Graphic designer, illustrator, artist and visionary. If you look around carefully you’ll often find his signature; his view of things. He’s one of the most important and popular Umbrian graphic artists born in Perugia but tifernate* by adoption. He has worked for years with the “Festival delle Nazioni”, and his are the images of the “Mostra del Fumetto”, the “Mostra del Libro Antico” and the Duomo Museum to name but a few. `The Mag’ spoke with Fabrizio Manis, who told us about his training, his methods, and his tastes.
by Giovanna Rossi e Marco Polchi
You have just turned fifty, celebrated with a striking 4-colour picture on social networks. Can you tell us a bit about how you started and why you choose graphic art?
«I think first of all that my passion is innate, the same way I believe generally that our experiences are already chosen for us. Personally, I did what I did because that’s I wanted to be. But I’m not self-taught, I embarked on a course of study starting at the Institute of Art and continuing at the ISIA in Urbino (Higher Institute for Artistic Industries – Ed); at that time the only one of its kind and very selective. Those were wonderful years when I refined my manual dexterity; (digital didn’t exist then)… I remember the hours in the darkroom! And where I met people who were really important to my training. I especially like to remember Michele Provinciali and Alfred Hohenegger – two maestri».
In the last 20-25 years how have things changed in the way we do graphics?
«I started out as a book designer; my training was in typography and therefore very manual and with lots of contact with materials. But I remember during the last year of ISIA I found myself in front of two computers for the first time – Mac of course! – And how a professor there said, ‘from now on forget scissors and glue, this will be your new working tool’. The real change came with the arrival of the internet and the web; new languages, new ways of communicating. What has remained unchanged though, is the aesthetic sense that you have to express».
In your opinion, can graphics be improvised? It is enough to have a good knowledge of computers?
«In my opinion, no… although it depends on the level of professionalism required. I can’t prevent anyone creating their own pictures or having them made by a ‘cousin who’s good with a PC’, but there are situations in which preparation is needed which can’t be improvised. Then it doesn’t matter if you use a mouse or a pencil, what matters is how you see things through graphics and communication. If you have nothing to say you’re not a communicator».
Do you tend to share your knowledge or do you keep it to yourself?
«It’s often very secretive in our profession, but I’m the exact opposite. I like to share. In the end what matters is not so much knowing a thing and keeping it to yourself, but sharing it in order to add a little something extra. It’s the ‘how’ you use the distinctive knowledge of each person».
You’ve worked in Città di Castello for many years now…
«Yes, I’m very attached to the Mostra del Fumetto, which I consider a gem – and because I really love comics! As well as the Festival delle Nazioni, which I was involved with for 14 years. Castello is my nest. Once I called the city ‘soft’, because it’s friendly on a human and professional level. There are still many graphic designers and typographies that are driven by people and entrepreneurs who are true masters of the trade. Città di Castello must recover its Renaissance roots, so it can aspire to a further leap in industrial and artistic quality».
Last year you, along with others, were involved in the Andy Warhol exhibition – what was that like?
«Wonderful! Thinking about the events at the Art Gallery, Warhol’s modern, contemporary but also classical language blended with the Renaissance aspect of the town. The town has discovered that it can be a vessel for art».
What aspect of your work do you like most?
«Without doubt, typesetting a book. Immersing myself in the pages and organizing the content by giving them a particular rhythm, as if it were music. And then I love going to the printer’s, to smell the smells and hear the sounds of the machines – basically graphics hit the eyes first, but involve all the senses without distinction».
What’s the worst advertising campaign you’ve ever seen?
«I’ll be obvious and trivial, but I’d say Pittarosso’s».
And the best?
«For that I have to go back in time, to the prints by Armando Testa; for me a true master».