Ricardo Cavolo's At Dawn

01 September, 2016

Before establishing himself as an artist, Richard Cavolo lived with the gypsies for many years, experiencing what he calls “The B-side” of life, observing society from an outsider’s perspective. He says this strengthened his optimism, rather than withering it, influencing the brightness of the characters he paints. We invited Ricardo to spend a week at the Mermaid Ranch as one of our first artists-in-residence, and he left behind a poignant installation in the garden. We wanted to learn more about it.

How would define your work and approach?

I think I’d be the last person defining my work. I’m an artist who makes illustration, murals, clothing, tattoos, paintings, photos… I need to do so many different things, so I’m not bored, and I won’t become boring. If I have to define my style, it’s a mix of naïf lines, with powerful colors, deep composition, and complex meaningful stories behind those simples lines.

What are your favorite subjects?

The subject I usually speak about in my work is what I call it the B-side of life. I was living with gypsies for many years, and I saw how different that part of the society is compared with the “regular” ones, the ones we all know. I like to show that B-side and the magic and wonderful stories happening there.

What is your main inspiration?

I’d say outsider art is my main inspiration. It’s a way of speaking about deep and complex situations in life through a powerful style. Also medieval and sacred art are good inspirations, for their compositions and symbology. And tribal and primitive art are my inspirations for color.

How did your artist residency at Mermaid Ranch happen?

Well, I think Richard Christiansen knew my work and wanted to work on a project with me. So he asked if I’d like to go to the Mermaid Ranch and create something ad hoc for the space. Of course I accepted. It’s a dream.

How did the place and the landscape inform your work there? Did you arrive at the ranch with an idea in mind, or did it happen after a few days spent there?

I prefer to have an idea before I arrive. I like to work in a deep way, with previous research and investigation on the subject at my studio. So I already knew what I was going to do. In that way, I also have the maximum amount of days just to work in the field. The more time I have to work, the better the final result.

Could you tell us about the figures on the trees? What is the title of this installation? Is there a narrative?

The title is “At Dawn.” I wanted to talk about the problem we have in Europe with refugees losing their lives at sea or in the war. The story is about this little boat full of refugees in the middle of the sea trying to leave their country at war. The sea sometimes is an evil monster, and the boat is wrecked. The survivors arrive on land with the help of life jackets. Those trees are the survivors arriving to the new land, full of dreamland hopes. They still wear their life jackets. And you can find some personal details from each survivor, like their names, their portraits, and some personal details like their memories.

How was the experience of working at Mermaid Ranch?

For me, it has been one of the most special experiences of my life. I’m an artist, and that’s a huge part of my life. This was the first time I got to develop an artistic project in a real space like a forest, and even more special was the chance to work on an idea about the refugees at this very moment. This is the first time I’ve had the freedom to do something like that, and I’ll thank Richard and the Chandelier team for the rest of my life. I just hope we can create something together in the future.

Words by The Editors.

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