ITALY: Fantastic Painter Claudio Parentela – Abstract Mixed Media Experiments – Collages, Comics & Drawings

The works of the Italian artist Claudio Parentela from Catanzaro are basically a creative combination of a multitude of works of art. In turn, he often created these parts individually himself. In other words, pictures were painted, photos taken, cutouts sawn, glued or stapled from a wide variety of materials. But pages from catalogs or books, objects from the garbage or the last purchase receipt can also be integrated. Everything is possible with Claudio and he is particularly fascinated by the absurd and the unthinkable. He breaks boundaries, provokes with his art and wants to encourage questioning. The central drive and the fundamental theme of his art is freedom. To be free in what you think, what you do and how you want to develop. Of course, as long as this does not restrict the freedom of others.

Claudio Parentela got into art as a painter. He painted on canvas or paper, but quickly started experimenting. Any substrate is possible, any material is possible. But painting and drawing is his core passion, here he has a special preference for ink and black and white drawings. For many years he has created comics for magazines and underground publications. He now creates extensive collages and mixed media works in which he combines all his techniques. And new ones are continously getting added. We spoke to Claudio about his fascinating, colorful  and diverse world in an interesting interview.

The first question in most of the interviews is the same, but it is necessary to understand the whole picture. So, when and how did you start with art? How did it develope? Tell us about the begining and how it went on. And have there been other types of art which you tried before or did you went straight to the painting?

Hello first of all … so … I have always liked to draw since I was a child. I remember drawing strange beings with huge eyes that fought fierce and bloody battles on very distant planets. I have always been very creative, I also liked to discover, photographing, assembling, sewing. Everything could be useful to stimulate my creativity. I started painting and drawing professionally in 1995, after having done many different studies I decided to devote myself completely to my art. For the first 14 years I drew and painted only in black and white with rivers of black indian ink. My illustrations and comics were published in many fanzines, magazines and in independent spaces in Italy and abroad. I drew a lot and I also did a lot of mail art and collaborated with many artists, publishers and bands. After so much black and white, the transition to color and collage was a natural process, a necessity. Collage is an extraordinary way to get to know each other, to explore color, it opens new worlds continuously, it is a fun, fantastic, inexhaustible search. Since then, of course, I have experimented with many other always new means to create. I like to create with everything that inspires me, that captures my attention …. I sew, glue, shoot many photos that I like to dirty, modify. I like to create assemblages small sculptures of fabric and stone and iron and more…

Tell us more about your development of becoming an artist. You do not only paint, as well you are an illustrator, you do collages and make mixed medias. It is more than painting, but actually it is painting just with other instruments. I think over time your “equipment” grew, there came up more and more different and interesting ways how you create your artworks. Tell us more about that.

I believe and feel that creating grows with me, it is part of me and of my evolution as a human being. In my creating there is my mind, my cells, my sight and my senses, everything I feel in my heart, everything I think. My art is a wonderful, fun, colorful shamanic journey that takes place every day on time, that has always continued. It is a splendid and tortuous adventure that has always lasted. I never know what I will encounter. I like not knowing anything, I like to be open to experimentation, to my curiosity. I always like to discover new ways and materials with which to create, draw, paint, assemble. I always do many different things, all together. I like to mix styles and materials in ever new and impossible mixes.

I think you are a painter who does as well illustration and collages and a lot of different other types. But I would say your base is the painting. Am I right? Or how would you explain it? And how are the other genres and types of art connected to your world of creation? Tell us more about how you explored new techniques.

You see well. I really like illustrations and collage. I have explored these mediums for many years. I especially like black indian ink and its infinite shades, they are like the nuances of the human soul. Ink is my favorite medium, and as I told you I drew and painted only in black and white for many years, but the ink continues to be my great love. But I don’t like to sit still and I am very curious and restless and there are many things that interest me and that I like. Experimentation is essential for me, and I have never liked rules. Rules are made to be broken right? And so my creating is always fluid, never fixed, always changing. I like to use different styles, techniques, far from each other. I create my rules and my style every day because every day is different from the previous one, never the same, and sure I really like illustration and painting, but at the same time I love photography and collage. I like to sew my collages, and mix them with rusty needles, nails, bolts, old scissors, torn and damaged photographs. I use often my feet and my legs to hang my creations, my photos. I use my chest as a frame for my paintings.

In your artworks are often clearly messages, sometimes hidden messages and sometimes maybe just an artwork. But actually every artwork has a message. Your paintings often show fragments packed together, first they look nice and interesting, but if you divide it and think about it, there is a lot of social cirticism in it. Not always, but sometimes. And actually this is one of the obligations of an artist. To criticize. Another obligation is to let the own creation out and just to do art. How do you combine those things? Art can give a lot of energy to the creators, as well it can give impulses to the visitors. What do you think about my words and interpretation about that?

There are many messages in my works, yes, often visible and obvious, at times, very often cleverly hidden in the lines, amongst the colors, in the middle of the dots. My art is rebellious and restless, provocative and anarchic. But freedom for me it is essential. In my life I have always fought hard for my freedom, in my family I fought hard for my freedom. Art made me realize that my sheet of paper and my colors were and are the only freedom that I want. When I create I feel really true to myself, real and true, completely and absolutely free. What I want to convey through my works is freedom, my love and my struggle for freedom. Art has been a wonderful gift that the universe has given me, it is my precious jewel, my inaccessible refuge. I like to provoke and to play with my art. Coloring with nonsense and absurdity, playing with myself, with my thoughts, with the world around me.

Some of your paintings are in color, some are just black and white. Each way gives the artwork a special appereance. What makes you choose the colour and why did you sometimes decline it?

As I told you black and white and ink are my great love. But I also like strong, acid colors. And I like to mix color with black and white very much. I would say that I love strong contrasts, absolute contrasts, and what better contrast than black and white? I like strong, contradictory, contrasting thoughts and emotions, and I try to represent them with everything that I find and that attracts me at the moment. I have played with black and white for many years and I have explored its thousand shades, I have shortened them, lengthened them in unlikely ways to the point of trespassing and ending in colors. There is no clear boundary, everything is always changing and fluid, open to new ideas and stimuli.

Tell us more about events and exhibitions. At some point it started that you wanted to show your art to more people. And at the same time more people started admiring what you created. So tell us about events which happend already and which kind of exhibition do you prefer and like. I suppose you don’t like the super rich and fancy galleries, but more the interesting chaotic and underground ones?

Oh no, I also like the super rich and fancy galleries and also the underground spaces. I like to collaborate and I love sharing and exchange, because art is exchange, it is the reciprocal giving of emotions and thoughts. I like to exhibit my works everywhere, on fanzines, magazines, on CDs, in the large rooms of luxurious galleries and on the dirty and black walls of underground spaces. As on the walls of the streets, stations, public toilets, in bars, on the walls of the subway … the important thing is to leave a sign of one’s presence, of one’s being in the world. But obviously I also sell my works, and every place is good to be able to exhibit and sell. I exhibit and sell my work in many online galleries as well. I am working right now on my new tarot deck, on several t-shirts and on two exhibitions that I will do in the summer.

Do you have projects with other artists? Or are you more a lonley wolf and working by yourself? Did you do group projects yet and how do you like it to work with other artists together? Some love the group, others are more comfortable and more creative by themselves. Everybody is different, how is it with you?

Of course, in all these long years I have collaborated with many many artists, poets, writers, publishers, musicians, mail artists. I really like collaborating with other artists, I really like exchanging and getting to know each other. But as you know the pandemic has isolated us from each other, in all fields, even in art, it was terrible. I hope that soon we will smile and hug each other and hold hands again.

I am a big fan of graffiti and urban art. I love art in general, but the street creations are my favorite. All houses and all walls on this planet should be colourfully painted! What do you think about streetart and do you have also painted on walls or only on paper or canvas?

I also love street art very much of course, and I do a lot of street art too. I paste my many assemblages, my photos, my paintings, my illustrations, my comics as I told you everywhere, on the walls of the subway and stations, on the wires barbed, on the walls of shops, in public toilets, on cars, on trains, on buses.

Let’s talk about the motifs of your artworks that you paint or glue together. It is obvious that in your works the focus is on the human being. You choose faces and figures, paint them in an abstract way or create new combinations out of parts from several other portraits. You could also draw animals, landscapes or cars, but you chose human figures. Tell us more about it.

Drawing human figures is my point of arrival and departure for my continuous and frenetic artistic research. My micro-world from which to start for new combinations of colors, lines, experiments. The eyes are precisely my starting point and arrival, I start from the eyes to change  ceaselessly all the ideas that at the same time crowd onto my white sheet. Lines, points, reckless curves, scratches, swirls … it all starts with the eyes. The human face, the hands, arms, slender legs become monkeys, buildings, cars in a reckless, absurd symbiosis, whose limits continually become something else, a man, a crowd, birds that dangerously fall on our footsteps. There are arcane and mysterious and ancient meanings in what we are on this short earthly journey. Meanings, ideas, forms that we bring from other lives and that are waiting in this life to blossom and accompany us on our journey. Eyes, big eyes and faces, arms, hands, legs …. accompany me since I was a child in my drawings.

When I looked at your fascinating works of art, the word “doctor” or “surgeon” kept coming to mind. You don’t transplant organs or body parts in reality, but you do it in the form of works of art. You create new combinations and break down boundaries, but at the same time you clarify these boundaries in the patchwork quilt of your works. It’s really very interesting. You could also let the interfaces flow smoothly into one another. But no, you consciously choose this mixture of combination and differentiation. Tell us more about it.

I like limits, barriers, because they are made to be overcome, broken, destroyed … recomposed in new and unpredictable ways. For some years I have learned to sew with my sewing machine, which I use in the strangest ways to join the most unlikely materials, to create strange collages using the one that most attracts my attention at the moment, paper with fabric, plastic with leather with cardboard …. it is as if the drawing continued indefinitely in what is next to it, which is near or far away. As if worlds that had never managed to meet, could do it suddenly, by magic. I had many limits in my life, limits to my freedom especially from my family, art has allowed me to always find new escape routes, incredible, wonderful escapes. In art I found the only and true freedom that I had always wanted, and it didn’t matter plus the constraints, the prohibitions. I can be here and other and elsewhere at any time, when I want … it is my world that I have laboriously and patiently created day after day

I really like the style of artworks where you go against the church power misuse. At least that’s my impression and how I am percepting them. The way you write and paint shows me that you are full of faith and energy. But believing in something is different from the institution of the church. Unfortunately. I think in your works you also criticize the misdeeds of the powerful and criticize the abuse of their power. There are good values ​​in the world that you should believe in. But there are man-made power constructs that oppress other people. Physically as mentally. I think many of your works are a big criticism of this very point. Whether the church or the beauty industry. What do you think of my words?

As I told you art for me has meant and means freedom … freedom to be authentic, sincere, real with myself first of all …. freedom to be as I am, in my autistic way in the world. The only that I have and that I want to be in the world, to communicate with the world, with others, and with myself. I don’t know others, I don’t want others, this is my world. And I have always fought a lot to be who I am, to defend my world from everything and everyone. And yes, I am jealous of my world, of my art, of my colors, of my photos. Art are the words I use every day, I use them to communicate, to defend myself, to attack, to create. I don’t like those who take away freedom, those who dictate rules, those who make laws on our way of being, those who oppress. In many countries many artists run so many dangers to make art, to be what they are, to express their ideas. I use my art often to attack in a provocative way those who want to take freedom away. And we are all attacked, because freedom is essential to everyone, it is vital and essential like the air we breathe, without freedom what is the meaning of living?

Before you told us that you do a lot of photographing yourself. So I am sure many of your artworks are completely made out of things you created yourself. But I’ve also seen that you sometimes include your shopping list from the supermarket or pages from a fashion catalogue. It’s certainly a mix of everyday things you get your hands on coincidentally, but also things you consciously choose. Tell us more about it.

Yes that’s right, I really like taking pictures, and also experimenting by photographing. I love collage very much, and also photographic one of course. And I also love to dirty, scratch, color my photos, cut them, glue them, sew them, stick them together. I love my books, I love to read and I like to tear my magazines and my books too, so that they are part of my works, they can integrate into my works, they are the colors of my photos, of my paintings. I love garbage, and I like to create weird compositions with my photos, with my futuristic freaks models. I like to place them on top of garbage heaps and then photograph them. I like the contrast that is created, I really like contrasts, and I like to create them among the most distant, most absurd things, to create contacts between me and them, so that they know each other, so that they dialogue with each other.

Even before I became an urban art observer I was a big comic fan. Since my small childhood I love them and read them, but I also did some own comic drawing with friends. For me there is just something special with comics. I love the colorful ones with superhero thematic, but also the black and white or more adult depressing stories. It was as well fun to paint comics, because you can draw things which would be not possible in reality, as well you can just draw things the way how you see it. Tell us more about your comic creations and how it was to publish them in the magazines. You said you did this a lot more some time ago. Is it still a part of your work now?

Since 1995 and for many years I have drawn my strange, absurd, splatter and dark, twisted, hallucinated comics on many many underground magazines and zines in the world. I started publishing a lot in the countries of ex-Yugoslavia in USA, UK, Holland. A bit everywhere. They were my stories, my twisted illegible stories. Very very underground, with lots of sex, blood, knives, rats, screaming mouths. There were lots of zines on which I drew and magazines of music and extreme culture. I have always felt very attached to this scene which was very lively at the time. I also published several of my comic-books and I’ve always had a lot of fun drawing my own comics. Also I’ve always read many underground comics myself. And of course I’ve always been attracted to the dark side of the human soul and also to the dark side of art and comics. I think that’s naturally. Of course I still like to draw comics and I often mix them in my photos, I like the resulting mix. Comics like collage has always been an extraordinary  means to expand my artistic knowledge, my artistic abilities. I don’t see any difference between my comics, my collages, my illustrations, my photos. It’s one long continuous speech. And I still love my old comics and the black indian ink with which I drew them.

We talked about your huge variety of art types which you combine in your special way. Actually you use just everything, why not? Everything is possible. You told us that you explored over time a lot of new ways and you continously make new experiments. For sure you must have some other artists, inventors, freethinkers or just people who gave and give you impulses. When you look back, which have been important people for you who inspired you? Famous celebrities and close ones.

Of course we are all connected with everything. So in art, so in life. Art is the communication of feelings, ideas, dreams, nightmares, desires, this is its continuous and unstoppable wonder. I love reading, I read a lot, about everything. I read I see, I listen to a lot of music … everything influences my work of course, and it is pleasant because the knowledge is always positive and wonderful. There are many many artists who inspire me. It seems unfair to list only a few because I think that each artist is unique as is the message he gives to the world with his art. But still there are important ones and here are some artists and masters whose work I really like and who influence me: Joel Peter Witkin, Sara Vaughan, Patty Waters, Can, Andres Serrano, Robert Crumb, Hans Bellmer, Unica Zürn, Aurobindo and Mère, Osho, Georges Ivanovič Gurdjieff, David Wojnarowicz, Louise Bourgeois, Judith Scott, Lonnie Holley, Thornton Dial, Diamanda Galas, Henry Darger ……. and many many many others.

You said before that rules are made to be broken. Or borders are there to be crossed. I think similarly about it. Because there are principles and values ​​to live by. There is morality and reason. And if different borders or rules, as laws and norms, if they are compliant or don’t work with the current situation, then they have to be changed. And then you have to “break” them. But not in an aggressive, violent way, but more in a psychological way. Why does everything always have to look like this or like that? It could also look different. You try to break deadlocked beliefs by making people question. I like that and I think it’s good. What happened if…? People always have to think about how things can be different and not accept everything without questioning it. You draw attention to this again and again with your works as an artist.

I have always thought that art, my art is therapeutic, for me it always has been, and still is. Creating always makes me know a new  “Claudio” every day, different, always new. To have then creating my answers. Art is knowledge of oneself, of the world around us. Art, my art has its rules, which I create to delimit my thinking, to expand my knowing. I have always created by myself the rules to move in my world, in the world, because I did not have teachers who taught me what I wanted my world to be. Because school teaching was repressive and not constructive and joyful. Of course every society has its rules, that’s right, but every society must also guarantee human beings the right to be happy. We come to the world to be happy, to celebrate with joy every day, the rules must be those of joy and of love not hate.

What we also definitely have to show from you is your work and enthusiasm for tarot. Not only do you design motifs and artworks for cards, but you have also been involved with the subject for a long time. Tell us about what you do at tarot and how you combine it with your art and mindset.

Oh tarot cards have an important role in my life. They have accompanied me since I was a boy. I have always been interested in oriental philosophies, mediumship and cartomancy. In general I have always been interested in spiritual research. I love tarot cards. I study them, I read them, I paint them. For the Tarot Museum Vergato in Bologna in Italy I have made various decks of tarot cards, and I have also made others tarot decks. I also read tarot cards, in a very instinctive and intuitive way. They have had and have a very big influence on all my creating, they are part of my creating. They are an extraordinary world, a whole universe that always opens new and other universes. You never stop knowing them and to study them. They are in my heart and in my mind always. There is a thin thread that unites all tarot cards to every day of my life, and every day of my life is symbolized by a tarot. I start my day by taking a case a tarot card. All my creating is intuitive and never programmed, so is my reading tarot cards, my creating tarot cards, I let myself be guided by chance, by my intuition, by my sensations.

What would you say to other people who want to be creative themselves or who are already creative. It’s often not easy and as a creative person you always have to fight the struggles and forth with setbacks and misunderstandings. Tell us a few words of motivation and what thoughts you use to motivate yourself.

I have always fought so much to be free, especially in my family. I fought with all my strength to be free. Freedom is essential for me. Coming to be who I am today was not easy, far from it, I met so many many obstacles. And still every day I encounter obstacles, but I always overcome them because what I do is what I really wanted in my heart and what I have always wanted.  I could not do anything else, because I want to live on art, breathe art, drink art, dream and dress myself with art always and forever. It is my only autistic way of being in the world, the only one I want. It makes me feel free and true. I have no advice to give only always to follow your wishes and to look deeply into your heart



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