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Ann Walker-Parry interviews Alberto Petrivelli

Ann: So here I am with Alberto Petrivelli in his lovely London studio in West Hampstead and the birds are singing outside. It's really lovely here. 
Alberto: It is nice, it is nice.
Ann: It really is. And the trees ... I'm always amazed at the landscapes of London, so you're very, very lucky to have your studio here.
Alberto: Yeah. We really like it here, it's quite a nice environment to close yourself out from the world sometimes. Especially when you're surrounded by so much green and ... it is, yes.
Ann: Is it something that ... I mean I know that artists are inspired by different things. I mean is that something that you ... does the environment inspire you at all? Or is it just a comfort to have your studio in such a serene place, tranquil?
Alberto: Yeah, I think it's the second one. I think it's not really my works are being influenced by it. The surrounding, yeah it's more like a new journey I have for myself, so I think that's where inspiration is coming from. So it's mostly from feelings, experiences. But, of course yes. The environment around like so serene helps to actually focus on those feelings, isn't it?
Ann: Yes, yes. Yeah, well I'm looking around your studio now and I'm seeing some absolutely gorgeous works. This one is the Queen of Hearts?
Alberto: Queen of Hearts? Yes.
Ann: Yeah, so we are looking at a very large rose, red rose ...
Alberto: Yes
Ann: On a purple background.
Alberto: Correct, yes.
Ann: So what mediums, what materials do you use in your work?
Alberto: This is iron mostly on canvas and I used only oil paintings. It's a sort of tribute of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, which is one of my favourite movies, by the way. Tim Burton is one of my favourite directors.
Ann: Oh, yes. Tim Burton, definitely a great director and writer, I guess.
Alberto: I guess so. So yeah, it's mostly metal. Metal and of course the compass of me using to fix the metal on the canvas, the representation. I've always been quite, how can I say - impressed by the Queen's soldiers painting the roses and all the white roses painted in red. You can see the red paint, the thick paint, dripping from the roses. It's a polite, sort of position of the way I see it. Perhaps it's just my way, right? It's like how we as folk, as people, we have to see things in our societies. What we see as a red rose in fact it was a white rose. But, I don't want to get too political, but ...
Ann: That's alright, just you be yourself whichever you feel. But yeah, Alice in Wonderland is definitely, the story behind it, is definitely inspirational.
So, I'm just curious, most artists that I meet; they are painters or they are sculptures and really, you are a painter and a sculpture.
Alberto: And a sculpture
Ann: Is that what you consider yourself or ... ?
Alberto: I believe so, yeah. It just happened, I believe. Perhaps I shouldn't say that but I'm terrible in drawing, I'm not good at drawing. So when I started painting, I really felt like I couldn't really express myself by drawing images. I tried, trust me, I tried. So I think that's how it started, I believe. I started working with, at the beginning, with small works with just paper mache.
Ann: Okay
Alberto: I've always been attracted by a painting coming out of the canvas and get closer to the viewers eyes. In fact, I've been noticing my works have been quite been posing attention. I don't know, maybe it's just me seeing that, but I can't see any of my works staying in a corner of a room in silence. That's perhaps myself as well. I require attention.
Ann: Attention, yes. Well these works definitely require attention. They're large, very large, and they're obviously three dimensional. If you walked in to a room, you definitely would not miss it.
Alberto: Yeah, gracious
Ann: Well I think that you've definitely caught my attention with these and I think that the public will agree with me. But, you weren't always a visual artist. You were a musician at one time.
Alberto: I was, yes.
Ann: Or still a musician.
Alberto: Still a musician, yes. I think, ever since I was 14 or 13, back in Italy - I'm Italian.
Ann: Yeah
Alberto: I used to play in bands and also throughout University, myself, I didn't know really what to do I started with Engineer.
Ann: Okay
Alberto: Then after two weeks I moved to Loewe and then after a few months, I started a band. So I dropped out, I obviously was very confused. But I believed at that time starting a band was the right thing to do and I still believe that. I had been playing in the band for a few years, then in 2003 I moved to London. I started by myself in acoustic sessions around London. Then after, I found very good musicians and we started a band, until 2010. I told you, my dream has been to become a rock star, so it still is. I don't want to be an artist, I want to be a rock star. That's the dream, right?
Ann: Yeah, yeah. We all have to have our dreams. So from 2010, you really took off with your art?
Alberto: Yes
Ann: Okay
Alberto: I started, as I told you, I started with the kinda paper mache and then I needed more volume, so I started working with fabrics. Then I started working with metal to give more volume on the canvas also be more light because fabrics can be quite heavy as well.
So I started with small works and then right after a year, I started in group exhibitions around London. I'd have three or four pieces exhibit and Yeah, I've been doing that since there. It's very exciting also because I can see from the first works to the latest one is ...
Ann: So you see a progression?
Alberto: Yeah, it's mostly like experimentation's. Like a nonstop, continuous, trying to use different mediums or ways actually to do it, so it's been a good fun. It is a good fun.
Ann: So would you say, well you are from Italy, so the Florence area?
Alberto: Near Florence, yes. North Tuscany, yes.
Ann: Okay. So were you kind of a doodler as a child? I know you said you don't really draw very well but did you just kind of doodle, or just play on your guitar, or ...?
Alberto: Played guitar there mostly, yes. I remember at school, in high school, I wasn't really good, at all. I used to write a lot. I used to read and write a lot, when I was very, very young. That's why in high school I thought I was good for more like lecturer or something more that or university but then after, I didn't bother.
Ann: So the rock star in you was calling?
Alberto: It was, yes. Yes.
Ann: When you've shown your work, have you ever had any of your music in the background?
Alberto: No
Ann: No? Okay that ...
Alberto: No, because it's not really good music.
It's not.
Ann: Okay
Alberto: Yeah, I'm not really proud of what I've written the past few years, no. Perhaps like one or two songs out of 30 or 40 I'll do right.
Ann: But that's not too bad, though. That's
Alberto: Yeah, I'm really proud of it.
Ann: I think what people, no matter whether they're artists or not, they're on this journey towards something, aren't they?
Alberto: Yeah
Ann: And as you said from the very beginning, artworks, you can see kind of the maturity and exploration that you've done from one piece to another. So this piece here, with the rose - Alice in Wonderland, are there any others that kind of has inspired you? You mentioned something political, are you kind of politically motivated in any of your works?
Alberto: I am politically influenced, not motivated. I've never been politics, for instance. I try to refrain to do any kind of politics anyway. Because I believe, for instance, Socrates was saying that if you feel sick, you go to the doctor because he knows better. You can't cure yourself, right? You need someone who's been studying medicine to help you out to feeling better. So is politics as well. He believed, and I think it's actually right, in order to talk about politics and understand about politics, you need actually to study politics. But we are so easy, all of us, to say, "that's right - that's wrong - they shouldn't be it - I know better than the politicians right now - they are not government".
But of course, as much I try not to express myself with friends or like social occasions, I can't deny I'm touched and influenced for anything that's happening around the world. Like for instance that's the woman with the burka, or you've got the American dream on the right, or feelings for instance like ... I'm part of the people. I'm one of the people, right? I feel the consequences of the day after day troubles and problems we are facing as normal people. I'm the lucky one anyway, being born in a beautiful country and moved to London. Have the chance to have my own place and say what I want to say, expressing myself anyway because I can really do it, so I am one of the lucky. One of the many that eventually, yeah we'd like to do more, but we can't.
Ann: So do you think that eventually you would, obviously politically influenced, and some of your art influence other people. Or is that kind of a wish of yours?
Alberto: I wish my works can give something to people. The point is, it's not really up to the artist, is it? I think once you do something, it's not yours anymore. Even the message you want to give to someone, it can be disguised or deceiving somebody. You can't expect to actually being ... As I said like I see in Alice and Wonderland I got a kind of message, it's like somebody else gets a different kind of message. And perhaps it's not the message that Tim Burton wants to give in the first place, is it? I believe we see what we want to see and what we can see.
Ann: That kind of brings up an interesting point because I think in main stream society, people will go to art galleries or art fairs or shows or even peoples homes and they'll see art work and, I think I mentioned this to you before, that people sometimes feel threatened by art because they don't want to feel that they have to interpret it. So they would much rather know maybe the story behind it so that they understand it and be free from that interpretation. But interesting that you say once that you've created something it's not yours anymore. Can you expand upon that? Maybe explain that a little bit better?
Alberto: Cause it feels like when you create something, it starts with an idea, right? What you can see in your mind, you can hold in your hand, right? So you're trying to

You can hear the interview here:
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