Art in motion

A Bali-based, Swedish-Italian artist makes his Malaysian debut with a powerful display of moving emotions.

One look at the raw exuberance emanating from Federico Tomasi’s swirling canvases depicting emotion and you’d say for sure that this is a man who was born to become an artist. But the 36-year-old is not that presumptuous, and is quick to point out that, sometimes, your path in life is not clearly marked; it is a journey of discovery.

“To become an artist, you need a reason to paint, not just the ability. It’s just like a musician and his instrument. You can make music but it has to come from inside, from your soul, if not, there is something missing,” says Tomasi during a recent interview when he was in Kuala Lumpur to talk about his debut exhibition in Malaysia.

Tomasi’s antecedents certainly seemed to signal a career in the arts; his father was a product of Stockholm’s well-known Academy of Art and did a stint as a theatre set designer; the artist of Swiss and Italian parentage followed in his father’s footsteps and entered the Institute of Art in Riccone, Italy, in 1989, where some of his teachers described him as having “a great hand”.

Despite that endorsement, though, Tomasi insists that the inevitability of his future still did not seem concrete: “I was not yet mature and I needed to develop my mind, my instincts, my emotions and my soul,” he says of his decision to venture into fashion design at couture house Lorenzo Riva.

“At the age of 18 or 19, it is difficult to plan what to do in the future. You’re also influenced by many different points of view. I thought fashion could be a creative outlet for me, and I did learn many things. But I quickly realised that it wasn’t really my road.”

Little did he know then how fateful his subsequent visit to Singapore in 1997 would be. Tomasi came to see his father, who had settled into the field of industrial design on the island republic, and then travelled through Asia, ending up in Bali – where his life changed forever.

“My mind set changed completely. The incredible pride that the people of Bali have for life changed me because I started to understand myself and believe in myself.”

“I carried back with me all the impressions I had received during the trip and for the first time in my life, I started painting without any reference. It was like a need, I was compelled to express myself,” says Tomasi.

Well, that certainly sounds like the birth of a full fledged, committed artist. This fundamental change in Tomasi did not go unnoticed by his friends and family, who encouraged the young man. His father advised him to show his art, which led to Tomasi’s participation in a group exhibition at the Singapore Hilton’s Notice Gallery in 1998. This was followed by another group show at Plastic Kinetic Worms Gallery before his first solo exhibition a year later at t