Alice Pasquini is a multimedia artist from Rome whose affectionate street art explores the brighter side of human relationships. Pasquini’s art revolves around the topics of femininity, encompassing murals, paintings, and illustrations which tell stories about various acts of kindness and love.
Street artist, painter, illustrator and set designer, Alice has developed a multitude of artistic expressions, from narrative-based, pastel-toned murals to her most recent series of installations created from found materials.
A graduate of the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome, Alice obtained an MA in critical art studies from the Universidad Computense before spending time in Great Britain, France, and Spain developing her practice. Sydney, New York, Barcelona, Oslo, Moscow, Paris, Copenhagen, Marrakech, Berlin, Saigon, London, and Rome are some of the cities where her work can be found.
Alice just returned from NuArt Aberdeen Festival where her stunning art works have appeared on buildings and walls across Aberdeen city centre. We are very fond of her work and I could not be more happier to catch up with her in this interview.
Julie: Hello Alice, it was great to finally meeting you. You just returned from NuArt Aberdeen, how was the experience?
AliCè: Ciao, it was good to meet you too. Aberdeen was a lot of fun. The city really reacted with enthusiasm about the Festival.
Julie: It’s so refreshing to see women being part of NuArt first edition in Scotland. I can’t help but notice there is still a gender gap on the scene, could you share your thoughts on this?
AliCè: It’s true that we are often in the minority. Fortunately, things are changing and I believe that the number of talented female artists who are active on the scene is growing every year. It’s much better than before. When I started, finding an Italian female street artist was really rare. This was one of the reasons why I decided to sign with my own name, showing my identity as a woman in a world—the graffiti world—that is male dominated and where everyone uses aliases.
Julie: Your art predominantly focuses on women, can you tell us a bit more about this choice?
AliCè: In the beginning it was important for me to introduce a different and distinguishable style. My style is more painterly and feminine in comparison to most graffiti in which women are often depicted as cartoon heroines or as super sexy. They’re hardly ever shown as real people. Having this personal perspective inevitably brought me to express myself from a female point of view. In general, I’m interested in exploring human emotions through my own. There is always an unconscious autobiographical aspect in selecting a subject or story, which, in any case, are born from the specific place where I’m working.
Julie: You took part in an interesting conference at NuArt Aberdeen where you discussed the strategies and tools you use to participate in public spaces. You explored the ‘right to the city’ concept which questions how we might remake the city with the goal of creating more just and ideal societies. However, not everyone has the same access to the city. Class, race, gender, ability, sexuality, and other dimensions of difference influence access. What is your take on this?
AliCè: Over the past few years I’ve dedicated myself to projects where art seemed more powerful. Whether it was in a female prison or a welcome centre for underage immigrants coming to Italy; or choosing to tell the story of Italian immigrants around the world because history repeats itself. Art can’t change things by itself, but it can certainly help to spark a debate.
Julie: Aberdeen just saw its first urban art festival. Street art can impact in different ways a city what message are you hoping to communicate by creating your artwork in public spaces?
AliCè: What does the wall have over a canvas or piece of paper? A history. I depict intimate moments in a public space. In a world dominated by cynicism, I prefer to show human emotions, pealing back the relationships between people and trying to show that which unites us.
For me, a piece is inseparable from the place where it’s created. For example, I use the colour of a wall or its natural frame, incorporating my work into the environment. Every wall is planned for it’s specific space (in Aberdeen the couple faces an ocean that, in fact, is behind the wall). I would have liked to paint in black and white since the entire city is made of granite. But, I understood that the residents really wanted something colourful. They needed it, and that’s what they expressed to me while I was painting with a ton of colour. For this reason, I was happy to let go of my original idea. In the end, the wall is for the people that live with it.
Julie: You come from both a history & fine art background. Tell us a bit more about your artistic journey, and when did you start exploring the urban scene?
AliCè: I come from an academic background in art—art high school, fine art academy, and a Master’s in art criticism. This is part of what pushed me out on the streets. No art school has taught me as much as painting on streets around the world. Back in the ‘90s in Italy, hip hop culture was gaining momentum from rap to breakdancing and graffiti. I would go to art school in the morning and sketch models, and in the afternoon “learn” graffiti. It was a path completely opposite for what my professors suggested in order to embark on an illustrious art career. I have to admit that at the time, there was no way I thought that creating graffiti could have been a career. Later, at the Fine Arts Academy of Rome, I was studying painting. “Art died with Duchamp, forget drawing.” This is what my professors taught me and this is one of the reasons that I wanted to leave behind the art studio and the academy.
I felt like I wanted to distance myself from that vision of what art was. I wanted to find artistic motivation that was stronger than that out on the streets. I didn’t want that my spectators were only people who went to galleries and I understood that my real interest was to create art that interacted with people—art that was alive, three-dimensional, and integrated into its context. I wanted to make art that provoked a reaction in people and was part of the environment. I wanted to take a nondescript place into something with a story, moved by the need to go beyond the limitations of the canvas and studio. I started out just pasting up my drawings on the walls by my house and then I started painting old phone booths, street signs, an abandoned refrigerator. And then in the streets.
Julie: The culture and traditions in Rome, where you are originally from, reflect its historic past and celebrate the modern world with an eclectic mix of culture, arts, and historic architecture. Has it influenced you in any way and do you see street art as another step in art history?
AliCè: Of course. We have to take into consideration that for the first time in history, large scale murals are being produced. These are works that change the appearance of entire neighbourhoods across many parts of the world. But more than street art, I’d call it a rebirth of muralism. The idea of street art—a term that I’m not crazy about—is still tied, for me, to the spontaneity of its origins rather than commissioned work.
Julie: In your own words, how would you describe your work and where do you get your inspirations from?
AliCè: All my walls take shape from one of the number of sketchbooks that I bring with me on my trips. They’re like my travel diaries—a collection of emotions and experiences that, in a second moment, become part of a wall on a large scale or in a small, hidden corner of a city. Everything I put on the wall or paint in the studio are everyday moments lived and revisited. In Rome, where I was born, the beauty of the abandoned certainly influenced me. It pushed my need to give value back to something left behind. Of course on the street my creativity is influenced by many things—the light and the colours of the surroundings (one of the reasons I painted during the day), the people who pass by and their reactions, the fragility of the surface, and spontaneity of my stroke (necessary due to the rapid action). I usually pick walls that are already beat up, often already built up with tags. The scars of the city make the best canvases.
Julie: There is a fine line between works in galleries and the ones painted in the streets. Do you see a freedom of expression painting in public spaces?
AliCè: For me, painting in the street is a necessity. Travel is a huge container of sensations that nourishes my artistic research, which is based on exchange and interaction. Galleries and museums are spaces where you can bring a specific reflection or create different projects made of fragile materials, for example. As an artist, I celebrate the possibility I have to move from one environment to the next.
Julie: It’s always great discovering your latest sketches, and we loved seeing your paintings being animated in your clip What Goes Around in collaboration with animator Rocco Venanzi. It must have been a long process, how this project came to life?
AliCè: I asked myself what it would look like if the protagonists of my paintings came to life behind my back. What Goes Around is an original project that uses different animation techniques to heightened effects—from rotoscope to full animation. We worked from video shot while I was painting the inside of the Zero Stress Academy in Moncalieri, Italy, near Turin. It’s a breakdance and DJ school founded by DJ Gruff. He and I have collaborated many times over the years and the intention of the video was to maintain the spontaneous atmosphere that was on hand while I painted the walls.
Julie: Are you planning on experimenting with other mediums?
AliCè: A few years ago I did a 3D project using completely old school 3D techniques in collaboration with photographer Stefano C. Montesi. We brought the work onto the streets of Rome and the results were great. I’ve also been collaborating with different artisans, rediscovering traditional crafts like terracotta and ceramics.
Julie: Thank you so much AliCè for sharing your experience with me, one last question: what is next for you in 2017?
AliCè: Coming up in early June is CVTà Street Fest, a project to help bring life back to a semi abandoned town in Italy, which I work on together with photographer Jessica Stewart, friends, and other artists. I also have a solo show in Rome coming up soon, as well as an exhibition in Rome in 2018 with another artist, Maria Pia Picozza.
Interview & Photos Julie