Castelli, a marvelous place in the province of Teramo, Abruzzo, Italy with an ancient history filled with majolica pottery, is where Pierpaolo Catini would find his origins. Now based in New York City, Pierpaolo remembers growing up playing with colors, pottery, and clay. After working with his father’s painting and after attending art school in his hometown, he decided it was time to find his own way. Pierpaolo envisioned an approach to art different from the classical landscape. In Italy, he painted with oil for a long time but then he started to experiment with the abstract, doing what he calls “ColorJuice:” squeezing paint on canvases to create abstract figures and portraits. Pierpaolo kept using oils while studying Van Gogh in depth, his favorite artist. A revolution took place in Pierpaolo’s soul when he discovered that two-dimensional painting was not enough for him.
He started painting thicker and thicker, using plaster, gesso, concrete, wood, everything that provided shadows and dimensions. He was growing as an artist, increasingly appreciating the work he did and all the things his father had taught him, remembering the clay and the landscapes. During that time, Pierpaolo was also making clothes; the canvas became thick in the ColorJuice. Yet colors were not enough for him, so he returned to the “materia,” which, to him, defines art. The “Village” series was born, and he started calling everything MateriCatini, a wordplay on his surname. This new series was thick, and it had depth. It was three-dimensional. Pierpaolo started using relentlessly anything that could give him textures and emotions. One of his paintings, OnThaBlu (a wordplay on American slang which in Italian would read “onda blu,” meaning blue wave), portrays a kind of fish jumping and fighting with the waves and the water. It was in that composition when he used a beef bone for the first time as well as a piece of an electronic cigarette. All the pieces of wood one can see are canvas keys.
The thick impasto is acrylic with plaster of Paris, lots of white glue, and many more materials. “With the ‘Landscapes of My Village’ series, I finally found peace, but just for a while. I made fifteen paintings so far, but I think this series will never end; I am preparing an exhibition with many landscapes like that,” he says. The atmosphere is different in the first two than in the newer ones where he used a large symbolic house and nearly pure, unmixed paint. It is very easy on the eye and thick enough to feel the surface, like in a sculpture or bas-relief. “I love it when people can touch and enjoy the feeling of the paint” Pierpaolo adds. For the first time in his artistic career, the thickness, the shadow, and the colors are the protagonists of every story he paints. Pierpaolo admits to quickly getting bored with his work explaining that, without experimentation, without change, his work soon feels just like reproductions.
To be satisfied, Pierpaolo needs to change the way he goes about his art. Once he changed a couple of the Village pieces, Pierpaolo uses a white and symbolic street or place that reminds him of the tiny stones used in the country. The old streets are so brilliant in the sun, and red rooves are what make the Village unique, like a Belgian village. “My inspiration (as well as this series) is dedicated to Abruzzo, my reason for painting. In all these subjects, I begin using stones or create a stone effect so that the walls of the house look real and old-fashioned,” he says. After some time, Pierpaolo’s passion for expressionism and strong colors came back, and it shows in this village.
It shows in the brilliance of the lakes and in the shadows of the homes. One day, Pierpaolo bought plasticine. He had already been saving chicken bones, egg shells, and recycled plastic. To him, every piece is a shape that can become something. “I always wanted to create new characters, and this was my opportunity,” Pierpaolo says. The Sailor was the firstborn; he actually calls it Stones&Bones because he wants people to focus on the subject and the materials used. One can see a lot of bones used for his face. The lens in his eye, the eggshells, the plastic, and the plasticine used for the pipe can also be appreciated. “All my characters after The Sailor have a wooden frame and a double name. The idea behind my SculPaintings is to recycle all the materials that I have at home (it would be too easy to purchase pre-made stuff) and to find a shape like what I am trying to make. I use many different objects. Finally, I like to complete my work with a little sculpture using clay, super sculpey, or DAS, but I always try to make more with what I can mix with materials.”