There are those who are fortunate enough to know, right from the beginning, the path that they must follow in life, while others feel their way cautiously towards it during the years. One could compare it to a dance, where two dancers meet at centre stage, first tentatively moving towards each other, then separating and finally embracing and launching themselves confidently into the graceful movements of the dance. Federico Tomasi’s experience in his journey towards art and painting was a like a dance.

Federico first encountered art and aesthetics as a child in Stockholm, while his father studied at the Academy of Art there, and later worked at theatres as a set designer.

“I was only a child and yet I remember this extremely creative environments, which fascinated me; I would listen to my father’s discussions about art for hours, even though I understood hardly any of it.”

On his return to Italy he enrolled at the Institute of Art at Riccione, where he was won over by the beauty of art. He showed great capacity and talent and had “a great hand”, as many said of the young Federico. He himself, however, judged that

“I was not yet mature…I needed to develop my mind, my instincts, my emotions and my soul.”

Because of this he distanced himself for a while from painting, broadening his experience in the fields of design and fashion.

Years passed, and “certainty and profound dedication came a few years later during a journey that I made to Asia in 1997”. In fact it was in Singapore, where he subsequently moved, that Federico started to dedicate himself completely to painting, and experiment with different techniques.

“For many years I worked with oils, using different techniques and different methods of application, until I finally decided to abandon this painstaking approach in favour of alternative techniques.”

The first collectors began to appreciate his work, and the first galleries started to contact him, but Federico knew that he was still not ready.

I went to New York in 2001 for a solo exhibition at Glen & Gale Gallery ,and during my journey I was visiting all the contemporary art galleries I could possibly see. I wanted to see and understand what was happening … I had a hunger for contemporary culture, and I was in the right place … Among others there was Jackson Pollock, whose technique influenced me greatly - Action Painting was what I was looking for; I loved seeing the canvas on the floor, discovering a new point of view, the richness of colour, the rhythm of the application, the not-being totally in control and the movement of the dominant gesture … so I began to experiment with using paint in different ways.”

Action Painting became Federico’s favourite technique, allowing him to pour forth on to the canvas all his youthful artistic energy and what he needed to express.

“I do not really know why it happened or what was the motive behind it – it was sheer necessity. I did not paint with the aim of becoming an artist, still less of entering the art market; it was my private thing, intimate and instinctive … it was a world in which I found peace, and where I felt protected from the cruelty of life … as though all the rest was no longer important.”

His subjects are not the abstractions of Action Painting; on the contrary, through his use of colour and the dynamic composition of the painting, Federico loves to paint human faces and figures, capturing emotions and states of mind in the most vivid way possible.

“The expression on a face reflects a person’s state of mind … I use faces as vehicles of expression … as a musician might use his instruments.”

It is this combination of figurative painting with the abstract technique of action painting, that gives Federico’s work its unique character. The image is refined, but the realisation is made to seem casual, as a result of the technique, and the way in which the pigment, landing upon the canvas, escapes the full control of the painter.

“Above all it inspires me to surrender control, and make many mistakes, and from those mistakes draw new ideas … the point is that I often paint without a precise objective … I like to play with the unconscious, and I like the fact that my works manage to surprise myself, first of all, as though a painting acquired its own identity without any logical rule.”

The works shown in the exhibition “e)motion” (12 large paintings and 12 smaller) are from Federico’s most recent creative phase, where it is always the human face which is analysed and scrutinised on the surface of the canvas. Splashes of saturated colour alternate with empty spaces, which acquire a dynamic significance within the confines of the painting.

Colours that mingle, and clots of paint which crystallise as they dry, make up the raw material in motion, out of which these faces emerge, which directly express deep emotions.

An explosive, fragmented image reveals its photographic clarity only when viewed at a certain distance, when the realism of the image comes together and rises out from the abstract jungle of colours .

“I enjoy the tension between abstraction and realism … in this series of works I have wanted to create faces which transform themselves so that they almost resemble masks, where the eyes become life and soul … the soul which hides behind a living mask.”

Eyes, which are at the heart of these Expressionist compositions, strike you immediately, arresting you as if by magic … and for a brief moment they hold you floating in a space/time which exists between the present and the mind, where thought has not yet entered, and where it is possible to perceive the quiet which follows action.

In this dimension the painting takes on its own rhythm, the colours become brilliant and alive, the mind awakens at the sight of intense red tones contrasted with faint blue, hot alternating with cold, tension and release, love and hate.

Extremes in search of harmony.

In every painting, the movement of the colour and the movement of the brushstrokes have their own energy, their own vibration, which seem to constantly modify the final composition.

“When I look at one of my paintings it is as though it is in constant motion …”

In this continuous journey between movement and stillness, there is an emotional dialogue of question and answer between the viewer and the provocative gaze of the eyes in the paintings. The viewer finds himself asking some of the eyes what they can tell him, then finds himself revealing to others his own subconscious thoughts.

Catalogue text by Marco Lastrucci and nikky from e)motion exhibition 4 – 15 March 2010.

ZINC gallery, Kuala Lumpur www.zinc.com.my