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Pump up the volume: essence of Botero's sculptures revealed in Spoleto exhibition


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Pump up the volume: essence of Botero's sculptures revealed in Spoleto exhibition

He is one of Latin America’s most celebrated artists. Colombian painter and sculptor Fernando Botero’s voluptuous figures are considered a cornerstone of contemporary art.

An exhibition of his scale models in chalk is being held in the Italian city of Spoleto. Alberto de Filippis met him there, to discuss his art, influences and home country.

AdB
“We all know your bronze works. Why, this time in Spoleto, have you decided to focus on your work in chalk?”

FB
“Well, staging an exposition with bronze works is quite complicated because many of these pieces belong to private or public collections. But when someone creates a sculpture, he always keeps the chalk model, which is the real core of the sculpture. Chalk is a beautiful, noble and shiny material. I have all of this collection in my studio in Pietrasanta, here in Italy. Spoleto offered me an outstanding place, perfect to display 50 pieces, here at the Spoleto festival.

Moved by volume

AdB
Where does your inspiration come from?

FB
It is quite difficult to say from where. Since day one I have had a great interest in volume. At the beginning it was just a perception. I wanted to create round forms. As time passes, throughout the history of art, through my trips to Italy, through paintings from 1400 and 1300, through artists like Giotto, Masaccio, Piero della Francesca, or others such as Paolo Uccello, all this has helped me to rationalize the importance of volume in the painting. My work comes from lot of sources: Etruscan art, pre-Columbian art, popular art…
it’s a mix. Like a cocktail formed in one artist’s mind. But, at the end, when a person watches this work, only one name comes to mind: Botero. This is a Botero and you don’t need to look any further. This is my work. But of course if someone looks deeper they can find a lot of things mixed up in my work.”

AdB
“You once said:‘I don’t paint fat women’. So where does your interest in volume come from?

FB
“I believe the volume is a form to express some sensuality, some plasticity This was the cause of the most important revolution in art. The introduction of volume. It is the illusion of creating on a plane surface, the idea of space, that things exist thanks to the their volume. What I did was an extraordinary revolution. But, I went beyond that. Through exciting forms and volumes I express the excitement. This excitement you feel looking at a piece of art. This is what I think: when you look at one art object you must meditate about art. I still believe that volume is one plastic and sensual element in painting.”

AdB
“Painting should be a pleasure, but I remember a painting of yours that you dedicated to your dead son. A boy riding a horse, and the deep sadness in the animals’ eyes. How difficult is it to portray him to the world?

FB
I believe this is maybe the most important painting I’ve ever done in my entire life. It is the portrait of my son Pedrito, who died in a car crash. This was the first one I painted after this terrible crash. It is the work in which I put my soul and my heart, trying to express myself in this work. I do believe that this is the painting which expresses what I am and what I think about painting. This piece is in the Antioquia region, in Medellin.

Portrait of the artist

AdB
“Finding one’s style must be very dramatic, because every artist is their own greatest critic. Where do you find the courage to take risks?”

FB
“I still paint the way I started, the figurative painting which consider the subject. Everyone used to paint abstract. At that time it was the fashionable way to paint. When I started to be an artist no one looked at my paintings. Everything had to be abstract. I kept my beliefs. I believed that painting had to be like that and thanks to that I have had my success, because I trusted my beliefs.”

AdB
“You are not indifferent to what happens in the world. Do you treat politics through your art?”

FB
I have covered political items. I painted a series about violence in Colombia, about torture in Abu Ghraib, the Iraqi prison. I painted many dictators, many military juntas, when there were a lot of them in Latin America. I am interested in politics like everybody else. I keep myself informed and I am moved by many things which happen nowadays, such as immigration from poor countries to Europe. It’s a dramatic topic, very timely. I am interested in it and sometimes I express myself through painting.”

AdB
“You have spent most of your life outside Colombia. What kind of relationship do you have with the country?”

FB
“I have an excellent relationship and I have a house there. I spend at least one month per year there. And I have 2 museums: the museum of Bogotà, a donation I made, and Medellin’s museum. It was my creation. There are over 200 pieces of mine there. I convinced the government to find an extraordinary place. These two museums give me the greatest satisfaction of my life – something I have done for my country.”

AdB
“At the moment there is an ongoing peace process between FARC and the government. What’s your position on these talk?”

FB
“I am optimistic and I hope they will sign a peace agreement. This will be a huge relief for the country. It will grow economically if they succeed. But not everyone shares goodwill for Colombia. This peace process has many opponents, but I believe it is outstanding.”

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