Italian-born artist Francesco Polazzi uses a combination of oil paint, pastels and acrylic to create figurative, formal paintings inspired by a deeper thinking and a reflection on the human spirit. Prior to his Masters in Fine Art, an early education in philosophy and science still informs his art to this day. Central to his work are the characters he encounters in life and in research, from historical icons to friends and family. We sat down with the painter in his eclectic studio to find out more about the shifting inspiration behind his works, and what he loves most about pursuing the path of an artist.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
Ever since I was a kid I’ve been told that I’m an artist, so I would say that I’ve just always wanted to be one! I think I forgot about it in my teenage years (something to do with girls) but I’ve always had an artistic approach to life and (I think) this is what makes you an artist. In a more mature way, I know I decided to try to make it when I left Italy and my hometown, Bologna. I started painting then, after a bachelor in Philosophy and the Language of Science. My aunt gave me a box with some colours and a brush, and soon enough I found out how much I loved to paint. I then decided to start a Masters in fine arts at Birmingham City University. That place is like Hogwarts!
What was the first artwork you ever made? Can you remember?
My first artworks were little sculptures I made while watching cartoons when I was 3 years old. I guess a lot of my artistic vibe came from those years, mixed up with all the experiences that made me the person I am now; meeting people from other countries and cultures, doing crazy things, building a stage on the Oslo canal by myself, swimming naked in the sea, getting drunk, loving people, working in a kitchen… lots of other things I don’t remember but have stayed with me. The more I paint the more I love life.
Do you have a favourite or most meaningful piece?
I love all of my paintings because they all really represent me. I think in a way they are all somewhat self-portraits- I am truly sincere in my art and that’s what makes me a real artist I think. It’s a hard and wild journey but at the end of the day I feel so lucky I have this gift in me, in my mind, in my hands, in my eyes and around me! If I had to choose one painting would be ‘Dollar King’. I think it is one of my best paintings if not the best. It’s in a good friend’s house now!
Who are your favourite artists?
There are far too many painters I love! I love Jean-Michel Basquiat for his use of colours and his way of life- his art made me take painting very seriously. I also love Picasso, he’s the artist I am most paralleled with, which makes me a bit angry sometimes to be honest, but hey, it’s not too bad a comparison! I also have to pay tribute to the amazing Modigliani, my favourite Italian artist with Leonardo Da Vinci.
Tell me a bit about the process you use to create your work. What vision, ideas and/or inspirations are behind it?
Well, when I paint many things inspire me. Sometimes it’s just a memory, other times it’s research about history. I’ve previously used VHS covers and playing cards to make a series of paintings, as well as ancient Egyptian signs and figures. I also think a lot about clouds when I paint; because they’re a solid state you can pass through; because they fly high; because every person sees all of their world in the clouds; and because they constantly change shape. In fact, the name of my last artwork is Nuvola which in English is cloud. I think all people are clouds in a way.
I love the sense of freedom and relaxation it gives me. I love to finish a painting, look at it and think ‘wow, it’s so beautiful, how did this happen!?’ I love how I can still keep my inner child alive and communicate with it. I love the struggle within it and I love the social status of the painter.
I hate when people disrespect a painting or judge a painting without understanding it.
What has been the greatest impact on you as an artist to date?
Probably the talks with my tutor at B.C.U. She opened up my mind so much. I got to the school when I was in my graffiti art period and she told me to move past this. She gave me crazy books to read about magic, witches and werewolves. We had great talks about philosophy and the philosophy of painting. I have so much to thank that woman for!
What’s playing in your studio right now?
Mozart. Almost always, Mozart. I also love house and techno music. Especially Paul Kalkbrenner.
What’s the most important object in your studio?
My cat Tigro. It’s not an object but I love it.
Figurative Artworks to Fall For | Browse the Collection
Figurative art is one of the most enduring creative subjects and a genre that continues to evolve and expand. In this collection our curators have hand picked a selection of contemporary figurative artworks from established and emerging artists alike. The fluidity of the human form and the power of the human spirit are illustrated with bold brush work, bright colours and shifting formalism. Browse the collection and be inspired to get figurative.