"Painting has the possibility of making visible what is hidden in reality."
Leo Ragno was born in 1984 in Milan, Italy. He is a Professor of Graphic Art Engraving Techniques at the Brera Academy of Fine Arts. He was born in Milan but grew up in Bisceglie, Puglia in southern Italy, where he moved with his family when he was very little. In 2009, he graduated in Painting and Graphic at the Academy of Fine Arts in Foggia, only to return to Milan in 2015. His childhood was spent peacefully despite his family’s economic difficulties, and this did not prevent them from cultivating his passions since childhood. The housewife mother and the breadwinner father were able to facilitate him with growth through a thousand sacrifices and difficulties.
Among the many participations in competitions and the winnings of some of them, the victory of the "Youth Award" at the Florence Biennale in 2009 was very important. This gave him the conviction and the necessary drive to continue his artistic research. His work is present in many publications in various exhibition catalogs nationally and internationally and in both public and private collections. The artist Alessandro Papetti also took care of him and his work. For his first solo show in 2012, he dedicated a text to the painting "The triptych of the table."
Leo Ragno’s works of art offer precious moments. Moments where, if you close your eyes and look deep within, you are able to see that aspect of yourself that you cannot see with the light of day. It is the passing of days and knowing that you are again, in another moment, maybe unusual, maybe the same. But you know there are options, there are opportunities, and from total darkness, you can always get out. That is his art, that voice that tells you to get out of there, that impulse that throws you to another level.
Q. What role does the Artist/ Painter have in society?
A. I believe that the artist should neither educate nor shock the viewer but be a vehicle of knowledge. The artist has the ability and the ability to investigate aspects of reality, in the sense of the broadest term, in a personal and in-depth manner and to communicate them to the observer through their expressive abilities. It is essential that it be sincere and honest otherwise the risk is to distort and compromise the meaning of his work.
Q. What’s your best childhood memory?
A. I have a very pleasant memory of childhood, of a peaceful period. It is difficult for me to choose a single episode from that phase of my life. Often, as a mental exercise, I enjoy trying to travel mentally at that time in an attempt to remember even the details of some events that usually seem insignificant. My best childhood memory is childhood itself.
Q. As a child, what did you wish to become when you grew up?
A. I was very torn between deciding whether to become a footballer or an artist (cartoonist to be precise). I also remember asking my father what he preferred between the two and I hope I didn't disappoint him.
Q. Do you remember the first art you made? What was it and how old were you?
A. At times, for various reasons, my parents did not satisfy me in the requests I made to them, so I drew what I wanted. Putting what I wanted on paper made it real and made it possible to accomplish what I could not have.
Q. How and when did you first become seriously interested in art?
A. I have always had some instinctive and disorderly interest towards the subject but at a rational and concrete level, my dedication started with academic studies.
Q. Tell us about your particular style and how you came to it?
A. It is a long, complex and certainly not yet completed path. In summary, I have arrived at what is my current stylistic code through various passages, choices, considerations, on what the image should be and on what it means. I started from a more realistic pictorial style of painting up to the current one rarefaction of the image and of monochromatism as and when I developed an awareness of the content and meaning of the painting on my pictorial attitude. I have the expressive need to complete the painting relatively quickly so as not to lose control from an emotional point of view. This need leads me to use few colors and brings me to a synthesis of the vision that corresponds to my intention to portray what counts in the image as if it were a reminiscence, a memory that resurfaces from the fog of memory.
Q. What does your art aim to express?
A. The intention is to insert the temporal dimension into the pictorial image, depicting the subjects suspended in an atmosphere that belongs to the mind, to memory.
Q. What personality trait has gotten you in the most trouble?
A. The characteristic of my character that most troubles me is my shyness. I am an introverted person and this sometimes creates misunderstanding and embarrassment.
Q. What have you had to sacrifice for this career?
A. I have so far had the good fortune of having people who have understood my needs and allowed me to sacrifice as little as possible. Surely the distance from my family is the greatest sacrifice.
Q. Who are your biggest influences? Are you inspired by the work of your peers or anyone else in particular?
A. I think it is inevitable to have artistic fathers and even grandparents and great-grandparents. I was very influenced by artists like Medardo Rosso, Eugene Carriere, Rembrandt, Velazquez, Goya, up to the temporally closer Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Jenny Saville. Currently, I go in search of the most distant artistic forms from mine, it is there that I find the interest and the greatest possibilities of curiosity.
Q. Is the artistic life lonely? What do you do to counteract it?
A. I am fortunate to teach at the Academy of Fine Arts and to be in contact with the students who are a continuous source of ideas and energy. In any case, I believe that the figure of the solitary artist is part of a romantic cliché that has also become a little tired.
Q. Apart from art, what do you love doing?
A. I read a lot, in addition to literature (Authors like Proust, Lynch, Dostoevsky, Kubrick and others are one continuous and inexhaustible source of inspiration). Philosophy and sociology also fascinate me. I also like going to the movies.
Q. What is your philosophy in matters of art?
A. I believe that art is necessary to deepen the aspects of reality, especially in this age where there is a tendency to always remain on the surface of things.
Q. What does 'success' mean to you?
A. In my opinion, success corresponds to the possibility of spending most of your time doing what you like best.
Q. What are the biggest things you've learned in life thus far?
A. I learned that it is necessary to have perseverance and trust and also not to do google searches if I don't feel much good.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given, and by who?
A. More than advice, I like to talk about the example of honesty, humility and dignity that was given to me by my parents and also by few great artists that I have so far been lucky enough to meet personally.
Q. What advice would you give to the next generation?
A. I don't think I'm in the position to give advice, but I'd say, simply be honest and work endlessly without ever stopping.