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.''
Continuing from ABOVE ...Technique and depth; two words you'll hear when talking art with Repetti. ''I often refer to technique because I regard it as fundamental, the key to extending the representational possibilities.'' Repetti often speaks in classical terms when talking about art. It may be in his DNA, having been born, brought up and educated in one of the world's classic art regions: Italy. ''I am very aware of my country’s artistic tradition; ideas of art on the basis of compositional structure and a formal exploratory dimension. Renaissance and baroque are part of a heritage that emerges in every Italian designer or painter,'' the artist explained in a 2017 interview with Art Reveal magazine. ''For me it does not so much influence as determine the background noise in my work.'' Repetti attended an art high school, Liceo Artistico, then went on to graduate from the Academy of Fine Arts in Genoa, an art institution founded in 1751. He studied painting and etching, but graduated as Maestro di Pittura (Master of Painting). He likens aspects of his ballpoint technique to those of both etching and painting. ''The approach is still the same and both help me refine the way to hold the pen,'' Repetti says of using the brush like a pen and vice versa. ''I can pass from the sfumato of the objects in the background to the sharpness of those nearby to show distance between the forms, from the lighter shades to very deep blacks depending on how you press your wrist and how you tilt the pen.'' Repetti found the 'expressive possibilities', needless to say.
Repetti's 'depths' matured with his Biroscape series, an 'open' series of small
pieces already numbering over a hundred. All measure 14.8 x 10.4cm,
horizontally oriented. ''The series was born as a challenge, to show that even
working on a small scale you can still represent an immense, profound space,''
he says. ''Paradoxically, the smaller the drawing the greater the effect of depth.'' For artworks which are smaller than they seem in reproduction, the depths charted in works such as Point (2017, pictured) or The Mountain is Made of Stones could be promotional stills or storyboards illustrating the cinematic proportions of films by Kubrick or Spielberg. Diminutive size does not necessarily mean less drawing time. ''You might think I draw on a smaller scale because it takes less time, but actually that’s not true. Time varies considerably depending and what’s being represented and how,'' explains Repetti. ''Even for a small drawing it may be necessary to use a considerable amount of time if you want to obtain delicate nuances.'' Nevertheless, time measured in minutes and hours; not months or years. So far.
Repetti doesn't admit to any actual locations depicted in his Biroscapes—he sees them as ''the representation of a possible space. A precise space, albeit one which is imaginary''—but recognizable features do make their way into some, forming ''irreal'' landscapes. A number of them present well-defined horizon lines—land or sea, miles and miles into the distance—under cloud coverage evoking changing weather conditions. In those pieces, a cloud may sometimes just be a cloud, but other times it might not. Flour Sky, Sea Milk (2017, pictured) shows what might be a shoreline where the white of the page meets inky outcroppings, or are they just another streak of clouds blowing across a white sky? The hazy reflectiveness of Mounds (2016, pictured) might only be a mirage at the far end of a hot desert highway. Each viewer will no doubt attach their own interpretation to each piece, most of which leave plenty to the imagination, but expository titles such as The Sea doesn't Know When the Storm Will Come and Cloud Rest Stop direct viewer consciousness in some instances. ''The titles come to me while I am working or when the work is finished and give some kind of clue to help the viewer penetrate more deeply into the ‘secret’ of the drawing.'' Meanwhile, the only man-made structure in sight is the drawing, itself.
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.
But Repetti's Biroscapes aren't just impressionistic cloud coverage and horizon lines. The surreal
Pangea, psychedelic A Tricky Riddle (both 2017, pictured) and the many others like them are
ballpointing at its freestyling best. From outward expanse Repetti now just as often turns inward, exploring organic, microscopic and unclassifiable 'depths'. ''All the forms are suggested by forms I encounter which stimulate my curiosity,'' the artist interjects. Repetti's earlier penwork was often left unpolished and therefore more indicative of the brief creation process, but an apparent tightening of technique brought ballpoint lines blended or buried with smoother results. More is left to viewer's imagination; less directing, or at least seeming so. With enough of a repertoire to jump freely between subject matter, Repetti is even mixing them up and along the way Biroscapes led to Biroramas. A slight size jump also took place, with pieces such as The First Door, an impressive if somewhat imposing play of depth, measuring 50 x 40cm (2017, pictured). Increases in size and precision added to drawing time, relatively.
Throughout the creative process, no matter how long it takes, you can bet there will be music playing in the background. ''When I'm at home there is rarely silence; I'm always listening to music, it helps me to concentrate and stimulates me to invent new solutions, a necessary intellectual nourishment,'' says Repetti. Stare long enough into a Biroscape and you might
hear the accompanying soundtrack to Repetti's ballpoint cinematography. Repetti can.
PENNAME by R. Bell originally posted May 31, 2018
Irreal Landscapes・Alberto Repetti Genoa, Italy
TITLE ・DATE ・MEDIUM ・SIZE
PENNAME by R. Bell posted May 31, 2018
Alberto Repetti Genoa, Italy
TITLE ・DATE ・MEDIUM ・SIZE
Artwork, from the top : La Sabbia Intorno (The Sand Within), 2018, January, ballpoint pen on paper ; Above : Slideshow : Repetti Biroscapes drawn between 2016—2018
showing clearly defined clouds & horizons. Below : Slideshow : four Biroscapes drawn between 2016-2018 showing free-style ballpointing at its finest. All artwork 14.8 x 10.5 cm (5.8 x 4.1'') ballpoint pen on paper.
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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.
Classical surroundings might be in his DNA, but Repetti also has very up-to-date views of contemporary art circa 2018. ''In the field of visual art we are witnessing a fragmentation unparalleled in any other historical period,'' he explained to Art Reveal when asked what art means in contemporary culture. ''We now find ourselves buried by images which multiply ad infinitum and seek to amaze—inventiveness, maybe even provocativeness, at any price. On the other hand, from the ‘user’s’ perspective, what we have is considerable confusion, generally linked to a superficial knowledge of the subject and a cultural preparation which, when it comes to interpreting the image, is very approximate and produces an easily satisfied and undemanding superficiality.'' Well said.
Repetti's ballpoint works have been featured on the internet for a few years but he has yet to actually exhibit them. That will change in July, but not in Italy. ''Genoa is currently going through a period of decay and regrettably shows a marked lack of interest in the promotion of art. A difficult place for artistic experimentation or trying to make a name for yourself as an artist. This is where banking was born; there is a decided predilection for short-term profit and art doesn’t yield tangible and immediate wealth, so many artists go exhibit elsewhere.'' Repetti's Biroscapes and Biroramas will instead make their first public outing in London, at the Coningsby Gallery. The artist promises ''at least nine'' new works for the show, all in A2 (60 x 42cm) and A3 formats (42 x 30cm), taking his work to greater dimensions. And greater depths ?・
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.''
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