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Art as a conduit to the subconscious

– an interview with Jacopo Pagin

Jacopo Pagin (b. 1988, Italy) is a painter, installation artist, and sculptor living and working in Brussels, Belgium. Pagin graduated with a degree in painting and decoration in 2013 from the Accademia di Belle Arti, Venice and received his MFA in Fine Arts from LUCA School of Arts, Brussels in 2018. Pagin’s work has been shown in curatorial projects by Germano Celant, Alessandra Franetovich, Carola Cometto, and Emanuelle Luciani. His work is currently the subject of a solo presentation at Make Room Los Angeles, US and has been widely shown internationally, including at Everyday Gallery, Antwerp, Belgium; CB32, Milan, Italy; Castella Malaspina di Massa Carrara, Italy; Manifesta XIII, Marseille, France; HVW8, Berlin, Germany; Chalton Gallery, London, UK; and The Hole, New York, US.

"I try to give shape to a personal universe in constant transformation. My artistic journey is the reflection of my spiritual one, so it follows me as I evolve."

Could you tell us about your artistic practice and how it has evolved over the years?

I try to give shape to a personal universe in constant transformation. My artistic journey is the reflection of my spiritual one, so it follows me as I evolve. Over the years my approach hasn't changed much, but it does reveal the way I am shaped by new stimulus and experiences.

Many of your paintings have a mysterious and dream-like quality. Do you see art making as a way for you to connect with your subconscious?

Absolutely. I have always considered the inner reality - the psychological one - much more interesting than the outer one.

Your work is very grounded in the history of art, often referencing past European artistic movements. Do you feel growing up in Italy and now living in Belgium has had an impact on the way you approach your artistic practice?

Italian artists are under the spell of history. However, as immensely rich and complex as it is, Italian history is still limited. I find Brussels to be a truly international city - the contact with new points of view has widened my horizons and introduced me to new approaches to art and life. As for the style, in Belgium there is a very different air from Venice. Modernism and Art Deco blend in an almost anarchic way in the avenues, nothing to do with sober Italian elegance. Architecture certainly has a profound impact on my practice.

Could you tell us about ‘She Got the Control Again’. What is the genesis of this work?

This work was born from my obsession for a detail in a mural by the decorative artist Jean Dupas inside the transatlantic ship "Normandie" inaugurated in 1935. I tried to retransmit the hypnotic effect of that face in a new key. Jean Dupas is an incredible artist who was introduced to me by curator Emmanuelle Luciani.

What does a typical day at your studio look like?

I’m painting at home now, so life and work are one and the same. I love what I do, so I’m happy painting, cooking, sleeping, doing yoga - so from the outside everything looks very quiet.

Jacopo Pagin, She Got the Control Again, 2022

View work

She Puts a Spell on You, 2021

As well as being a painter, you are also a sound artist. Could you tell us about this aspect of your practice and how both mediums interact with each other?

In my performances, sound has a physical impact on the audience and is linked to the image through the use of costumes, dance, interactive plastic structures and spoken word. Finding interesting and satisfying ways to make sound and painting interact is no small feat. In both painting and composing music my intent is to create an atmosphere, an environment, an “ambience”. I have not performed since the pandemic began but I have laid the foundations for the launch of a small label to re-edit and produce sound material by visual artists. I intend to focus on this a lot in the future.

What are your influences - both in visual arts and music?

I always try to be like a sponge absorbing any kind of interesting input. Fortunately, I like many things. I often pursue these interests with great intensity. Lately, I am passionate about modernist crafts and fashion between the two wars, Persian glass, calligraphy and ancient Chinese painting, Hildegard Von Bingen, postmodern design of the 70s and 80s, some aspects of Post Punk and Industrial imaginary and the atmosphere of early ambient and New Age music.

The Sea Priestess, 2021

The Old Water The Sounds Jumps In, 2021

What is your definition of art? What makes a good work of art in your opinion?

Art is anything well done without a utilitarian purpose. A good work of art will reveal itself, there are no recipes. But I have never believed in magical talents, not even for the "greats of the past". Making art is the most beautiful of jobs and as a job it requires experience, commitment and sacrifice - more often there is this behind a successful work. In addition to this, there is the drive to always renew.

If you could own any piece of art, what would it be?

Ah, I really don't know! I never thought about owning any art but recently a small art work by Genesis Breyer P. Orridge came into my possession. They are an artist who had a radical influence on my life. I am very happy with it, so much so that I know there could be no better piece to start my own collection. Having said that I am probably more attracted to ancient or traditional art which I find more precious than contemporary art. Every piece I'm thinking about looks better in a museum than in my home.

You recently opened an exhibition at Make Room in Los Angeles. Could you tell us about this new show and body of work?

The show is called Fata Morgana, meaning Morgan Le Fay in Italian. Fata Morgana also means a particular optical effect or mirage. Starting from these mysterious ambivalences, I have recreated a particular atmosphere in which powerful female mythologies are transformed back through objects and landscapes. It was my first solo in the United States.