by Lorenza Mangioni
Meeting Franco Barrese, a self-taught painter born in Città di Castello, means a journey through colour and sound, but especially one of the soul – inspired and moved by so many interests; in a meeting of a little over an hour he reveals a bit of his world of poetry, magic and travel.
The appointment is in his beautiful home where you immediately notice the art and references to the great passions of his life; music and comics are scattered all over.
There is a strong connection between the experiences of his life and his paintings, which he says “are never single, but elements of cycles” ; as if a single point of view is not sufficient to describe the nuances of that which Barrese wants to tell us. An idea, a place, but also a sound – everything blends in his paintings.
Where there is density there’s matter, and there is colour, strong and instinctive even though “lately I’m using only two colours, black and white, for a new minimalism, more in sync with the times “. This is perhaps the key to understanding him; the persistent desire to outdo, improve and to remain open to dialogue with others and the changes in society.
This ongoing work comes to life in his studio, where stashed between stored canvases, ( because “they’re never going to be displayed again”), there are those belonging to the cycle for the exhibition ‘JAZZ, THE SOUL OF THE CITY’ which will be held in Citerna from July 17th until the end of August; large paintings where vibrant towns are the backdrop to the story of this music .” I asked him if music always accompanies him, after his experiences working on radio in the ‘70s where he was able to meet Dalla, Venditti and Bennato.
He candidly replied “It’s not like I listen to music when I paint, but I do when I’m in the car and that’s when I get good ideas”. Then he tells me, “ painting is something that is a constant, beyond what I do in everyday life.” This is perhaps the strength of his painting, the total dedication and sincerity with which he puts himself in the public eye, because he says “you cannot grow without feedback”, and when Vincenzo Mollica called him to express his enthusiasm for his paintings, he realized that “more than passion it takes courage to face others and be exposed”.
This happened in 2007 with an exhibition entitled ‘I MET DYLAN DOG’, where there were references to artists like Warhol and Schifano – who he considers a genius. Since then Barrese has exhibited in several European cities, in Qatar, and New York; a city that “ I love, because for someone like me who is attentive to the visual, it stimulates you like no other place can and gives you a different perspective”. He has received several awards, was a finalist at the Biennale di Asolo and is still part of the catalogue of Modern Art of Mondadori. As well as travel, prizes, and passions, Barrese indulges in another great love, one for comics – what he calls “graphic novels”.
So much so that he has become the organizer, together with the members of the association “Amici del Fumetto”, of Tiferno Comics, an experience over the years that has brought a lot to the town but is now at a turning point; again, even here, we find the momentum for improvement, an act of generosity to Città di Castello, an exhibition dedicated to an icon like Marilyn Monroe, whose purpose is “to bring comics out of the cage in which it is sometimes considered second-class art”.
You can tell he loves his town, and “hopes Burri, who was able to create synergies between the major centres of contemporary art and our area, will be appreciated further” but above all, you feel his passion for everything relating to art and a certain kind of sensitivity that aspires to improve the quality of life for everyone.
There is no work of his in which you can’t perceive his commitment and enthusiasm as “the brushwork and gestures give a sense to the work. They are unique moments, it’s like a fire that must be fed.” After this wonderful meeting, I asked him how he would define himself. As with the simplicity with which he describes his work, he replies “I call myself a lucky man who challenges himself through painting”. We part with a warm smile and, yes; his seems to me the look of a man who feels lucky.