When it comes to art, you really need to own a specific sensibility. This same quality is essential when interpreting the environment that surrounds you. Gabriele Demarin is among those who own this specific outlook of the world. He’s not affected by the surface of things, neither when it comes to art nor when it’s a matter of universal truths. He’s straightforward (without being rude), frank and incredibly witty.
Originally from Trieste, a seaside town in the north – east of Italy, and currently living in Milan after a stint in London, since 2004 he has been active in the Italian and international street art scene under the signature Fontface.
We chatted with him to discover a little bit more.
Who’s FontFace? Who’s Gabriele Demarin, instead?
Fontface is simply my tag. It’s the name that very much candidly I chose back in 2004 when I first made my first steps within the so-called ‘street art’. Actually, Fontface is Gabriele’s free spirited side and, even more banally, it is also a far cry from my everyday reality. Nevertheless, it’s also what I would have liked to actually become. I am not sure whether the two ‘names’ could be attributed to two different entities or, more simply, they are just two different sides of my personality characterising my life.
When did you approach the street art scene?
During the second half of the ‘90s, I was very attracted by graffiti. I had my crew, my sketchbook, my own tag (s.ker) and a bit of pocket money to buy a couple of spray cans. Unfortunately, I lacked the technique and being brave. For this reason, my experience as a writer stopped after my second (horrible!) graffiti. It still hurts a little bit not to have expressed myself through graffiti, nor to have found my own style within this technique. To me, graffiti is an art form. It is much more ‘authentic’ and ‘badass’ than the other forms of art. After this stint with graffiti, in the early 2000s, I began to create and print stickers which I had drawn by hand or photocopied in which I expressed my political beliefs. I really liked this way of expressing my personality and my views, as I could easily spread my message while keeping low the costs of the materials I used. Fontface started out of this activity. So, in 2004, I entered the graffiti art scene without even being aware of its existence. However, I’d like to point out that I never used the street as my personal gallery space, as has often been attributed to me. To me, the street has acted as a tool for my ideas, as a place in which I could express my thoughts to everyone willing to hear me by letting them know that I was alive and I had something to say.
Initially, you preferred to remain anonymous. More recently, you have changed your mind. Is there a specific reason?
I think this change of mind, it’s due to the time passing by. That time, when I wanted to remain anonymous, is over now. That happened for two reasons: not feeling necessary to hide anymore as I stopped creating artworks in public spaces, and [it also happened] because public opinion became so accustomed to street art – and, as a consequence, street art has so much “brown – nosed” the public – it has lost its underground beginnings. Who would have ever said back, in 2004, that one day graffiti would have literally been removed from the walls to be stored and then sold?
Some of your early work used keyboard symbols to create enigmatic expressions of people and stylised animals. Where did this idea come from?
That one, it has been the first phase of my work, and it has lasted for quite a while. It characterised – although evolving- a big part of my artistic production gifting me with that little notoriety that I still have.
Everything started from the disillusionment I felt in the moment in which, working as a recently graduated graphic designer, I crashed with the everyday reality of this profession. I felt the urge to escape from that set of rules and dogmas I had to follow, and that they were far away from what I had been taught during my studies. As a result of this realisation, aged 22, I was already disillusioned by realising that I would have never been able to express myself as I really wanted. Unconsciously, I found my creative outlet by creating Fontface and using typefaces to create more or less complicated expressions, I encased them in a black squared-shape frame and started sticking them around.
It has been almost 12 years now, and I am still using the squared-shaped frame as one of my trademarks. As for the rest of the elements, I decided to move away from typefaces because of my personal and artistic development.
You also had a go creating your personal take of portraits featuring some historical figures as Mao, Moshe Dayan, Atatürk. Is there a specific reason that made you decide to do it?
This series of portraits dedicated to historical figures started from a portrait that I created about Mao. I had this intuition when I was contemplating a mechanic sign in a Parisian suburb. From that first painting, I created a series of four which were the result of a personal research linked to each of the historical figures and the colours that represent them. Unfortunately, I got bored quite quickly. Hence, these works are a “unicum”.
I am still really pleased with the results, but I see them as a phase between the early stage of Fontface and what I am creating at present.
Your most recent work features bicolour and bi-dimensional ladders? What do they represent?
The ladder, as an object, is something that it has always inspired me because of its shape and its intrinsic meaning. It took time for me to finally use it in my art, to like the specific shape I gave to it and to feel it as something truly mine.
This symbolic element in my work production is a representation of my perception of the reality. The bi-dimensionality of these ladders – that through their shades give the impression of being tri-dimensional even when they are not – symbolise what I perceive from the reality that surrounds me as being true even when it’s not. The ladder, on the other hand, is also a transitional element, a tool I use to ‘virtually’ teleport who is looking at my work in other realities.
How and from where does your creative process start?
Over the years, my creative process has slowed down a lot. I like not being in a rush into realising something that I have just dreamt of. Regarding my creative process, it’s a bit complex. It can pass a lot of time (even months) before starting a new project, being an artwork on a wall or something else.
I take inspiration from everything: books, paintings, pictures. I could take inspiration by a positive event that is happening in my life or from someone’s else work. However, what struck me the most is simple shapes, lines, squared, circles, colour blocks. I have often tried to ‘dirty’ my artistic trademark style and revamp it a bit by trying to getting rid of my colour block palettes and straight lines. However, it clearly didn’t work out. My inspiration can start from the sight of a Ligabue painting that I love and, almost unwillingly, singling out just one specific detail as, for example, the orange of the background.
Where do you currently work? Where would you (Fontface/Gabriele Demarin) like to be in the near future?
I earn my life working for a renowned industrial design firm. My daily job takes so much of my time that, after that, I have little left. On the one hand, this allows me to have free reign over my artistic production as I don’t necessarily need to live off it. Having this freedom, also means that I am the only one to please with the final outcome of my work.
As for my future, I would love to live in the countryside, leaving behind me the big city I currently live in, and being surrounded by people I love and my artwork.
To discover more about Fontface/Gabriele Demarin ☞ www.facebook.com/fontface