Interview with Nicola Verlato

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Nicola Verlato is a Italian-American artist, currently based between Rome and Los Angeles. He is known for his socially engaged paintings and sculptures which uses the strength and ability of figurative art to emotionally involve the viewer. Featuring spectacular light effects, twisting nude figures, and dense compositions, Verlato’s work depicts a dark future that recalls a mythological past. In order to further empower his images, he uses an articulated process that combines classical techniques as well as modern technologies such as 3D Modeling programs. Verlato has shown his paintings, drawings, and sculptures in the United States and internationally.

Music On Walls had the chance to discuss with Nicola Verlato about his interest in the myths that surround some of the most popular music artists and how he contributes to the myth process through his art as pictorial forms.

Hi Nicola, can you tell MoW why you chose to create artworks inspired by music?

I believe modernity has been dominated by music as its main art form since the late 18th century. Music has been the main media of an age. On one side, with the enlightenment, western culture was getting rid of the old mythologies including the ones of the three monotheisms (Christianity, Judaism and Islam). On the other, with the rise of industrialization and the consequent need to secularize every possible portion of the territory in order to exploit it. It pushed art, and the sacred that art is able to evoke, towards the most immaterial form possible, which is music. The other side of the coin is represented by the fact that, in the new desert of symbols that modernity was able to create, music started again, but very slowly, to create new mythologies. Today these mythologies and rituals are well established, being some of the most pervasive and powerful of our days. Therefore I was always very interested to give my contribution in pictorial forms to the myth process conveyed principally by music which is constantly happening in our times.

If you could connect each piece with one song or one album, what would it be?

Honestly I don't always have such a precise connection between my paintings and specific songs of those artists. I can say what I like of their music. In certain cases I don't even like their music at all! I'm more interested in their myth, their narratives rather than the music they created.

Burzum - 2012 (click to enlarge)

For Burzum I was very inspired by the album Hlidskjalf.

Robert Johnson wrote so many important pieces, that's difficult to choose. Maybe "Crossroads" also for its seminal role in the rise of 60's rock music.`

For Metallica it's different because that painting is precisely connected with one specific song, "Sad But True".

(You can listen to the songs in the playlist below)

Robert Johnson and the devil - 2010 (click to enlarge)

Sad But True - 2012 (click to enlarge)

While for Madonna I practically don't like anything of her music. For Michael Jackson also I don't have any specific songs, I was more interested by his whole persona rather than by his music.

I would like to underline the fact that some of these works are part of larger projects which aims to the construction of actual monuments entitled to these characters to be built in specific places filled with painitngs and sculptures.

Why is music important to you, in your life and in your art?

I'm living, as everybody else, in a time permeated by music in every recess of our life exactly because the "zeitgeist" of our times is incarnated by music for the reasons I tried to explain before. Therefore, as almost everybody, I'm trapped as well in this aesthetical horizon. It took me a while to understand the ideologies of dematerialization connected with it and the several consequences coming from this perspective. Paradoxically, the best way to modify the mentality in which we are all embedded is to celebrate it in material forms, and in doing so, by inverting the directionality of it from its de-materialized character into a sort of re-materialization through the power of art.

Do you have plans on creating new artworks inspired by music or musicians ?

Yes, as I said, some of these works are part of much larger projects, if even just one of them will take place in the future I will have to create many more paintings related to music.

Do you listen to music when you’re working?

No, I don't listen to music when I'm working, it distracts me too much. I'm just listening to people talking about politics, philosophy and history on Youtube or podcasts.

What is the song you liked the most lately?

Lately I strangely listened several times to Richard Wagner's "Sigfried's Death and Funeral March".

What album ?

One album of Francesco da Milano's "Fantasia" for the luth, also some pieces by Mattias Eklundh, impressive electric guitarist.

What was the last gig you went to ?

It's been a very long time since I went to see a concert.

Are you a musician yourself?

Yes I studied music for a long time, I studied classical guitar, luth, piano and composition. Then I started to play synths and keyboard, bass and electric guitar. I compose a sort of classic music very influenced by rock and pop. Also some of the pieces I'm writing are related to the projects I was talking about before. In the case of musicians such as Michael Jackson I’m composing classic music pieces using riffs from his songs as thematic material.

Here is a piece of music (part of a 3 pieces concert) inspired by a non-musical character, Pier Paolo Pasolini.