Restano, Giuseppe

by Susan Tuberville (University of Memphis)
Giuseppe Restano (b. Grottaglie, Puglia, 1970) is a contemporary artist living and working in Florence, Italy. A self-taught painter from the age of fifteen, Restano went on to study at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence after finishing at the Institute d’Arte in Grottaglie, a small center in Apulia known worldwide for ceramics manifactures. Though he also has an extensive history of working with ceramics, his focus for the past several years has been painting. His recent line of work consists of painted geometric designs that are reminiscent of decorative tiles found in southern Italy, specifically in the floors of buildings in Puglia. Inspired by nostalgia for the simplicity of youth and the history of his heritage in southern Italy, Restano works on canvases ranging from small pieces in a series to large canvases that stand alone. Restano paints with a distinctly flat style achieved by layering oil paint over a base layer of acrylic primer. His paintings are available only through private collections.

This interview was conducted in the artist’s studio in Florence on September 28, 2012.

Susan Tuberville: You have mentioned that your youth in southern Italy has greatly influenced the development of your work. Can you describe how your style has evolved over time and how growing up in southern Italy has continued to influence your paintings?

Giuseppe Restano: I have always painted in a very precise manner, but my style has changed since I was younger. Though I began teaching myself to paint at the age of 15, I also worked with ceramics for nine years, which inspired both my method and my designs. I sometimes used a potter’s wheel to ensure precise geometrical designs. I used to paint objects in a hyper-realistic style, but more recently I have been painting images in an absolutely flat manner inspired by the ceramic tiles of southern Italian architecture. I have a mechanical mind, so my work has always required strict discipline and a clear plan. As my style preference changed, I became more minimal in my work and began painting in a modular style. The environment of southern Italy has consistently inspired me to paint images suggestive of bright, direct sunlight that almost dismembers the object. I am inspired by the golden memory of childhood, which influences my generally soft, subdued palette choices.

ST: You have a very distinctive painting style and an obvious aversion to disorder. Can you explain the significance of your stylistic preferences and methods?

GR: In my painting, I only accept an exactness of style and the technique of painting. I do not work in mixed media, installation art, or anything outside of the pure discipline of painting. To hear that my work appears digitalized is the greatest compliment to me.

ST: You have shared how your past in Puglia has shaped your subject matter as well as your palette and stylistic choices. Do other contemporary artists or contemporary events also influence you? How do they affect your work?

GR: Many contemporary artists inspire me. However, I think that only 5-10% of the inspiration for a work should come from other artists, while the other 90-95% should come from the artist’s original creativity. These are the percentages of influence that inspire my work. Specifically, I have been influenced by David Hockney’s painting as well as the photography of Luigi Ghirri. I am specifically inspired by Ghirri’s depiction of strong, iconic images and his attraction to patterns.

ST: Your recent line of work consists of intricate, neatly painted designs that are reminiscent of southern Italian décor. How are these designs conceived, and what is the significance of the images? Do you have expectations or hopes as to how these images affect the viewer?

GR: My recent paintings are allusions to tiles found in southern Italy. To me, they are reminiscent of my past, my life story, and the golden memory of infancy. The designs represent the history of my birth in southern Italy and of my experiences in different places. They are inspired by regions of Italy that are connected by a common heritage. Sometimes my starting point for a painting is a photo reference of such tiles. I hope that the viewer feels emotion when viewing my paintings, though this is not part of my planning before the painting process. The effect of a painting on the viewer is specific to each different work and different viewer. I hope the viewer can get a glimpse of the energy I have painted into these designs.

ST: What works are you planning for the future?

GR: I am starting a series in which I will paint areas of a world map, but only the depths of the ocean are depicted. I will cancel everything, such as land and people. I hope to express how much we are saturated by images; these works will explore how we would be affected by the cancellation of these images- as if the sea swallowed everything. This is part of an effort to have a “rebirth” in my painting…I will start by depicting only the essentials.