In my experience, nobody enjoys to read the life story of an old geezer. Now less than ever, thanks to the decreasing of attention span caused by the various Insta and/or Tik Tok. I am aware that, when i write about myself, I tend to “pastiche” memories in a Fellini style tale, but I’ll check myself not to do that and try to be as synthetic and objective as I can.
I was born in ITALY, Veneto, Padua to be precise. Many many years ago.
I grew up with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones’ music as a sound-track of my days. My sister, seven years my senior, had a musician boyfriend. She was kinged of forced to become an expert in Anglo-Saxon pop, when she would have preferred to listen to our Italian divas: Mina, Patty Pravo, Ornella Vanoni her favourites. To me, she was a fashion icon: mini skirts, hair-piece, maxi coats, chandelier earrings and fake eye-lashes were never too many, never too much.
I became part of a youth culture and youth movement of the 70s, I was fascinated by the hippies but I was much too small to do anything about that. However, I remember the moment of panic i experienced when Sharon Tate was killed. Did hippies really do things like that? Killed lovely blond actresses and called them PIGS? Why? Where was the sense of this? I suppose that was my first public trauma; by public, I mean not generated in the household, but of public domain. Anyway, but mid seventies I was already transformed into a punk. Then, I “matured” into a goth, new romantic, new wave and so on.
I went to live in Rome in 1981, to studied at the Academy of Fashion and Costume design in Piazza Navona.. I qualified in 1984. In Rome, I worked in the theatre and television as a costume design and I shared with a partner a small line of prete-a-porter: Cheektwocheek . However, my career in this field, was more way to give to myself credentials to hang around the roman scene than because I had a serious goal to achieve, I was surely more interested and naturally better at playing the hedonistic game then I was in being a successful costume/fashion designer.
I lasted 8 years, but, eventually, I had to call it a day. I liquidated everything and returned, prodigal son, under my mum’s roof. With this big knock back to my ego. I was less optimistic about my future and vaguely concerned about my career, however, my natal town was very rich of anti-thinking substances available to us young people. We were very good at making use of these products, which fuelled the parallel economy of the Veneto’s Mafia.
I moved to London soon after, but I lived in London with the same frame of mind that I had in Italy. Wherever I went, I carried my reality with me.
The end of the millennium came. The new millennium found me feeling really low, depressed, potentially suicidal. I had no hope, but, most of all, no real desire, to make a change.
And then I had the MOMENT.
I have no other way to put it, because, effectively, it was just a moment. Maybe there was some unconscious preparation to it, maybe there were facts that led me to it. Also, the actualisation of what the moment generated, was not quick and easy. It was hard and painful, but it all started in that one moment.
In that moment, I saw myself different. I no longer identified myself with my past, my experience, with all I knew about myself, but I saw someone new; different. I didn’t yet know what I would have been, but saw me as a winner, instead of a victim.
I am reluctant to confess that, in order to review my thinking, to be supported to gain a positive view of life, of the self, of the planet, I went seeking to be enlightened. I found a group that peddled a “Prete-a-Porter” version of Buddhism. I believe that, this group, is still quite popular and successful.
I must say that, at the time, it contained something I needed. I don’t want to be slandering anybody, so I avoid naming the group; it was (is) like a supermarket of westernised Buddhist concepts, along with the expensive paraphernalia, indispensable to practice. One gets in, with all the emotional baggage and beliefs and start putting in the basket basket, concepts of Karma, of flexible reality, of rhythm of the universe, of being one with your environment.
However, for someone like me, who believed that what I knew about me, up to that point, was, in fact, who I was, the flexibility of the Buddhist teaching and the ability to transform your Karma and turn poison into medicine, sounded just great.
This organisation might composed by money-grabbing individuals that pedalled some eastern religion customised for the ready use of westerners. It contained all the recognisable characteristic typical of a cult : a common jargon used by the members, the not so subtle urge to bring in other people, the request to implicitly trust the elders in faith, the a bit more subtle but undoubtedly present request to give (to the practice) more that you can afford, in order to show trust in the practice. Despite these dangerous elements, the experience offered me a different point of view and a set of different values from my previous, which were fundamentally nihilist and profoundly negative. Armed with new hope and with determination, a quality unknown to my previous self, I qualified as a counsellor, I worked as a volunteer for 3 years and I gained enough experience to work professionally as a Mental Health practitioner, private counsellor and life coach. I worked for 20 years as such, I had a good career, I have been very happy working in this field and I ended up identifying myself a second time with what I was, and forgot who I was. But,…. But… I have been very happy in these 20 years, I found love, we became a family, and I was able to collect the benefit of having learnt different points of views about myself and reality and distance myself from this ambiguous group, which gave me even a stronger opinion against any form of organised religion, no matter how pure the teachings are. Once in the hand of the individual, they get transformed into something much less selfless and pure
Just before the pandemic, I was Alberto Pavan, recovery practitioner, working for a big organisation and a counsellor. That was my new identity and that was all i knew about myself. However, it was some time that I no longer felt any happiness in doing what I was doing.I was no longer the golden boy, the raising star of the organisation, I struggled to adapt to the new health policies that all organisations had to implement to grant fundings. I hated the impossibility of working in a client-cantered way, I had to offer a packaging, all the same to everybody, no relationship-based therapeutic approach. The drugs and alcohol field had changed enough not to be congenial to my personality anymore. Also very important was the fact that I was tired to have to deal with massive problems on a daily basis. I was tired of feeling impotent in front of homelessness, addiction, rape, violence. But I couldn’t even thinking of resigning, because that job made me, It was me: who would I be if not the therapist?
The pandemic took the decision for me. My feelings became more extreme. I decided to jump out.
I am aware that, up to this point, art has never been mentioned. Where do I position myself as an artist?
I now see that I was born an artist. I never had the courage of actualising it, but an artist I was. I am. I am recently formed, bit I have always been. This is my last reincarnation. Maybe the last one of this life time or maybe not. For now, this is me.
Me: an artist
Since i can remember, I always received a great pleasure out of using pen and paper to draw pictures. Unfortunately i was not born with a gift, I was a very clumsy child. My drawings were clumsy too. They needed to be watched with the eye of a 4, 5, 6 years old buy with a vivid imagination, capable of giving a sense to those cryptic symbols and translate them into visual pleasure. My inspiring muses were the Kessler Tweens, a couple of Teutonic young ladies who used to work at theLido de Paris as Bluebell Girls and became the most popular set of tweens in Italian TV history from the 6os to the 90s.
They pushed boundaries in Italian morality standards when in 1962 they appeared in TV with a body tight teddy and feathers. They were supposed to wear this on bare legs, but the zealous Italian censorship forbade such audacity and impose thick black stocking to be worn. The result was an incredibly sexy outfit that became immediately iconic. I drew an oval for a face, some scribbles on the top of the oval to symbolise hair and feathers and, immediately under the oval two long, black legs. I didn’t pay any attempting to the body, arms, nothing all that was added by my imagination. What i felt essential to report on was a face and two long legs. I was four, even younger, 2 or 3, but i remember these unsettling forms. Eventually i learned to add, first arms, then a rectangle as a body and bit by bit I began to merge. The elements to make a picture of a person..
At school, i was always very good at drawing. I was not good in much else, but at story telling and picture drawing i was excellent. When I completed the compulsory education, my teachers recommended to my mum to address me toward an artistic field. I wanted art college, but my judicious mum, was not convinced that it would have been the right choice for her son:Too much use of drugs in the art world. She refused to back up my desire. She was also very good at putting me off the whole idea reminding me that I would have had to be good in technical drawing, geometry, and I was not. The idea that i could have learnt to do such things didn’t pass her mind. I wanted to go to drama academy and she put me off by telling me that my reading is not good, I stumble of words. I’ll look like a cretin. That changed my mind immediately. More conservatively, she decided to enrol me to a business studies college, which lasted 5 years and gave me a “Maturity” the Italian equivalent of finishing the A levels.
I was a very mediocre student. I was, once again, not too bad in Italian literature, but pretty bad in all the technical subjects that formed the backbone of the course. I passed each year, by using what Ii had available in my toolbox. I was able to establish relationships with some of the teachers that then fought the others for my cause.
During these years, I kept up with my drawings. I drew my own comic books, simple stories with some female super villain, who wanted to take over the world. She always wore sexy costumes and she entered easily in situations where she had to loose all her clothing and be in the nude, or actually, in stoking and suspender belts. They were not very good, but my school friends wanted to read them and, during class, i became very productive and distributed them out in home made booklets of pages stapled together. I used to copy comics popular at the time. My master and source of inspiration was Guido Crepax, the autor of an Italian comic that embodied a sociological revolution in Italian culture. Valentina, the character designed and scripted by Crepax, was a “real modern woman, an independent, self-sufficient, liberated woman with a good appetite for sex and a strong work ethic which made her a successful fashion photographer in Milan. She also had a dream life. She engaged in Jungian erotic adventures in her dreams, in which she was both a victim and a predator. Her comfortable attitude toward her nudity was obvious. She has been for long time, maybe for ever, a role model, her creator, Crepax, my idol. An accomplished designer with a background in architecture Crepax was capable of giving the sense of facial expressions, of fleshy movimentos with just few frugal lines that showed everything by omitting it.
I became an art admirer, I gave up any ambition to be an artist at that point. The ambition returned in my early 20 when I left my own town for Rome. The eternal city gave me the opportunity to absorb, like a fly in a cup of milk, the baroque-ness she is so generous to offer to her inhabitants. Rome is aesthetically formative just by being in it. She is a city behind belief. It has two faces. One for the tourists and one for the people living there. The more you live in it, the more you feel part of history, the more you become pagan, baroque, decadent, saint and profane. Rome is not a city. It is a sentiment. I love London dearly, but Rome is a place in itself, with no equals.
I spare the eventual reader the events that unfolded in Rome. Suffice to say that I got a diploma in Fashion and Costume design, I had few occasions to make it big, I worked in a number of productions and on an Italian TV series, but I was too distracted by the Dolce Vita to be able to dedicate myself to my own career, as I was meant to. In truth, I was secretly convinced, that one day, by being seen at all the parties (I was invited to incredible events) by being super-fabulous, by being flawlessly part of an in-crowd, one day i would have been offered the top situation that would have given me all the opportunities I needed. It may have even happened, but I was too drugged to recognise it. All ended up in an escape from Rome, with no dignity nor career.
Let’s jump the 90s which have been largely unproductive. I have already explained my conversion from being part of the problem to become part of the solution. During my last four year as a therapist, while I was still rigorously attentive to my clients’ needs and I was an excellent listener, during our interminable team meetings, I couldn’t keep up my concentration for long. In order to follow the incredibly boring but necessary updates to policies and procedures and presen tation of new cases, I discovered that it helped to concentrate if I was able to scribble on a block of paper random figures that appeared by the casual doodles I created unconsciously. It was like an automatic writing. I used to draw one consecutive line to form an intricate mass in which more often than not i could detect a figure than then became the focus of the drawing. I filled countless albums with these doodles. My supervisor, who consented to allow me to do this, told me that I should pursue the artistic path. I didn’t give her any notice.
Finally, it has been during the two years of lockdown that I dedicated myself to self-expression through the visual image. I knew for experience about the ability to bend my reality from the past and I decided to abandon my therapist self to embrace, full time myself as the artist.
I am not recognised by the art world, not yet, I am not well known, but I have no doubt on the truth of this new version of me. It is real and I am now an artist