(Yonhap Interview) Turi Simeti captures minimalist beauty on shaped canvas
By Woo Jae-yeon
SEOUL, March 14 (Yonhap) -- A young Turi Simeti often spent his time at the beach, basked in Sicily's brilliant, intense sunlight. The natural environment which he grew up in might be one -- if not the only -- factor that served as the cornerstone of his artwork.
One of Italy's most admired contemporary artists, Simeti is widely known for his expressive, even poetic, play with light and protruding objects on monochromatic canvas, a life of work that spans almost 60 years.
Still actively creating at the age of 87, Simeti made his first trip to Korea last Saturday, a day after the Asian country had a very historic moment when the incumbent president was permanently removed after months of peaceful demonstrations, followed by a court's ruling to uphold impeachment by the National Assembly.
"I was very impressed by vertical landscape of Seoul and its dynamism and development," the artist said during an interview with Yonhap News Agency on Tuesday, before the official press briefing on his first solo exhibition, which will run from March 15 to April 29 at Leeahn gallery in Seoul.
Italian artist Turi Simenti poses for a photo after an interview with Yonhap News Agency at Leeahn Gallery in Seoul on March 14, 2017. (Yonhap)
The image provided by Leeahn Gallery in Seoul shows Turi Simenti's "Cinque ovali rosso arancio" which is painted in acrylic on shaped canvas and 120x120cm in size. (Yonhap)
The artist, in a black suit, a red shirt and matching red socks, appears to love intense color contrast. Starting off mostly with black and white monochrome works, he adopted primary colors later.
"The choice of colors has diversified. I choose (colors) depending on how I feel," he said.
His vision and conviction for art was influenced by the Zero Movement in the aftermath of World War II, initiated by a few German artists to nullify tradition and mainstream art.
It was one day in his very early days as an artist that he found his artistic inspiration for decades to come.
While he was playing with candlelight, he absent-mindlessly burned the corners of a piece of paper. The paper accidentally was burnt into an oval shape -- the moment of artistic enlightment.
"In the beginning, I tried other shapes as well, such as rectangular. But I always came back to oval which I think the most ideal shape of all," he said.
From then onwards, he has embarked on what he called a life-long research into the relations between space and shape and the primary role of light as an agent in defining the dynamism between the two.
"Light can change everything in my painting as it is the key instrument in determining how things are shaped on the canvas," he said. "But at the same time, it has no important meaning as such."
Simenti installs oval-shaped materials behind the canvas to make them to be pushed out while being seen in front. Minimalist in conception, what seems to be a three-dimensional painting strikes a perfect, peaceful balance, helped by the effects of light.
Asked if he wasn't tempted to do something else for once, he answered "No," without a hint of hesitation.
"I always felt I was doing something different," the octogenarian artist said. "I believe in my work. I will continue doing this. Always."
The image shows the close-up shot of Turi Simenti's "Nove ovali marroni" which is painted in acrylic on shaped canvas and 100x100cm. (Yonhap)
The image shows the close-up shot of Turi Simenti's "Nove ovali bianchi" which is painted in acrylic on shaped canvas and 140x180cm. (Yonhap)