Over a weekend Sardinian artist Tellas threw an astounding piece onto the Holywell Lane wall, and then flew off without a word… Dan Davies finally tracked him down in his new home city of Rome to discuss his work in finer detail.
DD: I’m interested to hear how your Sardinian upbringing affected your art – were you a child that was always on the outside?
T: Sardinia has definitely influenced my work, being a place that is particularly wild with a very strong personality. It gave me the opportunity to observe and understand the strong impact that nature has on us. The fact that I grew up in the countryside close to the world of agriculture has also influenced the development of my work over time.
DD: I think there’s a biological beauty to your work – when you were young, did you have a telescope or magnifying glass?
T: I never had one of those, but I have to say that in my work I’m trying to create the same effect that a magnifying lens does. I always liked the shape of rocks, of trees, of the branches that float in brooks, or the different shapes of the waves of the sea.
DD: There is also an old school textbook feel to your work – particularly in your drawings – did you study science?
T: More than science, I would say scientific drawings and 17th century etchings. These are my points of reference, as well as paintings from the 19th century.
DD: Do you think that in the modern world we draw too much of a distinction between art and science – should we be more Da Vincian?
T: I think everything is connected. Even among the biggest contemporary artists, there are those who works on the theme of nature, like Anish Kapoor.
DD: You’ve done some gloriously colourful work in hot countries! Do you find that your work shifts in tone depending on the warmth of your environment?
T: Recently I’ve shifted my attention to the study of colour and its possibilities, but form, sign and composition are still fundamental to my work.
DD: You’re in Rome now – is the art scene as vibrant as it’s always been over there?
T: Rome is history. In every corner there is something to see and something new to discover. I’ve only recently moved here, but I think that to discover it all in one life isn’t enough.
In Italy in general with the crisis of the past few years there aren’t a lot of shows or events. Even the museums don’t do much. Maybe with the exhibitions this year something began to be re-activated. But in any case I think that in Italy there are a lot of important artists even during these periods.
DD: I was interested to hear more about parasites in your work; there also is a feeling of things drying out, breaking down and turning to dust – do you find there is a beauty in decay?
T: I think that decadence is a term that we use nowadays. For years man has imposed himself on nature with a lot of arrogance. They construct, they pollute, they create, they destroy. We don’t realise what we are doing to our planet every day. They call it progress, but it’s also decadence.
DD: What is living on the walls at Village Underground – are they seeds, leaves, eggs?
T: It’s a pattern of natural forms. Here there is a lot of traffic in the street; people come and go. I wanted to create a sort of world that from one side was cold and the other side hot, going from blue to red. It reminds me a bit of the seasons. The coming and going of people inspired this concept.
DD: The subject seems to be similar to Bien Urbain Festival – Besancon 2014, is this a common pattern that you return to or is there something that connects the building in France to Village Underground?
T: The pattern is one of the things with which I often work. Over time it has changed a lot; I often change and add different elements, although I always include in some way those natural forms.
DD: You’ve collaborated with people to realise your work across a range of media – do you enjoy the collaborative process?
T: I believe that collaboration is a beautiful thing. It brings us back to the period of graffiti, but with maybe a different mentality and approach. It is something that in classic contemporary art seldom happens. I find it very stimulating. It’s as if you were playing a game, and you were trying to create something different, with four hands.
DD: What’s your next big (or small) project?
T: For 2016, I’m preparing two shows, and on top of the walls I have to paint I would like to find some other collaborations.
For further details of Tellas’ plans for 2016 take a full blown gander at his website.