Saul Zanolari is a London based contemporary artist who was born in Switzerland in 1977. His work represents a complex fusion of photography, fine art and digital design which lends a bizarre view to the subjects he chooses. His subjects are usually European royalty, rock stars, elite socialites and old and new celebrities which are then digitally manipulated by the artist into artificial forms of life that stand between the surreal and the grotesque.
Although his passion for painting and sculpture was evident since he was a child, he decided to study Philosophy, a subject which influenced him by making him work in a more analytical way for his portraits, trying to capture the interior essence rather than the exterior look. Complex layers of interpretation flow in each of his portraits, allowing the spectator to share Saul Zanolari’s unique vision of the subject.
Saul works digitally like a plastic surgeon; he squeezes and twists human forms, forcing a metamorphosis into their two-dimensional digitalised version.
His subjects harbour dark and secret souls and with a good sprinkle of irony they become icons of universal themes such as beauty, motherhood, adolescence and some specific issues like artificial insemination, solitude and depression.
Celebrities like Madonna, Michael Jackson, Kate Moss and even the Queen have agreed to enter Saul Zanolari’s world, allowing him to transform their widely recognised appearance.
Saul first exhibited his work in 2005 in a small gallery in Milan, and later he attained international recognition showcasing his works in permanent collections in New York, London, Paris, Milan, Basel, Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo.
His world is silent and dark, his subjects trapped in time, motionless and with a twisted glint in their eyes. The outcome is an ex novo portrait, a truly innovative artistic work.
His latest project, named Shoreditch Window, is located in the very heart of London at the 151-153 of Shoreditch High Street. Shoreditch Window is a permanent exhibition space created by the artist and dedicated to his work. The window is designed to showcase his works and its set-up will change periodically. At the moment it is displaying ‘Nest 2010: a motherhood’s metaphor’, depicting an unusual take on the image of Kate Moss.
Q: What inspires your work?
A: Life if inspiring. Everythig around me could inspire me.
I mean everyday’s life, small things, people, books, magazines, tv. Really everything.
Q: How did you come to the idea of combining artistic disciplines and who was the first celebrity you “transformed”?
A: Actually celebrities are just special cases of people inspiring me.
I had a show in Beijing some years ago (2008 – the Olympic year in Beijing) and the gallery I was working with was celebrities oriented.
We’ve done a work putting together western fairy tales and “modern” fairy tales.
The modern fairy tales are impersonated by the celebrities.
The show was titles Post-Human: humanity after all, combining different artistic disciplines (digital art, painting, drawing, scratching, sculpture), different worlds (western and eastern world), different stories (fairy tales are the base of our history or kind of).
Q: Do you inform your subjects before you distort their appearance? Has anyone ever complained?
A: Normally I inform my subjects unless the subject is just a pretext.
Sometimes the subject I use is intended as an icon I use to vehiculate a concept or an idea.
Paris Hilton or Anna Wintour are just icons with their lives.
I don’t mean to portray Paris Hilton unless she’s a pretext for something else, unless she gives a meaning to something different.
That’s the iconic meaning of popular people.
They don’t live by themselves. They live in the mind of whom is following them.
Yes, it happened often that the subjects portrayed complained.
Q: Your first exhibition was in 2005 and now your works are displayed permanently all over the world. How did you gain such success in so short a time?
A: Working hard, very hard…
Q: What programs do you use for your works?
A: I use to work with a lot of programs and with my hands too.
Actually they are programs everyone has on his computer.
Someone told me that everyone can have a brush in his hand but it depends on how do you use the brush…
Q: Do you have a favourite piece among your works?
A: No. They are all like my children.
I’m quite melancolic and looking at them after some time they reminds me the time when I was working at each of them.
They are like photos to remember where I was, what I was and what I am now.
Q: As a fine artist you are quite revolutionary. Could you tell us a bit more about your creative process?
A: Actually I use to work with ideas.
Images are the real part of the ideas and something you cannot express in other ways or I’m not able to express with words.
The creative process starts with the need to express an idea, a concept.
After I get one, I choose the right image or the right person to vehiculate it, to express it.
The work is not just manipulation.
Everything you see in my artworks is a sort of hand made.
Everything is drawing: hair by hair, black spot by black spot…
It takes a lot of time but it worth.
Q: The “Shoreditch Window” idea is fantastic – are you planning to extend it to other countries?
A: I’m glad you appreciate Shoreditch Window concept.
We are trying to let people get into the art even talking on the streets.
It would be nice to have other Shoreditch Windows worldwide. We are working in that direction. We are also planning to have an outdoor show through the streets of London early next year and to extend the project to other countries.
Q: Who are the artists you admire and why?
A: Pierre et Gilles, they are ironic and specific, very precise and full of colour. Nothing in their photos are meaningless, not even the frames. I really love their work.
Q: What are your plans for the next year?
A: In this moment I’m in Shanghai discussing an exhibition in a gallery. I have planned 2 group shows in Italy, 1 in New York for spring 2011 and we are running an outdoor project in London and Lugano.
Q: How do you hope Pelime can help with this?
A: There’s a meaning behind everything… we will se how pelime will help me.