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COLOR THE WORLD WITH GIORGIO CASU

Alice Print Price

A VERSATILE ARTIST WHO DISCOVERED HIS PASSION BY CHANCE, SARDINIAN PAINTER GIORGIO CASU (“JORGHE”) TALKS ABOUT STREET ART, HIS PAST AND HIS LOVE FOR TRAVELING IN THIS INTERVIEW FOR STAIY EDIT.

Words By José M. Sainz-Maza

Giorgio Casu’s sun-tanned face appears on my computer screen as the interview gets started. He welcomes me from his home on the Italian island of Sardinia, and his insightful eyes and lively gaze announce an interesting conversation from the very beginning. Moved by curiosity at the abundance of graphic material that I have been able to find on the internet in relation to his artwork, I begin the interview by asking him about his identity as an artist. “Above all, I am a painter,” Giorgio responds without hesitation, “although I admit that my art is not easy to classify because I change themes, styles and materials very often. I like to challenge myself, evolve and discover what I can get from a change of perspective.”

Change seems to be a constant in the life of this Italian globetrotter turned artist. “A year and a half ago I moved back to Sardinia, after almost two decades traveling the world. I have lived in England, Australia, Southeast Asia… and almost 11 years in New York City. This is how it all started, with a trip and my desire to discover the world beyond the shores of the Mediterranean,” Giorgio shares. “I am a certified professional educator, and I began my professional life teaching art to children with disabilities at a psychiatric center near my hometown. However, I felt the need to travel, and I thought that I would need to speak better English, so I packed my bags and went to England. I was about 26 years old, and spent the next 3 [years] in Leeds, where I started painting for my friends in my spare time and as a way to earn some money. This is how I discovered that I enjoyed doing this, especially painting with acrylic on canvas, and that it could be an ideal way to travel the world while working.”

Red Square

Since then, Giorgio has exhibited his work in several countries and collaborated with some of the most prestigious cultural institutions in the United States and the world; he even got to present his portrait of former American President Barack Obama at the White House in May 2010. The days when he just painted on canvas are long gone and, although this is still his preferred way of working, he has managed to combine it with design projects for various brands, murals, prints on clothes, sculptures, multimedia installations, and interior design commissions. 

“Creating is what moves me, the possibility of giving life to my ideas, and for this I merge everything I learned in each place I have been. For example, during my three years in Australia I had close contact with the local surfing culture and I got to paint surfboards,” he explains with a gentle gesture as he recalls past days on the other side of the world. “I still travel constantly to attend events or exhibitions, and I am not ashamed to admit that I love my work, as I believe that this is essential when it comes to art. If you want to make a living from art, it is necessary to work long hours, it requires a lot of effort, and it would not be possible to embrace this commitment if I did not love what I do.”

Antonio Pedroni Kore

Wanting to know more about the creative process behind his artwork, the next question points in this direction, and Giorgio tells me the importance of music for him when it comes to focusing on any commission in his studio. “I like to play background music and focus on the canvas in front of me. I play songs I like to sing, Italian music from the 90s, and on other occasions, I enjoy international classic rock, like The Doors. Sometimes, I listen to experimental electronic music too. I have created album covers for some DJs and worked in electronic events in NYC, Mexico and Australia, and I like to know the music that will be associated with my work.” Then Giorgio is silent for a few seconds. “I’ll tell you something,” he continues; “I’ve been making a playlist of 150 songs every year since 2013. Often, I just think of a specific year and look for that playlist, it all depends on my mood.”

Giorgio’s work is colorful without being childish, full of organic shapes and a myriad of small details but not overloaded. This is something especially easy to appreciate in his murals, which can be admired in New York, Miami, Los Angeles, India, Mexico, Serbia or Costa Rica, and also in his country of origin. He currently works as an artistic director for the municipality of his hometown, San Gavino Monreale, on the Non Solo Murales (Not just murals) initiative, that seeks to promote tourism and recover degraded buildings through urban art and graffiti. “In summer I usually work outdoors a lot,” he says. “These last few months I have been painting electrical supply towers on the nearby island of Sant’Antioco, and I am also in charge of designing the spaces for a newly opened boutique hotel here in Sardinia.”

Greenland 3 Square

I proceeded to ask Giorgio about his opinion on urban art and the change in its perception in recent years by the general public. “Art is born from those who do what has not been done before, and in that sense, modern street art is the most powerful movement of the moment, and perhaps in the entire history of public art,” he states while walking his home in search of a corner with better light conditions. “Critics have long realized its potential, the power to convey ideas and messages of this form of creation, and although it is controversial, street art is reaching more and more people. This is how a Banksy ends up sold at auction.”

That said, the Sardinian painter reflects on the fact that urban art does not work in the same way in every context. “Urban art was born in big cities, in industrial contexts where it is relatively easy to make any mural work and the result please the public. When it comes to undertaking projects in historic buildings or small towns, the artist must understand that there exist important differences,” Giorgio says. “It [urban art] has become so popular that mayors ask some artists to paint places with a legacy, and I think that, in such a case, they should be more prudent. That is the real challenge.”

“I have worked with many artists such as Gabriel Moreno, and known others such as Remed, Millo… Sometimes they are artists with a powerful, very colorful style that shouts a message that may not fit in all contexts in the same way.” Giorgio pauses for a moment and clicks his tongue, then he says at a stroke: “In any case, it is something temporary, urban art is rarely permanent, and people should understand that; if you don’t like a certain mural, you can always paint on it after a while.” With this sentence, which makes us both smile, the interview comes to a close. Before we say goodbye, I take the opportunity to let Giorgio know that I would like to commission him some small work. “We can discuss anything,” he replies.