To infinity and beyond

Weekend Glitz | Lisa Kao 8 May 2020

Staying at home may limit our physical activities - but our imagination knows no such boundaries.

In a country with hundreds of thousands of coronavirus cases, Italian artist Angelo Troilo has been staying indoors most of the time. However, his paintings take him on journeys beyond our world.

Troilo has long been fascinated by outer space. With a mathematician-astronomer for a father, he always kept in close contact with all things space from an early age. "Although Italy was not as focused as other countries on space exploration, there were books, photographs and documentaries which helped me understand the mystery of space," he said.

Photos of Mars taken by robotic rover Spirit and images of Saturn by robotic probes Voyager 1 and 2 left a young Troilo awestruck.

"Saturn's majestic rings are just incredible," he said.

"My father studied space using mathematics, while I do it with figures on canvas," said Troilo. "People can try to understand the universe with the help of mathematics, but it always seems to elude us. Images involve us."

Instead of basing his portrayals of the universe on photos, the 23-year-old relies on his imagination.

On his canvas, Troilo makes a bold comparison between astronauts and conquistadors - such as Francisco Pizarro and Vasco da Gama.

"Astronauts go beyond borders trying to conquer other planets that we have never been to," he said. "It is the future. I think one day going to space will be a daily routine like taking a bus."

Colonization efforts by Pizzaro and da Gama were violent processes; Troilo imagines that it would be the same for astronauts conquering space. "I am showing things without any filters. There is always someone who makes a sacrifice for the sake of exploration."

He thought of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster in 1986 that killed seven crew members. "This is an example of people sacrificed as humans want to conquer everything that surrounds us," said Troilo.

He also incorporates human skeletons into the space suits. "They are like Dante's tomb. The skeletons commemorate the first explorers that went into space, and symbolize the efforts of those before them."

And while Troilo's subject matter is clearly out of this world, his artistic inspiration is far more down to earth.

"My art interest is aroused by artists like Basquiat and Banksy, though not in terms of painting style. They influenced me from a sentimental point of view," said Troilo. Just as their graffiti transmits messages, so do Troilo's paintings.

One of his favorites, Waiting for the orders, is an example. The painting depicts an astronaut waiting at a table.

"The work has a double meaning," said Troilo. "It is not only about waiting for orders, but it is also a reflection of the void and the uncertainty people feel when they are waiting for something."

He tries to find a way to put as many messages as possible into his paintings. "First, I put the canvas on a frame. Then the ideas come and I transform them into characters and objects," he said. "After finishing the first draft, I will constantly make changes to it because my idea keeps changing, and so my paintings change accordingly."

Due to the global pandemic, many people cannot visit art galleries to view exhibitions. However, it is still possible through the internet.

Eleven of Troilo's works are available for online viewing at Ri Galerie until June 12. "You may not see the brush strokes or the smallest details, but it is currently the best way to present them," said Troilo.

And while such tiny details might be lost through the online space, the paintings' messages can still be transmitted.

Titled Green, Pink, Yellow, White, with You, the exhibition hopes to soothe a world wrestling with the coronavirus pandemic.

"I wanted to share feelings of tranquility and serenity through the creamy colors. I want to share a state of happiness and encourage them to stay optimistic, safe and healthy," he said.

"This exhibition means that there are various types of possibilities even when times are difficult. We shouldn't contain ourselves."

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