Claus Soraperra's painting without boundaries
The artist Claus Soraperra speaks a universal code, giving us artistic, sociocultural languages that are based on a broad, transactional vision of art, overcoming dogmas and barriers in space and time, and building a majestic monument to freedom of thought and knowledge.
With his participation in the "Ladinia" exhibition organised by the Tiroler Volkskunst Museum (museum of Tyrolean Folk Art) in Innsbruck (Austria) alongside international names like Aron Demetz, Lois Anvidalfarei and Gabriele Grones, his personal exhibition “Self Evolution” at the Ufofabrik Gallery in Moena (Italy), the installation displayed at the Centro d'Arte Contemporanea in Cavalese (Italy) and various museum projects on which he has collaborated; Claus Soraperra, born in Canazei (Dolomites, Italy) in 1966, demonstrates that he has always known how to communicate realities that are different in space and time. Discovering his art means opening a passage into a historic and cultural memory that has its origins in the heart of the Dolomites. It means tiptoeing into a past reality that is made current with the help of different, innovative languages, setting out on a long journey with no fixed destination, a journey undertaken by those for whom observing is not enough. Conscious of their own artistic role, they seize hold of their sense of identity to create new, original sensations and go beyond the usual way of seeing the world and their own Heimat (homeland). Even a superficial assessment of Soraperra's art reveals the presence of a figurative influence that is expressed not only through the abundant and bright use of colour, but most of all through the painting tradition typical of a childhood spent in the incredible natural paint shop that is the Dolomite mountains, amid the rocks and dust. And then the desire to fly high, like an eagle between the mountain tops, where a good amount of courage is needed to face the past and break away from the academic mould, becoming something other than oneself. This "metamorphosis" is realised in the “Self Evolution” collection, which offers the diverse layering of the modern female personality, communicated in its many facets. It is here, in a world hovering between reality and society, where recurring mime-like gestures of the face and hands, large and rigid like open fans, evoke the contorted bodies of Schiele's Viennese Expressionism.
What influences or intuitions lead you to want to "go beyond" the rich tradition of your origins and search for such new contemporary dimensions in art?
For about ten years after I returned from Venice, having just left the Accademia (academy of fine art), I tried to "betray" tradition and keep a distance in my painting, and this inevitably took me further away not only from tradition, but also from the local community, from this little society that has been rooted in the Dolomites for thousands of years. At first it was not easy to find the right direction, the great Tiziano Vecellio (1488-1576), also born in the Dolomites, chose to leave, to go to Venice. I could not deny what I had inside me, I wanted to confront a past that was inevitably onerous and anachronistic. The turning point came progressively, working one day at a time, trying to be myself, to feel like a citizen of the world, allowing myself to be contaminated by contemporary influences and trying to live not as a man from the Dolomites, but as a man of the world. Today opportunities are abundant and accessible, even for art. Like science, it is not bound to any particular region.
Your artistic metamorphosis, at a certain point, manifested itself in a keen interest in representations of the female form. In the “Self Evolution” collection, you unsettle the public by presenting images of vigorous, "masculine", almost androgynous women; spontaneously provocative, sensual and cold at the same time, veritable holders of life and death. In fact, what is being concealed behind those hidden faces and those very physical bodies with a female form?
What I always want to represent is the human being, often a women, a mother. My figures try to identify with the viewer, they try to give an emotional description of humanity. The enquiry is not without a purpose, rather it aims to separate the individual from their social context offering them an understanding that is unique and intimate. The faces, frequently covered, deliberately conceal the personal identity of the figure, which is often substituted by cryptic codes. The fact that many of my figures wear helmets is to protect human thought, the power of ideas, which nowadays we must defend vigorously. As regards the materials used, I like experimenting, using light synthetic supports, polystyrene, forex etc. It is just a matter of being contemporary not only in the form, the contents, the colour and subjects, but also in the materials and methods.
What does it mean to you to exhibit alongside artists who have participated in the Venice Biennale or with international artists?
The opportunity to exhibit contemporary work at the Volkskunstmuseum in Innsbruck was stimulating above all for an artist who, although remaining a product of tradition, wants to assert some distance from it. I had an excellent rapport with Aron Demetz and Lois Anvidalfarei, especially since we come from the same "Heimat". I collaborated with Althea Thauberger on "Manifesta 7" and even though we are no longer in touch, having the opportunity to work with her opened my eyes and mind.
Would you like to exhibit in galleries or institutions such as cultural institutions or similar venues?
Exhibiting is important for an artist, but most of all it is important for society. Art generates ideas, thoughts. Without stimulation or provocation the brain does not generate thoughts, words, actions. An artist must be part of society, they have a fundamental role, often they can choose less used, more banal, more obvious routes to reach an objective. I have always believed in the power of art as a "mishap", as a "useless product", which precisely because of that becomes unique, it becomes something ephemeral and invisible, able to generate new philosophies and new points of view.
Like David Hockney, you use a simplified figurative style, which although done with irony, highlights the artificial, falsely happy circumstances that affluent society and advertising impose and pass off. Do you see yourself in this typical role of relating everything without saying everything?
Relating everything without saying everything is dangerous, even though it is convenient, as advertising has taught us. I like to explore the human condition through pictorial representation, trying to distance it from society, from its surroundings, which although they may be comfortable and filled with technology, risk preventing us from understanding ourselves.
After this experience and the direction your art has taken for many years, what are your plans for the future?
I have always believed that it is not people who choose what to do, but the world that chooses the people it needs.
Interview by Federica Giobbe