Interview: The Surreal World Of Aloha Project
One of the freshest talents coming out of Italy!
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When you look at the fantastical work of artist Aloha Project, it seems to elicit two completely different experiences at the same time. It is at once familiar in its nostalgic and cartoonish aesthetics, yet alien in its unique brand of surrealism. The only thing I can compare it to is if you watched the Disney classic, Fantasia, on acid – and I mean that in the absolute best possible way!

Giacomo aka Aloha Project has experienced a meteoric rise in the world of lowbrow art and illustration. Based out of Milan, Giacomo brings originality and a distinctive vision to his illustrations. His work combines line work reminiscent of classic inkblot cartoons, an eye-popping colour palette, and a wildly imaginative blend of pop culture references. All this is then spun together to create a masterful and macabre body of work. It is no wonder that, in a short amount of time, Giacomo has gained admiration from around the world for his prolific and illustrious track record.

Taking full advantage of this widespread and growing recognition, Giacomo has exhibited across the world in international artist capitals like Paris, Los Angeles and even recently in Sydney! To top it off, he has also directed and animated a slew of amazingly detailed music videos for some of Italy’s biggest music producers.

We caught up with the man himself as he begins to wind up for a big 2019!

Growing up, do you remember a moment that left a huge artistic impression on you? Do you still draw from inspiration from that time in your life?

I come from a family that always loved art. My father and grandfather were kind of collectors, growing up they passed this interest on to me. I don’t remember any particular episode but do I remember that my father always challenged me to copy the great masterpieces. He said that I should understand how brilliant they were, as a child I had a very snobby attitude about these great artists studied at school, I thought they were boring and not very good. I remember in particular that I hated Picasso, so my father told me that if I copied Guernica that it would definitely change my mind. I was about 11 years old when I started to replicate that style of line work which I found absurd. Little by little I realised the genius of this man and how stupid I was.

Your work depicts amazingly surreal images of the macabre, pop cultural riffs, cartoonish characters with vibrant colours and bold line work. What initially inspired your artistic style? How do you continue to be inspired?

During my years in high school, I met friends who were doing graffiti which got me started on it. At the beginning you don’t know what you’re doing but it’s fun. But the more I studied the more I became aware of the culture that existed behind this movement. I discovered the names, the references, and forms. Anyone who is interested in graffiti could easily recognise the recurring elements of the same graffiti culture in my work. Even though I have now stopped making graffiti, I drag the imagination of that world with me and propose it again in my works.I have always looked at the low-brow art movement and its pop influences, underground comics and the toy designs. I tend to keep that kind of attitude in my work and if my source of inspiration is pop culture, I can be sure I will never run out of ideas.

Whether it be acrylic on canvas, or digital, your works translates across mediums seemingly with ease. As an artist how important is for you to be able to express yourself across several different practices?

I developed a style that I can easily replicate across various media, defined by flat colours and sharp outlines. The support I use is often conditioned by commercial needs and for me it is fundamental that my style is recognisable. Anyone must be able to watch one of my videos, look at one of my prints or paintings and say, “hey Aloha did this”. I’m very happy with this, but not for this my style to stop evolving. If you go to look at the works from 5 years ago, they are completely different from my most recent ones. If there’s one thing I detest in an artist it’s if they don’t continue to evolve, it becomes boring. I have a vision of art that must it be entertaining. If a director proposed me that they were going to make the same film for years, I would stop watching them, this also applies to artists. There are contemporary artists or street artists who have inspired me for years, which I venerated that I hate now because they are the same as they were 10 years ago. To answer the question, yes, it is very important for me to be recognisable on different media but also to evolve the style.

Milan is a place that seems underrepresented in the world of contemporary and low brow art. Being currently based out of there, how would you describe the Milan art scene?  How much pride do you feel for representing your home city when you exhibit internationally?

I moved to Milan 4 years ago to study illustration and animation. I still live here and I have met many illustrators and artists, but I noticed that the world of Italian illustration is very closed off. Often the ambitions of Italian artists are limited to a national market. The same school that I attended preaches this kind of concept, they train you to survive in a national context. But I have always had the desire to make my art known to all over the world. Reach a wider and wider audience, thinking globally and not nationally. Paradoxically, my first exhibition was held in Kiev. After that in Odessa, Paris, Los Angeles, and Sydney. Only after these show was I finally able to find the right conditions to exhibit in Milan for the first time.However this does not apply to everyone in Milan. I grew up in a much smaller city outside Milan and I have always looked at the metropolis as a reference point. In Milan you think that if you don’t know anyone, you have no chance. For someone who has not grown up in Milan and moves there, they think they are at a disadvantage. But I immediately felt very welcome. In a short time I was in contact with many personalities and artists who have involved me in super projects. Milan is perhaps the city that counts the largest number of artists in Italy. It’s a bit like the Italian Los Angeles and it’s a city that makes you think in an international way.

But anyway, as much as I love this city, when I exhibit abroad I do not think I represent Milan but rather Italy.

You’ve done a few animations in the past including the amazing music video for Izi and Gue Pequeno’s “6 A.M”. How did that collaboration come about? Had it always been a dream of yours to do long form animations. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzIJD3mgeZ0

Animation has always interested me. Before studying in Milan, I studied 3D animation for a few months in Switzerland but I didn’t really like it, so I came to Milan to study traditional animation. Part of my thesis project included the creation of a video clip for the band of my dear friends “Belize”. it was my first real experiment into commercial animation and the result pleased everyone. He was  noticed by one of the most important hip hop producers in Milan, “The Night Skinny”, who invited me to his studio to commission me for a new video for the song from his new album

“6 AM” has certainly been one of the most absurd experiences of my life. I grew up with the songs of Gue Pequeno and I never thought of directing  and making an official music video for him. I work in total autonomy and to make a video clip of almost 5 minutes in traditional animation is a crazy job. In addition I also take care of the assembly. But when it finally comes out on Youtube and millions of people can enjoy your work, it’s a good feeling.

Despite the success of these projects I don’t consider myself an animator. I consider these works as separate projects from my career as a figurative artist.

Do you have a future dream collaboration, whether it be with a musician, film make or artist?

I would like a collaboration with some luxury brands, something crazy. Or cross over into something more international from a musical point of view like collaborating on some video clips with American artists. I don’t know, usually the best things are not programmed. I am confident that great things will happen in the future!

What are the rest of your plans for 2018? 

I’m preparing a big show but I would still prefer not to give any details away just yet. There are still too many things to define. I’m carrying out several animation projects but that will only come to light in 2019. What remains of 2018 is for me is to lock myself in the house to create, it’s the thing that I like the most about winter.

Find more info on Aloha Project here.

Follow @alohaproject

 

November 12, 2018
Editors Pick