Artist Showdown Interview to Barbara Agreste

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From Pescara-Italy, originally, Barbara moved to London in the early 90’s in order to avoid the “glass ceiling syndrome” she felt was still strong in her hometown at that time. Exploring different media to express herself, and say something through art, Barbara is constantly developing and exploring themes that truly represent the essence of the artist within herself.

We asked her a few questions:

Q: Was it difficult to unleash the artist within you or you always had it clear that you’d have to
live and work as an artist?

A: I know that I always wanted to create art, ever since, I wouldn’t have to necessarily live as an artist, but I’ve always really wanted to express myself, and say something through art. I believe that in order to unleash an artist’s potentialities, and to develop a body of work, “talent” is only the beginning of a long process: it takes a lot of studying, a good method of learning, and constancy, to get some results in art, therefore it is also a hard, repetitive, and excavating job to find the real “artist” within oneself.

Q: I see you have different facets as an artist. Which one do you feel more in tune with?

A: This is a good question: there are things that I produce very easily, and there are also things more difficult for me to make. When something is difficult I usually spend longer time working on it to get the result I want, and even so I pursue an outcome with all my efforts. I believe I am in tune with every facet of my work, because each moment in which I concentrate is different, and yet in that very moment the artwork itself has got a grip on me completely. I feel very close to all of my products, and when I start a project it is because it really interests me to explore a theme or develop a particular concept, and take it to the end (if an end exists for it).

Q: For many artists Italy would be the perfect place to leave and work. What made you move to
the UK?

A: I moved to the UK in 1993, I grew up in Italy, and in the eighties I did my art college there. Both as a woman and as an artist I did not find it easy in Italy back in those times, because (I found out later on) the art world, and society in general, revolved too much around a male oriented culture, that kept women at the margins of society. I needed to go to the UK to properly develop my art, and to grow up as an artist: if I did not take that step of going to study there, I would not have made a good part of my video work. Up to the year 2004 I only lived in UK, and it was after I completed my MA that I started to go back to Italy more often, and now I spend good part of the summer in my home town. I think Italy is a much calmer place to live in right now, it is less chaotic than London, but women there have still a narrower path in which to walk to find their way and stand for their rights.

Q: Could you name your top 5 artists?

A: Edward Hopper, Jan Svankmajer, Gottfried Helnwein, Cindy Shermann, Maya Deren.

Q: What has been the most difficult part of being an artist?

A: The most difficult part for an artist, first of all, is to fit into society as a person: it is hard to deal with people personally, having to go to interviews, having to put up with oddness of some people’s behaviour, having to deal with what hurts you… A nodal point of difficulty is the question of “acceptance”, which is also the thing that can bring an artist forward: if someone feels perfect, loved and accepted in their lives, they wouldn’t need to make art.

Q: Do you think artists have an intrinsic need of recognition as a way of overcoming their own lifespan?

A: I think artists need to be loved more than a lot of other people do, I sincerely do not think they want their art to be a living thing after their death: that would imply thinking about dying, and about what would happen afterwards, and nobody wants to think about their own death. Artists want to be appreciated while they are alive, they want to make art, and make a living with what they consider it to be their best option – the thing they can do better – so while making the work they only think about how it looks, and if it has come out exactly how they wanted it to be, so no “post-mortem” fantasies.

Q: What’s more difficult, dealing with the business part of being an artist or managing insights, turning projects and ideas into art?

A: Dealing with business is not something that gets done from one day to another, especially for those artists who do not know anything about it, but it should eventually be easier, because once you learn how to move into the business world, it becomes a written path that can be easily followed. Making a new project, creating something out of nothing is harder, but it is also a more intriguing, and eventually satisfying job of researching the truth.

Q: For many people Art-Photography has been regarded as important as any traditional forms of art. What’s your view point about the digital picture boom?

A: As an addition to the various techniques, the digital picture is one more tool that we have which helps us to achieve a final product…

Q: What advice would you give to those artists that sometimes don’t know how to tread the unstable beginning of their careers?

A: To think of art as a set of duties, to accomplish one task at a time, to try to think that the business part of it can be a way of spending time thinking at more practical matters that can alone keep you active, and make you avoid depression. Art is hard work: you have to believe in it.


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Interview to Barbara Agreste


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