It is a challenge to create art that is both colorful, light and confident while also being emotionally deep, nuanced and complex, but Italian artist Ernesto Tatafiore manages just that. Human nature is full of these contradictions, and the human experience is inextricably infused with the many shades and tones of life. Tatafiore has a radiating ability to convey many feelings at once with aplomb, and his images are inspiring and like a breath of fresh air.
Ernesto Tatafiore, Vendicante, 1985, Etching, Aquatint and Screen-print, available in artist's proof and edition of 60
Many of his pieces are limited edition, signed fine art prints, either numbered or artist proofs, and his printing process is unusual in that he mixes sometimes three or four different traditional methods together, often combining etching, aquatint and silkscreen or even hand-painted gouache and graphite. The results are pieces that are conceptually and materially layered and intricate, just like the humans they are depicting. They are beautifully composed, and taking the time to absorb them feels like listening to music.
Vendicante is a perfect example of this combination of light and dark, easy and complex — Tatafiore’s flat two-dimensional composition and streamlined color palette paired with his delicate linework and dappled textures lend an ecstatic presence. It is psychological with a smoking volcano coming up out of the top of the figure’s head, and also relaxed with the figure’s nonchalant posture and pastel clothing.
Ernesto Tatafiore, Gli Uomini della Rivoluzion, Etching, Aquatint and Screen print, available in artist's proof and edition of 60
Gli Uomini della Rivoluzion has a playful, floating composition, merry geometric shapes and simplified line portraits while addressing the subject of bold figures from Neapolitan history with appropriately somber facial expressions, underlaid with subtle smokey plate tone.
His Mozart B is a four-paneled silkscreen, although he has an interesting process of layering the colors, sometimes with two, three or perhaps more of the same color, such that it takes on an almost sculptural effect, showing off his brushstrokes. It has the texture of being hand-painted and the succinctness of being a print.
Ernesto Tatafiore, Mozart B (close-up, part), 1985, Quadriptych Screen Print
A great description of Tatafiore’s stylistic power comes across in his unique gouache portrait Marat Marat which just recently sold. It is energetic and affronting, and somehow unapologetically soft at the same time. Jean-Paul Marat was a radical journalist of the French Revolution, known for his fierce tone, uncompromising stance and advocacy of basic human rights for the poorest members of society. Marat was famously depicted in the 1793 painting The Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David slumped over in a bathtub. Tatafiore’s piece captures him as a strong-willed and endearing figure, one who protested boldly as a “friend of the people.” Again, he shows an uncanny ability to portray a combination of unconcealed emotion and impenetrable strength.
Ernesto Tatafiore, Marat Marat, Gouache, SOLD; Jacques-Louis David, The Death of Marat, 1793, Oil on Canvas
And in Ulysses with Border and Mozart he again takes on rich moody subject matter with effortless grace, meandering through the psychological states of infamous cultural figures by means of unhurried linework, lovely and decisive color choices and careful layers of texture. It is easy to see why Tatafiore’s work has been described as “Neo-Enlightenment”.
Ernesto Tatafiore, Ulysses with Border, Etching
Ernesto Tatafiore, Mozart , 1985, Etching
While looking at Italian artists on the whole, they seem to share a strength with a focus on emotional expression, whether modern art, portraiture, landscape, abstract and beyond. They recall quiet afternoons of reflection, poetic musings and a willingness to explore the inner world of what it feels like to be a human.
Lucio Fontana’s Spatial Concept, the End of God (Image 1) makes comments about life, perhaps, abstractly in a way that feels universal; Nicola de Maria’s Galerie Lelong (Image 4) is reminiscent of automatic writing and the nature of communication, describing thoughts with visuals; Giorgio de Chirico’s The Red Tower (Image 5) boasts the drama, long shadows and late day sunshine worthy of a Clint Eastwood film still; Alberto Magnelli’s Untitled II (Fond Brun) (Image 2) could be a description of any of the many colors of human experience, with an openness for finding resonance with your own ever-changing story— from a simple morning cup of coffee to a deeply personal moment; and Alighiero Boetti’s Map (Image 3) is conceptual fodder for the meanings of borders, flags and identity— visual descriptions of factual geographic information but done with embroidery, allowing for a very human and poetic sensibility.