El Gato Chimney is a 34-year-old self-taught former street artist who lives in Milan, Italy. Local lore has it that while he was a street artist, the devil visited him and offered him success. El Gato will himself not comment, however his work has since been featured in many prominent magazines and galleries throughout the world.
His first US exhibition open March 5 at the bewitched Stephen Romano Gallery in Brooklyn NY.
Disinfo interviewed the artist a few days ago with the assistance of curator and scholar Michela D’Acquisto who is co-curating the exhibition “El Gato Chimney: DE RERUM NATURA” (“El Gato Chimney: On the Nature of Things”)…
El Gato Chimney was born in 1981 in Milan, where he lives and works.
He started his career as a self-taught artist, developing an early interest in graffiti that led to a successful journey into street art. El Gato Chimney has become a prominent presence in leading publications on the subject.
As the years went by, thanks to the acquisition of new knowledge and the need to continuously improve his technical skills, the artist began to prefer to work in his studio, dedicating his time to introspective research in depicting immaterial things, such as emotions and inner visions.
Currently, El Gato Chimney’s studies range over a wide variety of subjects, such as alchemy, ancient and modern art, magic, mirabilia, occultism, popular folklore, primitive art and spiritualism.
He has shown in many international art fairs, galleries and museums, including the Museo Della Permanente, Milan; the Milan Triennale; Antonio Colombo Contemporary Art, Milan; MADRE Museum Of Contemporary Art, Naples; Stephen Romano Gallery, New York City; the Musei Capitolini-Centrale Montemartini, Rome.
His works are included in a number of international publications, such as Hi-Fructose; Huffington Post; Hunt & Gather: Discovering New Art, Mark Batty Publisher, 2010; Los Colores Del Underground, Astiberri, 2009.
For his show at Stephen Romano Gallery, the artist proposes to further investigate the themes dear to him in a new body of works, including paintings, large-format watercolors on paper, and a site-specific installation.
Following the steps of famous storytellers, El Gato Chimney uses animals, made-up or real, often hiding behind masks and always wearing ceremonial clothes from primitive cultures, to depict the vices and the virtues of the world around him: a world constantly split between a daytime Arcadia and an unquiet night, where the dividing line between the two is clearly visible and easy to cross, both a danger signal and an invitation to disobedience.
El Gato Chimney, instead of giving us a definite answer, fills his works with clues and appeals to our imagination and sensibility—keys of interpretation to the world. At a first glance one could overlook the details: figures hidden in the clouds, seemingly common objects abandoned forever or left waiting for something or someone. And, above all, symbols, a multitude of heterogeneous symbols whose decipheration reveals new meanings at every reading.
Michela D’Acquisto, Milan, 2015.
Interview Feb. 10, 2015.
Note, El Gato Chimney speaks very little english.
Disinfo: You’re on a sinking boat and there is one life jacket. You throw to either Andy Warhol or Joseph Beuys. Who gets it?
ELG: Joseph Beuys, without doubt.
Disinfo: Choose any figure from history to have dinner with.
ELG: This is a difficult question…
Disinfo: Does not have to be the ONLY one.
ELG: Ok, it’s hard to choose but I think that a dinner with Queen Victoria, Giuseppe Garibaldi and Lorenzo De Medici would be great.
Disinfo: Nicolò Paganini is said to have had a dream where the devil played a concerto on the violin for him, and he spent his entire life trying to recreate this music. What is your motivation?
ELG: The fascination for the mystery, the unknown and the forgotten…doing something that have inside all these characteristics
Disinfo: Did you visit libraries as a child?
ELG: Yes, books are very important source of knowledge and have a big influence on me. Some books can kidnap you and take you to other worlds. Does the same art and certain objects. Not only for their shape and beauty, but especially for the magic charge they possess, the mysterious stories that tell us just by their presence. Many time you don’t really know why it happens, and that’s what fascinates me
(ELG: Do you understand what I mean? Isn’t easy explain with my poor English, sorry…
Disinfo: Don’t apologize)
Disinfo: “Books can kidnap you and take you to other worlds” — is this what you hope to accomplish with your art?
ELG: yes, but in one “other world” that have a deep roots in our real world. This is the reason because I use symbols, elements of folk belief and other elements that maybe are unknown to more or simply forgotten by our contemporary culture. These are things that our unconscious recognizes even if you do not know how to explain, I think that this is the point where the mystery born.
Disinfo: Your art then, it is of the realm of fiction? Or it is shamanic power object with true social function?
ELG: It’s like a shamanic power object with true social function. I try to do something that encourages people to look deeper inside and over daily vision of the life. We need to return to dream a bit and also be fascinated by the things that pose questions that do not necessarily have an answer. Find our personal answers and change them with time, observing, studying and meditating – alone and with others.
Disinfo: Do you have lucid dreams? No, wait, let me rephrase that: Are you a Lucid Dreamer?
ELG: I don’t know really…maybe no. There are not many people who conceive the idea of sitting in front of an art work, take their time and drifting just for the purpose that you try to do it.
Disinfo: This is for you, the role of the artist, to slow down the internal clock of the viewer?
ELG: No, maybe it’s more correct say “change the internal clock of the viewer.” Very ambitious, I know, but I do not try to give a direction, but to suggest many. The personal point of view is important, should not be canceled it.
Disinfo: How was lunch?
ELG: Nice…but nothing of special, pasta and meat with salad
Disinfo: The subjective in art, is it essential? Or do you have a specific interpretation for the viewer to unravel?
ELG: Absolutely subjective. It’s incredible how the same piece it’s “quiet” for someone and “disturbing” for others. And I like this, because meaning that any viewer have a different sensation in front of my pieces, it’s very interesting. I don’t want to block this process. Also because you can find your personal meaning in every single element inside my piece.
If I tell you my personal interpretation, maybe you stopping yourself to looking and thinking about what you see, because sometimes the viewer have a great respect of the opinion of the artist and adapts himself to this opinion.
I don’t want to force people to see the things like me, but simply to “see.”
Difficult to explain..
Disinfo: The symbols you grab from art history, there is a specificity of meaning there?
ELG: In art history or in the mine?
Disinfo: Are the symbols you use derived from art history or invented?
ELG: Art history and folk/magic beliefs
Disinfo: So, when you appropriate these symbols, do you transpose their significance or are you re-contextualizing their meaning?
ELG: I have done and am doing large studies about the European folk beliefs that have to do with magic, shamanism.
So, both. I try to understand their true meaning but often reuse it in my personal view. Also I want the viewer to find their own meaning, However, it is important that I know the real meaning of a symbol.
Symbols are powerful and should not use them inappropriately.
Disinfo: This is the artist as Shaman, using his power responsibly? You believe this is important
ELG: Yes, really important. I don’t want to speculate on them, knowledge is important
Disinfo: And this is why Joseph Beuys gets the life Jacket?
ELG: Nice and smart question… I’m only sorry that I can’t explain myself in a better way.
ELG: Thanks, but I know that isn’t like this ….
Stephen Romano Gallery is proud to present DE RERUM NATURA, Italian artist EL GATO CHIMNEY‘s first one person exhibition in the United States.
El Gato Chimney
DE RERUM NATURA
March 5th – April 30 2015
opening reception March 5th 2015 6 – 9 pm
An illustrated catalog will be available with essays by Martin Wittfooth, Pamela Grossman and Michela D’Acquisto.