EK Interview: Nicola Verlato

art blog - Nicola Verlato - Empty Kingdom

The very essence of humanity seems to scream forth from the work of Nicola Verlato.  It’s chaotic and violent and passionate and really so much more.  I want more.  Always more.

What was it like spending the majority of your teens and early twenties in the 80s?

I didn’t like it at all…my family was very poor in that moment and I didn’t have any money…

It was really frustrating to be in that situation in the midst of the explosion of the Reganomics of those years.
When did you move to LA?  How do you like LA?

I moved to LA only few months ago, I was living in NY before, for 7 years after moving in the states from Italy.  I really like LA a lot, amazing weather and I also like the very specific culture of this city.


What was the inspiration for your “Martyrdoms and Miracles” series?  Where were you personally for the series?

The inspiration for this series of paintings came from my interest in iconography.  I wanted to verify how the old compositional strategies of the old masters would have worked applied on the ‘martyrdom’s’ of our time, it is like  to say that the way to compose the painting of the baroque era is for me a tool  to reveal the continuity of the narrations of our time with the ones of the past.

art blog - Nicola Verlato - Empty Kingdomart blog - Nicola Verlato - Empty Kingdom

What was the inspiration for “Hooligans”?  What does the violence mean to you?  What does it speak to you of the human condition?

The same I said before could be said for the hooligans series.  Through the making of the painting I liked to formalize the riots in the stadiums as “modern” ancient battles, the painting itself in the end is a filter through which reality assumes a symbolic meaning.  The hooligan is transformed into a hero.

Painting has its own morality which differs from the common one…the violence of the stadiums is an amazing pretext to narrate stories, it talks about the impossibility to reduce humanity to a certain model of civilization, it reveals that  humanity is always the same, it’ll never change…

art blog - Nicola Verlato - Empty Kingdom

What kind of critical response have you received from “Mothers”?  How has it differed or aligned with your own interpretation of the series?

I think  it has been the most successful of all my groups of paintings until the present moment, probably many people consider those paintings as my trademark: swirling composition with naked crazy girls floating in a space filled with objects and debris…

I think that the most interesting thing about those paintings is the ambiguity with which they have been  received.  Some people thought that they were made by a woman (my name in America could be believed to be a female one)  therefore they interpret them as a feminist statement, while, other people, saw them as the result of a misogynist mentality… fortunately the majority of the viewers approach them as the materialization into painting  of some kind of visions, anyway, I’m always interested in provoking controversies with my paintings.

art blog - Nicola Verlato - Empty Kingdom

What do you like about oil paints?  How do they feel physically?  What are the limitations?  What are the capabilities?

Oil paint is just a part of the different materials i’m using to make a painting, it is extremely useful for certain things, and to me is mandatory to use it to get those kind of subtleties of light and shadows impossible to obtain with other techniques…I like to use them over a very precise construction made  with charcoal or water based colors, oil colors  spread over the lines of the charcoal or the brushstrokes in such a soft and sensual way, the only  problem of oil paint is how slow it takes to dry….


How have your books been received?

I published just one book, in Italy, which was poorly distributed…I will have a book published by Gingko Press very soon during the  summer, this year, the title is “From Verona with Rage”.


What was your experience with Jonathan Levine Gallery in 2010?  How has your second showing there this year been?

Either this year show and the one of 2 years ago have been extremely positive experiences!

art blog - Nicola Verlato - Empty Kingdom

How have you, how has your work matured since then?

I think i’m progressively getting closer to what I really want to do in my work, each exhibition is a step further in that direction.


How does illustration and painting differ in their expression?  How do they feel to you?

I think the difference stands only in a different compositional approach.  Illustration is a painting made mainly for a specific media, printed paper such as books magazines or newspapers, it is also always intended to be  a visual support for a text.

Painting is made for another media, which is mainly a wall in the real space and usually it doesn’t support any text at all, it is a self explanatory image.

Composing an image as an illustration differs from composing a painting because the relationship between the image and the viewer’s change between the 2 different media. In illustration the viewer is reduced just to his eyes, in painting the entire body of the viewer is involved into the experience of being in the space and looking at the painting.

Many people think that it is all a matter of thick paint that make a painting a painting….it is just silly…the illustrations  by Norman Rockwell are painted with very thick paint and, notwithstanding, they are still illustrations, while, for example, Botticelli’s paintings are made with extremely thin layers of color and they are clearly paintings…It’ all about how the image occupies the real space…And how the image is composed in the space of the painting itself.

Nevertheless  I love illustrations, and Rockwell as well, and I think that, for illustrators, is easy to became painters and for painters to became  illustrators, it is all about adapting your skills to the different compositional strategies which the different media  media require.


What have you learned about your work and yourself from the shows that you’ve had?

I think I learned  a lot.  Shows are just the necessary steps in time where you put together some works,  but they are not the main thing in your career, I hope, soon,  I will able to consider them just the preparation to something bigger I have in mind.

art blog - Nicola Verlato - Empty Kingdom

What is a useful piece of advice that you’ve received, or concluded on your own, that you can tell aspiring artists?  How long have you been an artist?  How has your work changed since you first began?  How has the content changed?

I would say that you should first recognize if you have natural talent as the premise of your engagement in painting, then, if you really have it  start to study as much as possible comparing your work with the best masters ever…Michelangelo, Leonardo, Durer etc… Be always honest with yourself and never look for excuses…Painting is a very difficult job and you should get into it trying to pursue only the best, otherwise try not to be an obstacle to other people which are more talented than you…

I started to paint in oil when I was 7, and to sell paintings when I was 9…the funny thing is that I don’t think I have changed at all since then…I was just trying to get better, my idols are still the same, Caravaggio, Michelangelo Correggio etc…It’s true that I changed a lot about subject matter, when I was a kid all my paintings were about religious stories: crucifixions, resurrections etc even despite I haven’t received a religious education form my family.

What changed now is that I found the same kind of intensity of those religious themes in the narrative of our time mythologies.


Do you miss the food from home?  What’s the food scene like in LA?

No, I adapt very well to any kind of food….i’m still exploring the food scene in LA it seem to be very interesting…


art blog - Nicola Verlato - Empty Kingdom