3 Questions For 3 Artists
Welcome back for the second round of “3 Questions for 3 Artists”! Our site is delighted to represent and sell art prints by a unique selection of contemporary artists from across the world.
These artists vary in age, experience, backgrounds, artistic inspiration and the mediums which they employ and we thought it would be fascinating to hear their thoughts about some of the simplest yet most fundamental questions about the world of contemporary art.
For this edition we will be talking to the Italian painter Letitia Prestipino, the Amsterdam-based Syrian-born mixed-media artist Adnan Samman, and Wassili Widmer, a Swiss artist based in Glasgow who also works through mixed-media with a focus on performativity.
We want to find out how these incredibly talented individuals took their first steps into the world of art, what circumstances or passions inspired them to take their work further, the creative techniques they employ in the act of creation, and how their work responds to contemporary issues.
So let’s continue for a deeper and more personal view of the thoughts, ideas, and concepts behind their works
What was your path to becoming an artist? Was there a particular event that has significantly influenced your artistic creation?
Letizia: I would say that the first and second questions, i.e. what are your main sources of inspiration?, are both linked in regards to my pathway.
Apart from a natural inclination towards painting, which was my first attraction to the art world, it was encounters with other artists that started to broaden my horizon and my vision of beauty.
First of all, James Turrell's artistic work in Villa Panza in Varese deeply amazed and moved me. In Italian the word “moved” means “commuovere”, which comes from the Latin word commovere: getting things moving, to agitate, to move. After years of research and experimentation, I went to Berlin, where I met Marlen Letetski, and when I saw her works for the first time, I was struck by the same emotion as when I saw Sky Space by James Turrell. In that moment I realized that some works of art are actually able to change my gaze and in turn ask interesting questions about our gaze, our perception of reality and therefore also about art itself.
I have to be very honest, as far as the Landscape series and Sky Place are concerned, at a certain point I started to have new experiences in my artistic path. Sometimes, before I fall asleep, color spaces begin to take shape on my eyelids. So, I have to write them down in my notebook and then stop the work of imagination, otherwise, the perfect image that takes shape in my mind will never correspond to the picture I am going to paint the next day.
These images are like visions that I have to catch, before being fully visualized by the brain. Thanks to this initial intuition the painting starts to take shape but during the artistic process, it can change and become what it has actually to be.
In this way, the work provides a taste of that vision, without ever being reduced to something precise or previously defined.
Adnan: I was born into a family that appreciated creativity in all aspects. Most of my father's friends in my hometown of Hama were local artists and I was able to socialize with them and learn from them from a young age. I visited some of their studios and showed them my early work. At the time, I used to work by hand! Putting things, concepts and colors on paper was a communication tool for me. I figured it was the best way in which I can express myself. This kept on going and I kept trying new techniques and methods to develop my hobby. When the Arab Spring started, there was a big wave of artists, mainly young artists and hobbyists, who joined together and formed communities that helped to bring experimental arts to further places at a time when interest in Middle Eastern contemporary arts was blossoming in the West. I was in Jordan at the time, and the creative scene was booming there. This encouraged me to take my hobby to the public and share it with the world. As the internet and social media became more accessible, I realized that people loved my work, so I took it from there and never looked back.
Widmer: Originally, I never wanted to be an artist. I went to business school because I could never really imagine myself in a repetitive job. What I also always aspired to was a kind of inner process that I could achieve by learning, reading, and experiencing new things. Stories and images have always interested me and have somehow contained hidden myths that I wanted, and still want, to discover. You can find poetry and beauty in these discoveries.
After business high school, I worked in an office for a year, which made me realize that business will never be my field of work. My job at that time exemplified a life in which general boredom was surrounded by a passive-aggressive office climate and nihilistic futility of never-ending package contract renewals, moronic tasks like making coffee for the whole office, and screaming customers on the phone because their packages were late due to human error. Most of all, I suffered from feeling intellectually stuck. By studying art, I realized that it is an area where I can choose my focus and work on it, and if I get bored, I just change the area of interest. In art, there is a wonderful freedom to combine subjects that wouldn't mix in other cultural or scientific fields. The arts offer a way to continuously create something in a semi-linear way and learn by doing. On the other hand, this puts the mind in a state of never-ending work, which certainly has some dangers. At some point, I had to learn to stop thinking about the art all the time, to take breaks, to turn everything into creating, and to stop delivering all the time.
Anyway, I had the wonderful opportunity to visit Chicago during my BFA studies and get to know the incredible performance scene there. Later, I did a MLitt in performance art in Glasgow, which is also one of the most exciting art cities I know. The experiences I had there made me decide that I was not bound by any conventions in my artistic language. However, knowing the existing conventions in order to break them is important, and that's why researching art history and visiting current exhibitions has become important to me.
At some point, I felt that there was no way back to a different way of thinking about life, as learning and producing happened in a very natural flow. At that moment I realized that I am an artist now and will likely be for the rest of my life, even if I go through hell one day and heaven the next. But that's okay, better than being stuck in the limbo of business life.
What are your main sources of inspiration?
Adnan: There are many inspirations. Of course, there are always other artists. But I'm also particularly inspired by stories and the people around me, which I always try to include an element of in my work. My home country, Syria, and the political situation there has been a thematic concern for me as I'm inspired by the concepts of contrast, exile and nostalgia. On top of all this, music and architecture have always played a major role in shaping how I look at the process of creation. I like to mix different elements together, in a similar way to how the relationship between architecture and music work.
Wassili: Some examples were already mentioned in the first question. I have many, many inspirations and I keep finding new ones. Research and films always make my brain overflow creatively. Currently, my main inspiration is German expressionist film, which I am studying this summer for a residency followed by an exhibition. I'm fascinated by the idea of exaggerated sets depicting the emotional state of characters, especially when depicted in multiple perspectives.
I also find the confrontation of inner processes (for example, through reading or films) with outer experiences - that is, meeting people, talking, and doing something together- very important. The inner processes feel like formulas that are activated when they are brought into social life. Often they begin to realise themselves at a point that was not at all foreseeable. Surprises. That is certainly something that is especially inspiring for me.
What do you think is the benefit of selling art prints? How is it different from selling original works?
Letizia: Honestly, I asked myself the same question when I came across your proposal. But yes, I do believe that selling prints can contribute to the distribution of art.
When the print is hung and takes up its space and time in the homes and lives of those who buy it, the image of the work overcomes the suffering of contemporary man and the visual pollution to which the humans are in danger of being enslaved to today. What is interesting is that the human being is both the producer and the victim of this process. As I am a producer of images, I’m happy to be part of this collaboration with my works “Landscape” to try to overcome this phenomenon, and of course, promoting prints can reach a wide range of people.
Adnan: I think they're completely different experiences. Of course, prints make art more accessible. More people would be able to afford and own art, and it can also be nice for artists to offer that option too. I always want my work to reach as many people and as many homes as possible. I like accessible art, and I like that I can sell prints of my work. So I do definitely agree that having prints of an artwork help distribute it.
Wasilli: Yes, I completely agree with that with Andy Warhol being a good example of why. He basically produced art and through that, he built a tremendous flow of art around him and the whole cultural scene in New York at that time. Of course, there were many other exciting figures, but what Warhol did came with incredible force. It became clear that art could be a mass medium - whether that's good or bad is a question you have to answer for yourself. Looking at media is important, and buying prints instead of originals is a decision that has its consequences. The original is still somehow connected to the idea of an "aura," and there is beauty in that. It may not always be necessary to achieve that, but that, too, is entirely up to the artists themselves. Part of our job is also to know what our work is and how to treat it from an economic standpoint. The enormous potential of networking through social media is a great opportunity to easily reach many people who have no connection to art and to possibly give them an introduction. In this way, new dialogues are created and different perspectives come together. Art becomes less elitist and more accessible. People can come together who otherwise wouldn't have, and that's a great thing.
Thank you to Letizia, Adnan, and Wassili. We hope you enjoyed the second in our series of 3 Questions for 3 Artists. Follow us on social media to keep up to date for our next round of talks, with more artists and more topics.
Adnan Samman (b. 1993) is a visual and audio artist from Syria. His work mainly deals with nostalgia and attempts to create alternative narratives of the Middle East and North Africa through digital means, particularly photo manipulation and collage. Adnan’s work has been featured throughout the world at exhibitions in cities such as London, Dubai, Cairo, Antwerp and Santa Fe. His work has been awarded in national and international competitions, from Central Saint Martins to Villa Vigoni, and has questioned taboos and evoked curiosity about the Arab world. In late 2018, Adnan founded the platform Syria Before 2011 to preserve and document Syria’s modern history before the conflict through handpicked photographs, mostly taken by travelers. Adnan lives and works in Venice.
Letizia Prestipino (b. 1995 in Milan, Italy.) is a visual artist. She studied Fine Arts at university of the arts in Berlin, and graduated with a MA in Painting at Brera Academy in Milan, Italy. Awarded in national and international competitions, Letizia participated in solo and collective exhibitions in many galleries, Art Centers and Foundations around Europe in particular between Germany and Italy. Her work is a dialogue between gesture, light and matter. Time appears as an echo in her work. Her paintings explore a mysterious and enigmatic reality given by the experimentation of the pictorial surface trought hydropitture, oil, acrylic and oil bars, which always generate new shapes. Each work process begins with in-depth theoretical research; materiality also pops up throughout her work.
Wassili Widmer, Born in Heiden, Switzerland in 1992, is a visual artist based in Glasgow and St. Gallen. Studying since 2014, he holds a bachelor’s in fine arts, Performance Study Group, from Zurich University of the Arts. He has also visited the School of Art Institute in Chicago and has a master’s in Fine Arts Practice, in Pathway Performance, from the Glasgow School of Art. Wassili explores the boundaries between virtuality and representation and their effects on social coexistence, forming a dialogue about gender perception, and our environment, often through collaboration with other artists and performers. He has taken part in Many exhibitions in Switzerland and Scotland, in Manifesta 11 at the Cabaret Voltaire and at the 58th Venice Biennale at the Museum Corer. Wassili lives and works in Glasgow, Scotland & St. Gallen, Switzerland.