Since 2014・Volume 5
Artwork, from the top : The First Door, 2017 (Nov) 40 x 51cm
(15.7 x 20'') ; Above : Slideshow, two early ballpoint works ; Below : Slideshow, three postcard-size Biroscapes evoking cinematic proportions. All artwork 14.8 x 10.5cm ballpoint pen on paper.
Repetti has only been working seriously with ballpoint since 2013, but his experience with the pens dates back much farther. ''I have always used the pen to make sketches, then little by little I began to discover its expressive possibilities.'' While working as art director for the literary magazine Il Babau in the 1990s—''a stimulating environment,'' he recalls—Repetti provided illustrations in ballpoint. He describes them as 'page-filler', but did a good job with it. ''The pen has always had a strong attraction on me, and as with all the techniques I've experienced I always like to know it in-depth.'' The beginnings of his 'rigorous approach' show in his Ruck series of 2014. Each piece followed what Repetti refers to as a ''graphic theme'', in this case ballpoint linework resembling fluid sprays of ink. The artist learned the ropes and honed his craft during this period. ''For the first time I saw the difference between defined traits and shadow coexisting in the same design, building the illusion of deep space. I arrived at the depth of the drawing space.''
Numbers became part of the ballpoint equation, too, usually by publicizing the unfathomable amounts of hours, days, years, pens spent, or ridiculous size, but that's more likely smoke-and-mirror fine-print employed to distract from lack of content, justify a flimsy concept or simply exploit as much wow at ones' disposal—like sports stats for ballpointers. For Repetti, it's simple: one pen and an absolutely reasonable amount of time—all in a days' work, usually, then on to the next one.
Size has been of little interest to Repetti thus far. ''The size is limited by the edges of the card but the depth isn’t, and there
I have room to maneuver,'' he says of perceived size limitations. ''Depth is the only dimension I can
change, that's the challenge. If I can change the depth, the perception of the viewer could change
the height and width. I want the viewer to feel close up to my work to the point of feeling
transported inside it.'' To appreciate the scenery here, one must step in to, not back from, Repetti's
postcard-sized presentations, but his small windows draw the viewer into expansive environs.
Use of the limited amount of ballpoint colors to produce full-color results recently upped the
ante in the photorealist crowd, but a monochromatic palette continues to suit Repetti, and while
his drawings could just as easily have started off as the kind of mindless scribbles initiated during
a lengthy phone conversation, Repetti would end his calls with something recognizable, if
sometimes hallucinogenic. ''it started off with me using the drawing like a stream of consciousness.
There was no plan; just let my pen do its own thing and show me all it could do. As I got to be
more familiar with the medium and acquired greater control I adopted a more rigorous approach.''
While photorealism in ballpoint pen has attracted the lion's share of attention to the genre for some time, freestyle ballpointing is still a comparatively open playing field. Photorealism certainly proves technical prowess, but most of it is highly dependent on the 'drawn in ballpoint pen' part of the equation. Minus that ballpoint 'wow' factor, viewers are faced with what often amounts to a photo copy no matter what medium. With freestyling, technique rules. It's interesting to see how an artist can manipulate simple effects to present wildly divergent outcomes. Photorealism is the easily digestible person, place or thing. Freestyle is the personality; where the fun is at and where the real artistry happens, some say.
I'm not referring to the high-concept, low-content brand of scribbles presented by early dabblers such as Jan Fabre, who mostly just doodled his way into ballpoint notoriety at a time when one could still get away with that—artists clowning for, or laughing at, their audience. I'm talking about the kind showing actual artistic merit, not artistic duplicity or therapy (although many artists describe their work as a kind of 'therapy'). I'm talking about the kind of artistry evident in the works of Il Lee or the small number of like-minded ballpointers. That small number includes Genoese artist Alberto Repetti, who expresses admitted respect to his audience. Mama Repetti may have unwittingly played a small part: ''After my brother was born my mother seemed to have less time for me, or at least that’s how it felt, and the idea came to me to take a comic book and copy its cover. I still remember the look of amazement on her face when I showed her the result. That look was the stimulus to me to produce another forty or so of the same. You could say what I always seek to achieve is that same look of wonder in the eyes of those who view my work.'' TechniCAL or techniQUE, everyone chases the wows. ''I think Fabre, or Boetti, are interested more at the Idea itself without considering the nuances of ballpoint pen, while Lee explores the possibility of this medium. He builds a space, represents a physical depth,'' Repetti explains, in comparing ballpoint approaches.
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PENNAME by R. Bell posted May 31, 2018
Irreal Landscapes・Alberto Repetti Genoa, Italy
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