Wednesday, August 27, 2008

An interview with Valerio Adami

I had the pleasure of interviewing Valerio Adami in Meina (20th July 2008).

Valerio Adami (b. March 17, 1935) is an Italian painter. Educated at the Accademia di Brera in Milan, he has since worked in both London and Paris. His art carries obvious influence from Pop Art.

[source: Wikipedia]

MM: Can you talk about the relationship with the music in your painting research?

VA: When I was a child my mother told me: "Singing will help you forget." I come basically from an uneducated family, where however music was part of daily and social life. My mother was an amateur piano player, my father was an amateur violin player, my grandmother played the mandolin and my grandfather played the guitar. During the days before the war, we were accompanied by these musical rites.
In my studio in Monte Carlo I have an old Erard piano, which unfortunately was destroyed by a craftsman who tuned the strings with a modern tension; it was an instrument of 1830 and the strings had a lower tension. The grand pianos at that time entered into mass production, an impressive number.
For example, during the war, we spent days and nights in a cellar in Milan, in Via del Caravaggio, and one of the strongest memories of my youth was the descent of a grand piano from the third floor into the cellar, under the bombing. In fact my mother thought that if we could have music in the cellar, it would have protected us from fear.
In the nearby house there was the Wermacht's control station and when the officers knew that in our cellar there were amateur concerts, they invited us to go in their cellar during the air raids - it was much deeper and more protective.
I remember my brother at the piano, playing Chopin without ever having studied a note. While I'm not having any musical ear and ability, this musical passion, this need to bring the music in my life was very strong and has continued until today.
At the end of the fifties, which musicology's models could be inspirational for a boy? Theodor Adorno, for example. Musically speaking, he had an enemy, who was Jean Sibelius.
Staying for a long period in Finland, one day I listened to Sibelius and fell in love with his music. What do I have to do to take off the guilt of having refused without having ever heard him? Therefore, I did a large painting entitled "Finland", a tribute to his symphony Finland.
When one boy is desperately searching for a style, a painting thought, a form of representation, as was the entire search of my work, the objective is to find the most free and more traditional metaphor, allegory (that today is lost), which are key parts of the whole Western culture and art.
It was important for me to seek the shape and structure in dodecaphonic music by Anton Webern. From then on I developed a musical affinity and an unconditional love for all that is a difficult to listen to.

MM: How was your friendship with Luciano Berio and how did you meet him?

VA: I remember that my encounter with Luciano Berio date back to the creation of the magazine "Incontri Musicali", in 1956. This led me afterwards to Bruno Maderna and Cathy Berberian.
Luciano was one of my greatest friends, a musical genius. He brought with him an extraordinary wealth and talent. The absolute space of his life was music, without being an intellectual space, although it was a great expert (see, for example, all the Mahler's inserts in Sinfonia).
Luciano had what the Greeks called the Daemon, a genius that he brought with himself. I have loved Luigi Nono and Pierre Boulez (Mitterand himself asked me to do a portrait of Boulez), they are great composers, but perhaps they lack Luciano's continuous artistic expression.
We lived together when he was in Paris, he was always with me before he married Talia Pecker. Well, each time he departed from his home from Ventimiglia and once aboard the airplane, he began to write music. He got off the airplane, took a taxi, came to my house and immediately continued to write until late evening, to resume early the following day. Luciano was a kind of absolute consumer of what was his musical demand, his life and his nature. He fed himself from writing music.

MM: What do you think about the abstractness of sound phenomenon, the desire to transcend from reality?

VA: Music has helped me a lot during my working time. In order to listen, you must think note for note. At the same time there is a body listening. The Egyptians said that every part of your body thinks, I would say that every part of the body 'listens'.
I am very tied to a definition of painting given by the writer and philosopher Hermann Broch. The birth of painting and image, according to the greek-Roman mythology, occurred when the love of a potter in Corinth, saw the shadow of the face of his beloved, projected on the wall and drew the profile on the wall.
Hermann Broch upset all this by saying that the image was born from music: the rhythm of a primitive music is the shape of the tattoo, as a dance that is on your body. One day the tattoo came out from the body, became representation, and becoming representation, gave birth to painting.
Creativity is something that happens by an abandonment of ourselves, entering into a sort of expectation of revelation. I could define this only turning 60 years old. When you see what you draw and what you do, you say, "It's not me that I thought of it, that I did it." A revelation is happening in the creative process, especially when you realize and better define the creative process, like a musical revelation, a form, a color. We must abandon ourselves and find this moment of great expectation, where something appears and takes place. A mystical without God, but at the same time a revelation of a divine. The path of poetical sentiment comes from the heart, as well as the feeling of love, of truth and piety.

MM: Can you explain us the application of musical principles contained in painting to the design and structuring of space?

VA: At the Teatro di San Carlo (Naples), in 2004, after an absolute study of the global concept of Wagner, I realized the scenes for The Flying Dutchman (Der fliegende Holländer), an extraordinary and unforgettable experience. Wagner is perhaps the only composer for whom the image and music are becoming the same thing, a pictorial-polyphonic concert of colors and notes.
Stravinsky spoke clearly about the envy by the musician to imagine that a painter has in front a model, something to which he refers constantly. On the other hand, the painting is faced with this sort of non-model that is music. Michelangelo said that to be a good painter, you must have knowledge of music.

MM: Today The electronic music composer can build sound worlds without the need of a score. Is it necessary to codify the auditory experience?

VA: The Bible was handed down from memory. They have begun to change it when the Bible was transcribed. Before, the memory corresponded to a biblical truth much less exposed to transformation.
Those complex immense symbolic representations of the sounds escape me. An affinity between painting and music are the Ragas, which in Sanskrit means "what colors your mind". The Indian music, for example, is an unwritten music. The Indian musician must live 25 years in absolute symbiosis with his Guru. To hand down a musical memory is a complex structure, much more of our western music and it's stronger then the writing itself.
In Indian music there is a part that gives you headroom to the interpretation, but always within fixed schemes. It gives qualities to music and sound that are beyond us and that we can't assign to our music.

Interview by Matteo Milani for Unidentified Sound Object.

[original italian version - pdf]

No comments:

Post a Comment