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Meet Sidival Fila, the Franciscan friar who's also a contemporary artist

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Photo from "SIDIVAL fila" a documentary by Francesco Di Pede
Photo from "SIDIVAL fila" a documentary by Francesco Di Pede   -   Copyright  Sidival Fila
By Charlotte Cullen  & Maria Chiara Paganini

Is it possible to devote your life to religion and be a successful contemporary artist at the same time?

Sidival Fila has found a way to exist in these two disparate worlds.

“I believe that the inner unity between these two identities is the result of a search for a balance that’s not always easy to reach,” says Fila. “Slowly, after practicing both as a Franciscan, as a religious person, and as an artist for about 15 years, I have found the balance in which I can give the right amount of space to the religious dimension and to the artistic creation.”

For his art, Fila recovers old, disused fabrics, some of which date back to the 15th, 16th, or 17th centuries.

He carefully cuts and stitches these old fabrics into new, delicate works of art.

“The most beautiful experience is when you find something that speaks to you immediately, that immediately creates a harmony between the object you have found and what you would also like to say through this material," says Fila.

“My basic idea is not so much about reuse … but about redemption.”

A vocation

Fila, originally from Brazil, was attracted to Italy for its art, museums and history but his love of art was interrupted when he decided to convert to a religious life and join the Order of the Friars Minor of St. Francis of Assisi.

A friar is similar to a monk, both are males who have fully devoted themselves to religious life. However, a monk usually lives a solitary and self-sufficient community, whereas a Friar tends to work in the local community supported by donations or charity.

For Fila, this vocation pulled him away from art for many years.

“I stopped painting for about 18 years because at that time it was not compatible both from a training point of view and from the point of view of the artistic language. I had different interests, art had lost the vital space it occupied in my life.”

Over the years, Fila returned to working with materials through restoration projects, which gave him the desire to start creating again.

“Then, it slowly became a profession,” adds Fila

The proceeds from the sale of Fila’s works go towards charitable causes, in particular development projects for children around the world.

In addition to his numerous personal exhibitions in Italy, Sidival Fila's works have been exhibited at some of the world’s most important art fairs, in the cities of Madrid, Bogota, Mexico City, and New York. Moreover, in 2019 he participated in the Venice Art Biennale.

In this episode of Creators, a series where we get inside some of the world's top creative minds, Sidival Fila talks about balancing religion and art and why it's important for modern man to learn to take his time. For more on this story, watch the video in the media player above.

This video features footage from the documentary "SIDIVAL fila" by Francesco Di Pede, watch it here.

Video editor • Jean-Christophe Marcaud