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The San Diego Union Tribune - Italian artist Siro Cugusi speaks 'visual language' at Lux

The abstract paintings of Italian artist Siro Cugusi defy a clear definition. The colors and textures suggest dreamlike, imaginary scenes with a variety of shapes that seem both real and surreal.

“Siro’s paintings do not correspond with reality,” agreed Reesey Shaw, the director of Lux Art Institute. His works “derive from his dreams, subconscious, fleeting thoughts and abstract ideas. He rejects traditional narrative painting to demonstrate his own personal language.”

Cugusi, the current Lux resident artist, uses canvas, wood, pages from books and varied types of paper as a base. His paintings often have a combination of oils and other media, including acrylics, spray paint, enamel, pencils and pastels, applied in multiple layers. The result is not so much a picture, but a state of thoughts and feelings he calls a “visual language.”

Generally, art gallery visitors are accustomed to looking at an abstract painting, and then reading the title to learn what it represents. Cugusi, however, does not give his works a name. Each is assigned a letter or a number or both.


“I do not want people to lock in on the name of the painting,” Cugusi said through a translator. “I do not want them to think about the concept based on the title. My paintings are a kind of visual language. People will see the concepts and the colors. They will see the steps and the layers. They will clearly see the whole process. An exhibit of 12 Cugusi paintings is on view through March 18. Cugusi is living and working in the artist’s pavilion through Feb. 18. Three days a week, visitors can meet him and see him create a large oil painting for Lux.

The artist refers to himself as a forager of ideas and feelings, which he collects in notes, photos and sketches of memories, events and people.

“My art results from all my experiences everywhere I go,” Cugusi said. “I am in constant search for inspiration. I collect impressions of my everyday life and absorb what is around me.” Those thoughts and memories will find a way into his work, sometimes years later. Siro Cugusi is from Sardinia, an island off Italy. He has studied and exhibited in cities such as Florence and Paris. He values what he learned in these places, “but I realized how different and frenetic a big city is,” he said.

“Sardinia is calm and relaxed. I can connect with nature. It provides an isolation so that I can do the art I want to do without contaminating influences.”

Shaw noticed Cugusi’s work during her many art exploration travels. He seemed a perfect choice to be part of the 10th anniversary of the artist-in-residence program’s global theme.

“We particularly look for artists from unusual places using unexpected materials with unique visions,” she said. “Siro is a painter of unusual imagination and scale.

“I was intrigued and excited to bring him from a town of 3,000 in Sardinia to do a project with Lux.”

“I am grateful to have the chance to be here, in San Diego,” Cugusi said. “All my experiences here will become a part of me.”

His time at Lux has already given him a fresh outlook. He said he is using colors he hasn’t used in years.

The artist described his personal process of painting in terms of being a father creating a son.

“My paintings are my sons,” Cugusi said. “To create something means to give form to something that does not have a form. To give form is to give life.”

By Catherine Gaugh

The San Diego Union Tribune

Arts Culture

February 5, 2017

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