Written by Jessica Allan
27 Wednesday 27th January 2010

Valerio Carrubba is a hyperrealist painter. His images are anatomically accurate, showing his peaceful patients with their internal organs exposed. Shocking, realistic and at the same time extremely surreal, Valerio's paintings are technically beautiful and provocative. Jessica Allan spoke to him about his work.

Your paintings have caused quite a stir in the art world. Were you hoping to achieve this reaction by showing the internal as well as the external, or is there deeper meaning behind your shocking images?

My approach to painting is totally conceptual. My work is to continually develop the realisation of processes from which pictures are derived. Putting the idea of form, subject and content in crisis, they arrive at the loss of the image and its meaning.
In 2003 I started to work on these pictures in which a second pictorial layer recovers and faithfully reproduces the one underneath. The rigorous doubling of each brushstroke takes away any value of the gesture (of the hand and of the brush), as if the painting is in self-denial. The anatomic image is a metaphorical reference to the theoretical structure of the work and ideal instrument of its praxis. The painted subject needs to contain a large number of brushstrokes to repaint afterwards, and these images are perfect for that purpose: they have a melodramatic nature absolutely suitable for the general mood of this work. I am not interested in anatomy itself, it is just a means. I try to emphasise this ambiguity.

What materials do you use and do you have a favourite painting tool or technique that you thinks gets the best result?

I simply use high quality oil paint and a range of synthetic brushes - from the n.10/0 (maybe the thinnest brushes in the world!) to n.20. My paintings are on stainless steel that I prepare by spraying on the surface two layers of a transparent primer for metals and two layers of white acrylic pigment. The borders (5,5 cm in height) have no treatments because I love the contrast between the hyper-detailed picture and the raw aspect of the steel.

I have noticed that your paintings have unusual names. Is there a reason for this or were they named spontaneously?

The titles are palindromes (words, phrases, or sentences that reads the same backward or forward). This aspect is in correlation with the language and the execution mechanics of the paintings. It is also a useful clue to its deciphering-misinterpretation.

What is the significance of the kitchen knife that keeps on appearing in your pictures?

Most of the painting subjects are taken from picture plates on ancient and modern anatomy or surgery atlases. I rearrange them, adding more hands, more knives, more wounds and a background. Because I do not want to illustrate actual medical practice, I usually copy the instruments as they appear on the original plates. I too was surprised on seeing that kitchen knife, but maybe that was the shape of the bistouries (long, narrow surgical knives) in the XVIII century. Anyway, it makes the painting more disturbing, and I think it's a good quality.

What direction do you hope to go in next? Will you be producing more of the same or have you something else in mind?

I have many new ideas in mind. I'm working on a new series of pencil drawings made only of words. I am also designing some posters for a project dedicated to the movies of Guy Debord, but at the same time I'm still working on new paintings - some anatomical and some on "hairdos". The new anatomical ones are inspired by the iconography of Saint Bartholomew and show a figure who melodramatically peels away his own abdominal skin.
See more of Valerio here.

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