“Creativity is the only way we have to find ourselves”. Face to face with Alice Pasquini, Street Art talent

She has painted over two thousand walls around the world and is the envy of other countries. Italian artist Alice Pasquini, known as AliCè, is one of the few women on the Street Art scene. “The Wall Street Journal” and “The New York Times” have written about her, and Treccani encyclopedias have her name under “artist”. Quite a success for a girl from Rome who used to fight with her parents over wanting to go to Art School, and felt the Fine Arts Academy was not the right fit. Canvases were not enough. Pasquini chose the city and its spaces to express herself and personal feelings with a style that is dreamy and romantic, but always cosmopolitan, cartoonish and colorful.
Marseilles, Paris, Amsterdam, London, Berlin, Oslo, New York, Buenos Aires, Yogyakarta, Naples and Rome are only some of the cities where she has worked. She now returns to the latter, her hometown, after three years, with a solo show at the Philobiblon Gallery titled “The Unchanging World”. It is a journey in personal evolution from childhood to adulthood, following Winnicott’s footsteps, in search of one’s true self.
We talked with her about it, and here is what she told us.

How did you get the idea for the show?
I had been working on it for a long time, but traveling around the world I don’t always have time to focus on projects that revolve around more intimate and deep feelings. I also wanted to come back to my hometown, where I had not held an exhibition for three years – while I had been showcasing my work in Chicago, Uruguay, Australia. I started from the image of an abandoned house, trying to reverse engineer its story – to the point that even the catalog is made to resemble a notebook. The abandoned house is an archetype. According to Winnicott, it is a “transitional object” that children use to move from their state of dependency on parents to being their own person. This journey between “inner self” and “outer self” happens via objects like stuffed animals or a dolls, in children, but artists do the same thing in their work: they create a universe and build themselves in a constant play on references between inside and outside – meaning the gallery and the street. At my show, there is a doll room with pieces of mine that narrate this concept. Creativity is the only way we have to find ourselves when we are kids, and as adults, artists go in and out of this illusion telling the story of entire universes. It is only by growing up that I was able to understand certain things about my childhood.

Does art help you understand parts of yourself?
I feel like a painter, not a conceptual artist, so in my work I follow a process that is not as communicative as, say, Bansky’s might be. During a difficult time in my life, I drew nothing but women with their eyes closed, but didn’t realize it until later. At the time I didn’t notice it, although I was painting very large walls. So yes, creating art definitely helps me unveil aspects of myself that I am not aware of.

Was it always your dream to be a street artist?
When I was little, street art was called “graffiti” and seen quite negatively. In my teen years I started drawing out in the streets, and for years I worked many different jobs – set designer, illustrator, cartoonist. I never thought street art would become my job, but the people who saw my work encouraged me. Then social networks changed everything, because the audience became much wider. People started to share works they saw around. Then came the brands, the galleries and so on. When I was fifteen, if someone had told me that someday I would be given a mechanical arm to paint on a seven-story building, I would have never believed them.

When did you realize that “graffiti” would become your job?
It was a gradual process. I traveled a lot, and painted like crazy. In 2010, I was in London and a group of tourists on a Street Art tour saw me working on a piece in the street and recognized me. Later, I found out that a door I had painted had been put up for sale on Ebay. That’s when I realized something was changing. Works that I had always created for free and spontaneously were acquiring value, and graffiti were accepted and sought after. Now I get paid to paint large walls, which is a different concept from what I did in the beginning.

You are one of the few women in the world of Street Art. How does that feel?
There are more women now, and there is more of a work perspective, but it wasn’t always like that. I have to say, art by women is often categorized – perhaps because men don’t like contributing a feminine point of view or talking about personal feelings. I don’t appreciate the fact that sometimes women artists are given a chance only because they are women (sometimes with “all female” art exhibitions), regardless of the quality of their work; talent should be assessed without considering gender. At the same time, I wish more women were invited to great expositions, where they are almost always a minority compared to men.

What is your dream?
I’ve painted in every continent except for Antarctica, where doing something would be a dream. Technically it’s impossible, of course! I’ve worked on trains, airplanes, caravans and even an offshore boat, now I’d like to paint a hot air balloon.

Looking at your work, the women you paint seem strong and independent. Are they?
They actually represent women I see while traveling, normal people with real lives. All my walls are inspired by an encounter. I use the feelings I see on people’s faces to talk about human relationships, but you might notice my subjects never laugh or have any particular expression, because I believe there is a huge range of emotions that can only be represented through poetry or music. In our society, women of character are never brought forward: we only talk about “good mothers” or sexy pin-ups. We lack a representation of femininity as an individual with personality, especially in Italy where me painting a girl doing something normal is considered more scandalous than an advertisement billboard with a half-naked model. But I chose my art because I was attracted by personal feelings, not to be a feminist or the champion of an ideal.

What work makes you the proudest?
I’m proudest of the “CVTà Street Fest”, a Street Art festival I created in Civitacampomarano, a small town in Molise where I was invited to paint – without knowing it was my grandfather’s hometown. We are trying to bring people back to a place that was forgotten, and we have a lot of projects for it, from artist residencies to a park. All with little money, but big ideas.

What is your advice to Street Art fans?
To find your own style, because it becomes your “trademark” and makes your work recognizable even without your name on it. You choose to work in Street Art when you see no alternative and you feel an urgent need to express yourself, so all I can say is, never give up. I think this concept of research for self and acceptance of one’s own artistic vocation is described well in Rainer Maria Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet”, which I read and thought about a lot.

Interview by Barbara Palladino

© Alice Pasquini

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