believe in the meaning of art and its highest manifestations. I strongly believe in the great artists of the past, who with their work and commitment have left their mark. Today, we live in a very complex time, full of contradictions, our life is very hectic. I believe the history of art can help us to find points of references that are related to universal values.

Would you have liked to be born in 15th century Italy?

Yes, but only on one condition: I would be working for a large Renaissance court. 

The typical portrait in those days was the profile. Any idea why?

The portrait profile scheme as adopted in the Renaissance era stems from the classical period. It is taken from the coins of ancient Rome.I’ve always been intrigued by the strange portrait of the Duke of Urbino, Federico da Montefeltro, although I never knew it was part of a diptych with his wife.

Today, we live in a very complex time, full of contradictions, our life is very hectic. I believe the history of art can help us to find points of references that are related to universal values.
— STEFANO BOLCATO

But he was an interesting character. A man of arms and a man of the arts, who could only be portrayed from one side. Can you tell us a bit more?

Federico da Montefeltro loved art and was a major patron of the arts in the Renaissance period. During a tournament, a typical game in that time, the Duke was injured on the right side of the face. He lost his eye and broke his nose. So, for the portrait they chose his left side.

Warhol is arguably the exact opposite of the Renaissance artist. Yet, seeing the pop element in your work you must like him too. What do you admire about Warhol?

I like contrasts, unusual combinations. But, in any case, there is always a thin wire, sometimes invisible, which connects all things. After all, art is a combination of things already done but reworked.

Warhol was the greatest exponent of Pop Art, another artist who has left a mark. Mine is a tribute to his work.

Why Marilyn Monroe?

For the selection of subjects, the reason is not always immediately clear. Sometimes there is attention for an artwork or a group of artworks and then later one understands the reason for that choice. Certainly, Marilyn is one of those famous people, who similarly were portrayed in the Renaissance.

You also did Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird by Frida Kahlo. What do you like about her?

Frida Kahlo was a fragile and charismatic person at the same time, closely linked to the history and traditions of her native country Mexico. That’s what I like about her. 

What future LEGO masterpieces may we expect?

I'm thinking of Raphael, Antonello da Messina, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Leonardo da Vinci ... and many more. I would like to make a tribute to them.But there are many artists that I love.


Are there any exhibitions or publications planned for the near future?

Some smaller museums in Italy are interested in this project. It is possible that there is a new exhibition in the coming months. I will keep you informed.

If you could own any three art works in the world, which three would you like to have? 

This question is too difficult for me to answer. It could be three art works today and within a week or month it would be three completely different ones. So, I’ll have to pass on this one!

INTERVIEWED BY PATRICIA SPROUSE

ArtEli Rezkallah