FUA summer 2015 student curator Maya Seibert interviews Federico Di Gesualdo whose works are currently being featured at Ganzo’s art gallery.
MS: What does improvisation mean to you and how does that come through in your work?
FD: Improvisation is, for me, the highest and most complex form of art, whether you are a musician, a painter, an actor. When you improvise, you are basically in a position in which you face the unknown, you don’t exactly know what you are going to play or paint. Yes, you can rely on your technique and knowledge of music, if you are a jazz musician, but essentially you don’t have an exact game plan. This is why improvisation is so important for me: it is the possibility to explore the unknown, to discover yourself.
MS: Please explain the meaning of Which Way.
FD: Which Way? is exactly the kind of question that crosses my mind every time I start to paint. I don’t exactly know what I am going to do. Which way is the embodiment of the concept of improvisation: you have a multitude of ways, of colours, of notes and you basically have to decide, really quickly, which one you want to use. Subconsciously, it is something other than your mind that decides that you have to use red instead of blue or green. Or B flat instead of E flat or C. And Which Way? is also a composition of the great pianist Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim), so for me it’s a tribute to him.”
MS: What artist/musician has been MOST influential to your work and why?
FD: I’d say that… John Coltrane is probably the musician that I admire most. There are a bunch of them that influenced me and my painting – Miles, Monk, Parker, Rollins – but Coltrane constantly changed, constantly evolved and explored the many possibilities of music. He is to me a powerful source of inspiration. And for the painters… my favourite painters are Jackson Pollock and Jean-Michel Basquiat: for me they represent restlessness, a volcanic, raw, uncompromising form of creativity.
MS: When did your passion for the arts, history, and literature, of the African American Community begin?
FD: My passion for African American culture began when I was a teen. I used to listen to a little jazz when I was a child and at the age of 12 or 13 I started to listen to the blues. And I also fell in love with boxing,especially with Muhammad Ali: he was my idol, his pride as an athlete, social and political man really inspired me.
MS: How does Jack Kerouac fit into your primarily African American work, and why is he an inspiration for you?
FD: Jack Kerouac was always fascinated by African American culture. On the road is… surrounded by jazz music. You can hear the music while reading his novel, as he constantly refers to Parker and Gillespie and Monk. Kerouac’s idea of spontaneous writing – i.e. language as free flow from the mind – closely resembles and is inspired by the art of improvisation, and that’s what grabbed my interest about JK.
Which Way? is currently showing at Ganzo in via de’ Macci 85r until July 7th, 2015. See further details about the exhibitions here.