For the original interview in Italian: http://leisurespotblog.blogspot.it/2015/01/intervista-red-tweny.htmlHello Red Tweny,
Thank you for conceding me this interview! The first question that comes to my mind is: why Red Tweny? Does it have a particular meaning?
Hi Maurizio, and thank you for your interest. So…why Red Tweny? Well, I chose “Red” because I couldn't find a shorter name – admitting that it's a real name -, because it reminds me of the name Rhett (the amusing male protagonist of Gone With The Wind, i.e. Clark Gable), and also because the colour red contrasts hugely with my black-and-white subjects. As to Tweny, it is a contraction of twenty freely inspired by twenty-two (22), a number that often recurs in my life, on occasions both lucky and unlucky.
How was your passion for drawing born? Do you think that some particular events prompted you to embrace this passion?
I have no recollections of particular events which prompted me to draw... it has always been natural for me since the times when I drew on the desks at school. I drew with Bic pens and the lines that I trace today on large-format sheets are more or less the same that I drew on the smaller space of a green Formica-topped desk support. Later on, the cleaning lady would wipe the desk clean, and the day after I would find a new drawing "sheet". When I was a kid there was plenty to be inspired by: as I was a bit smaller than my classmates, both physically and emotionally, I always felt a little like an outcast. The many and untimely delusions of love together with a sanctimonious and stifling family education were the icing on the cake: monsters and writhing à gogo! While as a teenager friends and family harshly hurt my feelings, today I aim to voice those sufferings and aspirations in a human soul which are often denied. I cannot help but see how, inside of me and around me, suffering and unease envelop us, no one excluded. Such increase of a feeling of malaise in the current human condition is all too evident to me and is in stark contrast with the quantity of objects and things we have at our disposal as compared even only to fifty years ago. I am unable to provide explanations, let alone cures: I only voice these feelings through my drawings.
How has your art changed over time? Were you particularly inspired by somebody at the beginning? Was it difficult to develop a unique and personal style or was it somehow an automatic, spontaneous process?
Let's say that I haven't always been constant. I started drawing seriously (that is, with a view to organising exhibitions and selling my work) when I was 19 and went on until 25 to take it up again about 10 years ago, at the dawn of my 40th year, spurred by a friend of mine who works as a publisher. My favourite subjects were and are faces, that is where I most successfully manage - or so it seems to me, at least - to condense the essence of my moods and sensations. The essence of my work resides there and I don't feel the urge to go beyond that. I understand, however, that one risks becoming monotonous, so, three or four years ago, I started alternating the faces with more complex images where bodies and odd anthropomorphic beings move, lie down, sit down or hurl themselves into the space while still remaining twisted or partly curved in on themselves. It's not easy because the sheet always appears to me too small for such subjects, but I feel the need to tackle such images once in a while.
With respect to my style, I didn't consciously meditate on it, it was rather a natural process. Later on, over the years, I realised that I was quite a unique specimen in the almost endless artistic context that Internet provides us with and I managed to assert my position there. Later I became aware that drawing with India ink also presents several practical and positive aspects: it's cheap, doesn't make you dirty and if you have to send a piece of yours by post you can roll it into a tube and send it by DHL as far as to the USA with 25 euros. That'd be impossible with an oil painting.
Normally, how long do you take to make a drawing?
The making of a work of mine envisages two distinct phases: sketching the piece with pencil on a A4 sheet of paper and drawing the final version with India ink pen on a large-format sheet (50x70 cm).
As to the sketching phase, times vary: I can spend a whole week doodling without producing nothing significant or I can make four or five sketches in an hour. It's a matter of being in tune and inspired, of silences and lights, of chance and feelings experienced recently. One thing is for sure, and that is that I have made a lot of sketches which I have put aside, so I have in "store" a lot of drawings to reproduce on large-format sheets, rigorously 50x70 cm. Once I have chosen the base sketch, I proceed to draw utilising the India ink, usually with a 0,3 mm point pen. Here the times are more precise: about two hours a day for seven days, it cannot take less than that. I am set on producing at least one work per week: I have to and I want to, because I think that constancy pays.
I know that you greatly admire Francis Bacon. What do you find particularly fascinating about his work? Are there any literary figures who influenced your work indirectly in the attempt to evoke a certain mood? If not, are you used to listening to music while working and are there certain tracks or music genres that allow you to work better?
With regard to Bacon, I admire his perfect representation of the modern malaise of the human condition. The use and juxtaposition of bright and "frivolous" colours with sudden and implausible shadows is both disconcerting and brilliant. What is strikingly evident is the representation of human loneliness during moments of common life in settings which you'd never think to utilise for an artwork. His torn and decomposed faces convey innumerable concepts: our caducity, our suffering, the monster that is in all of us. However, several essays have been written on Bacon and it would be foolish of me to exert criticism. Personally, he's the only artist who stimulates me to draw every time I see his work. But I have to confine myself to a few glimpses not to risk being influenced....it'd be problematic!
I never listen to music while I draw in the evening but at 9 pm I tune into Focus channel with the hope of coming across a programme on outer space and physics: nothing better than that to roam freely a bit and remember how small we are, and only passing through. Music would engross me too much, and I wouldn't be able to concentrate on drawing... I don't know why, but Focus programmes are ideal for drawing and simultaneously thinking of features that somehow come up in my drawings: have you noticed how many spirals and orbits appear in them?
As to reading, I confess that the last author I read, at a early age, was Edgar Allan Poe; at a later time, life, work, family, and all the other activities have prevented me from cultivating a reading habit: simply enough, I have no time to dedicate to reading a good book; you can't do everything in your life!
In your drawings, white, black, and all the hues of grey are used to give depth to goggle-eyed figures wrenching in implausible twists which still retain a precise and flawless plasticity. However, I'd like to ask you: do you also enjoy experimenting with colour? Do you find it more difficult to obtain the same effects?
Illustrators and painters cannot forget about colour, for pity's sake, I'm perfectly aware of it. However, in my case, working with colour would entail a huge slowdown in my production. I'm looking forward to creating the “perfect” subject that I haven't yet managed to produce. I made some colour drawings with India ink which I don't have anymore nor have I photographs of them, but the time required to make them is ten times as long and I have no “time to lose”! One of my goals is to have 400/500 pieces in my gallery and, considering that I don't want to make pieces that look similar or present only slight variations, you can understand that I cannot dedicate two or three weeks "only" to colour my pieces (I'd always utilise India ink pens, no gouache or watercolour techniques). After all, you can recognise my pieces at first sight also because of this chromatic characteristic, although I'm certainly not the only one who tackles B&W! Besides, I know myself and I know that I'd have the tendency to fill all the spaces with colour, thus distracting the viewer's eye from the core message. In any case, I don't exclude colour a priori, but the time hasn't come yet.
How much do you draw upon reality and how much upon imagination?
When I can find the right moment and the ideal situation to jot down a sketch, my rational side turns off and I almost go into a trance. Consequently, it's difficult for me to rationally determine what and how much I draw upon. Shall we say 50% each?
I'm not a fan of abstract art, surrealism or hyperrealism for the sake of it. I only like something about each of these styles and I try to combine them. Of course, even in this respect, Bacon was a master.
I agree with you when you say that your style is extremely personal and recognisable. In this sense, do you think that originality always pays or sometimes it occurs to you that perhaps it'd be easier to follow a certain trend, walk down the beaten path, be part of a group which has certain guidelines?
The answer is easy. Luckily, since I don't make a living selling my works, I am free to walk down my own path without making any compromises. In any case, following a certain trend would be no guarantee of success…and, in everyday's chaotic situation, who could determine which is the current "trend"? I don't participate to art-related events nor have I acquaintances in the art world, but I have the impression that, unlike what happens with articles of clothing in the fashion world, there are no longer trends or specific currents: everybody dresses the way they want and in the colours they like.
What is crucial now is to voice the age we live into and manage to strike a chord with the viewer. There, that is the only way in which I want to be fashionable, depicting the crude, scary and by now out-of-control social and ethical chaos which frightens us and makes us writhe out of angst and fear, from the United States up to China.
Where are your works available for purchase?
My American curator is based in Switzerland and promotes my work in that area, her name is Julie Draper: http://www.drapercontemporary.com. For the Italian friends, I can take care of it: (firstname.lastname@example.org)!
Thanks for your time!
Thanks to you, Maurizio, I feel honoured.
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