World renowned Italian sculptor Fabio Viale not only explores ancient sculpture and reproduces it in incredible detail, he also uses these particular forms of antiquity as a canvas to make deeply impactful commentary on the contemporary world. Fusing the heretical with ecclesiastical, Fabio's sculpture take on a timeless life of their own; they remind us that existence is not something that ever ends, that our difficulties and achievements will be felt centuries from now through new generations, and that understanding "universal beauty" means embracing all that surrounds us.
When do you first remember getting interested in art? Are there any childhood memories that hint at the artist you would become?
Everything happened very quickly: when I was in high school, my art professor recognized something in my hands, because I was capable of moulding clay although I had never done it before. So, one day he brought me in front of a dark stone and he said, “Fabio, now work on this small block of marble”. I took a hammer and chisel and I suddenly saw a white brilliant shard getting out from the marble. Let’s say that in that moment I decided to be a sculptor.
How has your style and direction evolved over time? What drew you to recreating ancient sculpture in a contemporary context? Can you talk about the meaning behind the public art pieces in “Truly”?
My goal is to create a double identity sculpture: tattooing old masterpieces means donating a second life and, in a contemporary way, a new collective image. Today, tattoos could be considered as a suit that everybody may wear, old statues too! Changing an ancient statue's life builds a temporal bridge towards universal beauty.
About Truly, I intended to stage a sort of open-air museum where ancient sculptures were assimilated into the Pietrasanta Renaissance architectural environment. On the min square, there are not one, but two catholic churches dialoguing with my pagan statues. Quite a contrast, isn’t it?
During the evening, the priest would open the cathedral’s front door through which the crucifix is visible and yet, my sculptures draw the audience. Smartphones and cameras take pictures of them in the foreground, while churches cringe in the background. There is a symbolic fresco from the sixteenth century, Tommaso Laureti, Il Trionfo del Cristianesimo - The Triumph of Christianity, 1585, Museo Vaticano, in which a broken Greek sculpture lies at the sight of a golden crucifix. The wheel of time has broken the rules.
What is the process like in creating your pieces? How do you decide which ones have certain details like tattoos? When did you start “tattooing” your pieces?
First of all, I choose the marble block according to certain characteristics, after I make an accurate copy of the original classical piece I want to reproduce. Every artwork determines a reaction or derives from it. For example, the Pietà sculpture: in 2018, I have replaced Jesus Christ with Lucky Hei in person, a Nigerian immigrant. With this work, I tried to portray the current and tragic situation of illegal immigration.
In the same period, the first Laocoonte I carved was decorated with an unusual tattoo from a medieval fresco, in which the devil punished Maometto in the fires of hell. I put the artwork in the same place where over 60 years ago the Nazis made the first regime parade in Munich, Germany. As you can see, every single artwork has a different story to tell and the tattoo literally enriches the power of my sculptures.
The art world has changed so much as of late. How do you feel about the future of the arts industries?
In the last 20 years, I’ve seen so many changes... but since social networks have become so popular, the art world has changed drastically. Art galleries, museums, critics and curators are in crisis, because the web democracy outweighs their system. I think that in the near future the web democracy will recognize talented artists, without any galleries, curators or critics support.
How do you define success? What have been your greatest accomplishments and greatest struggles throughout your career? How did you overcome them?
The biggest struggle I remember was working with curators, architects and labourers due to the Biennale di Venezia opening. The atmosphere was electric: the secret of success is remaining calm and humble.
What was it like collaborating with Maxime, and are there any other artists that you hope to work with in the future?
I met Maxime thanks to Marcelo Burlon, with whom I was designing a new sculpture. Maxime gave us some useful advice and drawings: you can see the result tattooed on it!
Do you have an artist philosophy and, if so, what is it? Do you think visual artists have a responsibility to the world?
Objects are special and powerful, not only in terms of communication: they are able to create and instill energy. I believe that my sculpture may possibly have the ability to break through a new dimension. Sometimes art could be a great joy for authorized personnel and sometimes art could be dangerous, because it’s easy to misunderstand. Contemporary art often has revealed itself as ugly, demonizing beauty. This attitude affects real life, i.d. the design and the architecture.
Any upcoming projects, events, life advice, future plans, or special insights you’d like to share?
I’m working with a porn star very well known, Rocco Siffredi. I made a big marble sculpture of him, under the guise of a faun, capable of being involved in a sexual act with a woman.