Amico is always listening to music during his creative processes — it helps to further stir ''the emotions, sensations and memories in each of us,'' he explains — and his musical taste may have also manifested itself in this piece, perhaps without the artist even realizing it. Flames from the burning Notre-Dame are being blown toward the upper left corner of the artwork. Amico took a blow torch to that area of the wood frame, making it look as if flames from the fire have singed it. It's a creative bit of genius which, I pointed out to Amico, echoes the cover artwork of Wish You Were Here, the 1975 album by Pink Floyd, a rock band, and decade, which he would later mention being among his preferred 'drawing music'. Or maybe his pyromania was simply the result of spending too much time looking at too much fire. ''I know the album but I had not noticed this connection. I also have the vinyl, it fascinates me even more.''
Amico completed The Fire of Notre-Dame in early 2020 after approximately one year of drawing, while also working on other art. April 2020 marked one year since the tragic fire at Notre-Dame and Amico had set that as his deadline. He hit his mark and his Fire was set for public exhibition only to have the COVID-19 pandemic delay its debut, so the world will have to wait to stand face to face with Amico, Turner and The Fires which drove them to art. In an increasingly conservative art world where social media-friendly eye candy for the kiddies is the norm, it's refreshing to see an artist still willing to take on a nightmarish subject which might scare people away, and portray it with such fiery but mesmerizing zeal. It will be worth the wait to see; the one year old French tragedy filtered through a two hundred year old British painting, reimagined in ballpoint pen by a thirty-three year-old Italian artist who shows us he was the right person for the task. The Houses of Parliament got Big Ben out of its fire, Notre-Dame will get a new roof out of its fire, and ballpoint art aficionados get Amico's masterpiece thanks to both fires・
For more art, info & contact, visit www.paoloamico.com or find him on social media. The Fire of Notre-Dame © Paolo Amico.
At top : slideshow comparison of Amico's Fire and J.M.W. Turner's Burning. Top left : a devil in the details? Left : slideshow comparison of skies & flames. Right : Amico taking a blowtorch to his frame.
continuing from HEADLINES 1 page ... Amico's go-to ballpoints are Fila pens, an Italian brand (not the Korean sporting goods brand) which has shown support in the form of ''boxes of pens''. Fila's oil-based yellow ballpoint, a rare color in ballpointing, sees lots of action from Amico — most of the action, according to the artist, as does Staedtler brown, another rarity. Other brands complete his tool box, but, as any ballpointer worth his salt will tell you, just about any pen will get the job done; it's more about hand and mind than pen and paper. Seeing as Amico has got the hand and mind, any pen will likely suffice.
Up close, Amico's use of those inks is conspicuous: millions of lines, some laid down with seemingly frantic urgency, some with delicate care. Viewed from afar or at a reduced size, however, the ballpoint linework all but disappears and can't-believe-it's-ballpoint disbelief takes over. That disbelief is not easily achieved, even by standard artistic practices (i.e. paint and brush), but therein lay the ballpoint wow factor. Using such an unforgiving medium for such an ambitious undertaking comes with its share of challenges, but successfully navigating them makes the effort worthwhile. ''Pride grows day by day as the design takes shape,'' says Amico, who makes preliminary sketches but still experiences anxiety of ''not being able to do what you want, and never knowing if it will come out as you imagine it.'' Par for the course in ballpointing. ''Only when the work is finished can you understand if you have done a good job,'' or, as Amico puts it: ''un buon lavoro''.
PENNAME PICK posted May 8, 2020
Paolo Amico : Turin, Italy
The Fire of Notre-Dame (L'Incendio di Notredame)・
2019—2020・ballpoint pen on paper・92.5 x 123cm (36.3 x 48.5'')
Since 2014・Volume 7
Nonetheless, Amico's painterly effects are formed from standard crosshatching. ''Horizontal, vertical and various diagonal lines, all very light, with an almost imperceptible stroke, until darkened,'' he describes of a technique familiar to artists working with the medium. ''I proceed in layers. For example, to create a red surface I don't use red directly, but I first apply passages of yellow, then orange; only at the last step the red, so as to have a more vibrant effect,'' he says of a process he considers ''very similar to that of printing.'' Areas where flames segue into sky posed one of his biggest challenges: ''The warm red color of the flames at the point where it mixes with the cold blue color of the sky (pictured) is likely to darken and not make the nuance well, so in the parts where the two tones overlap one must be more delicate, proceed more slowly and remain a few lighter tones until the desired effect is achieved.''
If you think you're seeing ghostly apparitions in the clouds, the flames or elsewhere, they're no mirage. Amico confirms that he played tricks with some of Turner's brush strokes, ''to highlight some hidden figures.'' Look again. In the skies over Notre-Dame, you might think you see the tail bones of what might be a dinosaur skeleton. What looks like a dark patch in the clouds near the top left corner might be the silhouette of a 17th century galleon. A similar dark patch is also clearly visible in Turner's original and, interestingly, it also looks like an old sailing ship. Adding to the intrigue, J. M. W. Turner is known for depicting just such sailing vessels, being thrown around in stormy seas. ''I like the idea of involving the observer in a search for these elements.'' Amico is mostly mum about whether or not these are simply coincidence but admitted to one actual phantom addition of his own: under one of the arches at Notre-Dame's base appears the silhouette of a devil ''excited by this macabre vision''. I'm still hoping to find a hunchback.