The magic lantern ?
« For me, it was a story to begin with. Then it was childhood : the magical universe of potential secrets. And this is what I experience, tirelessly, in the instant of painting : the magic of putting the world into a form ; it’s the poetic imaginaire, and its ability to produce ( I would not go so far as to say « incarnate » ) forms. It’s also a series of paintings that I did after the death of my father in the 1980s. And finally, i’s a method : with regard to this universe of words that I described earlier, it’s the fact that I « image » everything. All the time, I’m taking in the world block by block : scenes and feelings, moments an sounds, close and distant – everything ‘s Image. It comes in blocks, then I make shortcuts. »
Iconography. What are all these things : monkeys, skulls, girafes, horses, fruit, a coffee pot ?
« They’re things that scare me. They’re of the order of the untouchable. In Calabria, you don’t paint dead people – form has magical power.
The monkey is me. A monkey, because everything’s mimicry and, in fact, monkey, because – perhaps – this strange double, this fear of the mirror is a fact ; monkey because also auto-act, auto-didact, auto-monkeying around, auto-gesture, auto-portrait.
The skulls : that’s serious, it’s Cro-magnon ; because they’re wise, bcause you can touch them. The « actor » skeletons, because awful nuisance.
Painting on a 1 / 1 scale, and without any subsequent alterations ?
« To paint well, you have to do away with painting ; by which I mean that painting in itself is of no importance. For me, what counts is what I have to say / to construct with : to confront, to look at one’s life in one’s immediate and total incomprehension, seeking out links, the secrets that will make one’s future… In his sense, speed of execution is crucial to me. Il provides me with an essential dimension : the dispossession of my work. From the time when it no longer belongs to me, everything is allowed, and I can escape from the constipation-discourse on painting ( for example, that it doesn’t exist any more ; that there’s too much of it ; that it isn’t what i twas, any more…)
How do you make your paintings ?
« At the start, an idea ; then some sketches done in small notebooks that I always carry around with me ; and then huge works carried out in the places where they’re going to be exhibited. To capture the genius of the place. »
Entretien avec Carmelo Zagari, par Thierry Raspail
Catalogue Carmelo Zagari, Musée d’Art Contemporain de Lyon, 1999