An Interview with Damiano Quaranta

A young and talented creator shaking up the Roman art scene, Damiano Quaranta is of special interest to Miami art investor Fabio Palumbo. Anyone else with a finger on the pulse in the art world would do well to keep an eye on him as well. In a 2015 interview, Quaranta shared some valuable insights into his process, his vision, and his advice for other artists.

Damiano Quaranta is known for his radical style which incorporates the canvas on which his art is painted into the final piece. Using tar, wood, fire, and other elements, Quaranta irreversibly marks and alters the material of his canvas, creating a form of art that transcends the image itself. His goal is to use matter to create a concept, in addition to traditional tools such as style and color. This method has a dramatic effect on the end result of his works. When you stand in front of a Quaranta painting, you can almost smell the burning plastic and cannot help but visualize the process that went into creating the work. The varied textures and deformities of each canvas add something to the image, something that can be interpreted differently by each and every person who lays eyes on it.

According to Quaranta himself, he always loved to paint. For most of his life, however, it was merely something he did for pleasure rather than a central part of his life. Several years before the time of the interview, something changed. In his own words, he heard the call of higher art and knew he had to devote himself more completely. Now painting has become his life, and everything else revolves around his art. He feels that creating art is now a primary and essential need for him, as necessary to his survival as eating or sleeping.

Though his style is hard to classify in traditional terms, it is definitely an informal art style that has clearly been influenced by contemporary Italian pop art.

Quaranta does not deny that he has been influenced by those who came before him. On the contrary, he is very emphatic about it. He claims that no artist is ever born an only child, but rather hears the call of certain artistic siblings whose works teach and guide him. These siblings need not be other artists; the inspiration may be poetic, philosophical, or even conceptual. One way or another, the artist finds a way to express their ideas in his own work. Quaranta names Alberto Burri, Giorgio Celiberti, and Franco Angeli as his personal artistic siblings.

To say that an artist can only communicate the ideas of those who came before him might sound limiting, especially coming from and artist as original and radical as Quaranta, but Quaranta disagrees. He claims there is no limit to what art can communicate since it is a direct expression of what the artist feels. An artist may feel that they belong to a technique or a label, but they are only artificially limiting what they can create. Instead of choosing a technique or style, Quaranta insists that artists should try to listen to art that speaks to them. When you truly listen and hear the universal human concepts behind each piece of art, there are no limits to what you can create.

Traditionally, the canvas on which art is created is merely functional and is invisible in the final product. Artists try to conceal the fact that art is composed of paper and pigment, creating images that seem to leave the canvas and take on lives of their own. To Quaranta, the matter from which art is created is a part of the art and contains an important concept in and of itself. The process of creation and the materials used express reality as much as the end product.

At the time of the interview, Quaranta was working on a new project thematically tied to the denial of freedom, with direct links to historical references. Elaborating on the work going into the project, he admitted that every single piece of art he creates takes a high level of physical exertion and mental fatigue. He must be incredibly committed to his work and completely immersed in every piece he creates. He must get his hands dirty, destroy paint brushes, and stain his clothes. The amount of work and the time it takes to finish each project varies in each instance, but it always requires some level of sacrifice.

Critics of Quaranta’s work have noted that motion is an important theme in the art he creates. He understands motion as a universal constant to which everything is subject to at all times. Though motion may not always be noticeable in all of his paintings, it is always there, even if subtly.

Quaranta says that his latest work, which is concerned with the earth and with natural events on a grand scale, expresses no perceptible motion. Instead, the motion is expressed materially through the canvas itself. His aim is to bring focus to the subtle ways land moves in the real world, rather than trying to artificially emphasize them for the sake of the painting.

Damiano Quaranta succeeds as an artist due to his talent, passion, and willingness to risk anything to follow his creative path to its completion. His advice to aspiring artists who wish to follow his lead is to listen first and foremost to their own feelings and emotions. Rather than trying to conform to a learned style or technique, they should listen closely to the art that inspires them.

Rather than trying to impart his own wisdom, Quaranta concludes by sharing the wisdom of Francis Bacon. Having achieved his success by following Bacon’s words, Quaranta encourages other young creators to do the same. According to Francis Bacon, a masterpiece is made by working hard at it every day. Each artist must follow their own method, even if it may appear chaotic and anarchic to outside observers. These words ring true in the context of Quaranta’s own burned and tar-stained masterpieces.