Meet Federico Tomasi

The artist Federico Tomasi speaks to us on Art, Love, and Life

K.D.You have been based in Bali the last seven years. What is your background?

F.T.I was born in Stockholm in 1974. My family moved to Italy when I was thirteen in 1987. I attended the International School of Art in Riccione, Italy. After Art School I never really thought about being an artist although painting has always been my passion. I went into the fashion industry in Milan. I worked in haute couture with the house of Lorenzo Riva. I worked the shows in Paris, Rome, and Pret a Porter in Milan. It was a great education but I understood it was not my thing! My father lived in Singapore at the time so I went there next where I was a fashion stylist and opened my own company. It was full on. I set up shoots for Marie Clare and other top clientele. I started to come to Bali every month and I was inspired by the Balinese. It was a simpler time in Bali and I was deeply influenced by the simplicity of their lives and the dignity with which they carried themselves. They did not have much materially yet lived such rich lives. The people here were proud and happy with so little. I started to look at my life and look within. I went back to Singapore and painted more than twenty pieces. Friends loved them but I was still shy about my work. I painted murals and eventually was asked to show my works at the opening of a restaurant. The Italian ambassador and many other dignitaries as well as the press were present and I sold out. Galleries approached me and soon I had a one year contract with a gallery and my paintings went up in value.

K.DWhich of your exhibits Internationally has been the most important to date?

F.T.The next one! Always as an artist I am looking forward to the next painting. When an artwork is finished, it is done and I move on. But I must say the Biennial of Venice was a great honor.

K.D. The Dalai Lama recently expressed it is up to artists and musicians to reveal the light and inner truths to people so consciousness may be changed. What is your response to that?

F.T.I agree that the arts may give people experiences they otherwise would not have had without the art exposing it to them. I do believe the artist has a responsibility to be true with his creativity , in the sense that a painting is something set a part , once you done it it’s on his own and it’s either boring or it is interesting , and if it is interesting is simply because the artist put all his energy , all his attention and devotion into it. A work may affect different people in different ways but it makes them look at themselves and their relationship to the world around them. The Arts are so important in society and in the end it is their retrospective qualities which make them powerful, Albert Einstein said once that imagination is more important than knowledge generally, for knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there even will be to know and understand. Look at how Warhol made us look at common commercial objects as art; and as a reflection of the society of that time and place. As time goes by we see the value of his works increase. Not just monetarily but in its impact. It is still very relevant. People have to do things for love, and pure passion not profit. If you are pure and honest it comes back to you. The most important part of my art is the process rather than the end product. When a painting is finished it is finished and I move on to the next.

K.D.Is everyone an artist at birth?

F.T.Yes, but few people make it through childhood with their creativity intact. It is educated and programmed out of us in the first decade of life. But we all have that creative energy; a bit of ‘God’ within us which all of us has the potential to express through creativity. Creativity and is taken out of education. We are taught to only use six senses; to limit our experience here and focus on making money in an unsustainable way in contrast to the sustainable lifestyles we can achieve by being more creative. We certainly have all the tools and technology to achieve that. It is one of the things which impressed me so much in the early years here in Bali. Everyone was involved in some sort of creativity. Making their own offerings every day and offering them up to the universe. Everything was handmade. In the west we use art as a therapy as it is so lacking in our lives that exposure to it heals people of many illnesses both physical and psychological.

K.D.What do you most love painting?

F.T.People. People are so complicated with so much potential and so many layers. In my earlier works I painted only from my imagination. Now I also incorporate my photography to catch certain images such as a certain person, a face, an emotion, I like the fact that there is a sort of relation between me and the subject I paint and there I become a filter of what I see. Reality is a central reference from which I work to express human feelings and emotions in today’s world, in all of my paintings there is birth as much as death which invokes the purpose of life, the process of a painting has much to do with that.

K.D.What are you plans this year?

F.T.I will be leaving for Europe soon to see my twelve year old son, then I have an exhibition in NYC in March and a launching of my work there in May of this year. Then I will see what happens, where life takes me next.

K.D.How do you feel about all the changes we see here?

F.D. Bali is an example of the entire world. Like evolution bad or good marches on. I do not complain or compare to the past. The whole world has been changing exponentially and all the modern ills we see so clearly here exist all over the world. The plastic and garbage is in our face rather than trawled out to sea and creating an island bigger than Australia and that is just in the Pacific! We have gained many good things; technology and good healthy foods. I would like to see Bali never compromise their beautiful culture which embraces the beautiful and the strangeness of life simultaneously. What will the next generation do here? It is sad to see the young people follow western trends so closely and rejecting their own culture. But I also see young Indonesians embracing a new collective culture using the new technologies which recognizes traditional ways and also wants a better world. It is a shame that huge parts of the culture are gone forever such as the subak system of water which worked so well for so long. There is a rice field behind me where the farmer was forced to stop planting because no more water from the old system, which was perfect and will never be replicated. This is a country of such diverse and rich cultures. My hope is that they will learn from the mistakes of the west and make that leap into the future with its possibilities of sustainability and clean, free energy and water. We have to have dreams!

Written by: 
Karen Davis