What do you do?
I am a painter who works with mixed media on canvas. I’m originally from Italy, but have now been in London for fourteen years. I always wanted to create art, my sister was a painter, my uncle was a painter, but my family pushed me to be an accountant. I did that to please them and afterwards I left Italy and came here.
Whilst working at the British Council, I found there was no better place than the art department and chatting to some people there, they showed me some options for art schools. I decided to finally follow my dream and applied for Wimbledon School of Art, where I did the foundation for two years and then went on to do a degree.
What would you say was the biggest lesson you got from art college?
I loved the fact that it was a beautiful environment where I could create. I learnt how to support myself and how to be independent as an artist. I could see other students being dependent on ideas from tutors, but you can’t wait for someone to tell you if you are doing it right or wrong. You have to be productive, make work, see what comes out and show it to people.
I don’t think my tutors liked me, I felt there was a distinction between the students that were more liked by the tutors, however I finished there eight years ago, and all of those that were supposed to be the next big thing are now no longer artists and I am the one that I carried on.
Why do you think that is?
It can happen no matter what you do, in economics, or architectural school, the favourite students can be taken on board by tutors because they want to protect them like a mother protects her child. I come from a very big family and I am one of the youngest, being sixth out of eight, and with that many siblings you get less attention. When I see the difference between my oldest siblings and me, I feel I am more mature than them because my mum always did this and that for them. It’s like this in arts college, if they say ‘oh you are amazing,’ but they don’t tell you you should do more about it, then you leave and are lost.
What inspires your work?
I am interested by the work of Damien Hirst and Jeff Koons. I like art to look like it’s all perfect, like pop culture and that layer of glossiness, beauty, and perfection that we have in the media. My idea is to make beautiful images of a reality that may not be so beautiful.
There is repetition in your themes, you have stags, lips, butterflies, how did this come about in your work?
It comes from Damien Hirst, repetition comes from the dots that he does. The butterflies are my angle, because every mark we make is an angle – so they say. The repetition also helps me to learn that form through practice.
How do you stitch your images together on the canvas?
I start with a background of stencils, then isolate areas that I want to work in different ways which I go on to paint, with acrylic, ink and spray paint; I make my own stencils and I do these repetitions. Some paintings I do over a couple of months.
This one is called You Have Dismantled my Dreams, it is about America with the stars from their flag. I don’t have a political agenda, but what I see and hear affects me. I feel like we are objects and Donald Trump is dismantled our dreams. All these women marching through Washington for their rights, it is touching as an artist, I am very sensitive to these things.
Have you ever exhibited back in Italy?
No, my first show was in New York, I’ve exhibited in Spain and here in London, but in Italy almost nothing. At one point I wanted to do an exhibition in my city, just outside of Venice, but there there is not as much of a culture of going to see modern, contemporary art exhibitions. That is the reason I never did anything specifically there. They say don’t come to Italy, no body is going to buy the work, there is a financial crisis.
Where do you hope to take it?
So far it has been amazing, I am a big dreamer, sometimes I dream about my work at the Tate Modern one day, but you know it is more that I want to show my work. Sometimes my art stays in my house and I want more people to see it. I now refuse to want to sit and wait. That is my motivation; as soon as I do something, everything happens.
Ireneo will be exhibiting his latest paintings in our Spring Collection this February 28th - 4th March at The Menier Gallery, London Bridge.