Although Italian artist Stefano Ronchi prefers seclusion, we crack open the shell and discuss the details behind his surrealistic work. With a magnifying glass and his appreciation for the masters, he twists childhood memories into densely populated micro-environments. He graduated with formal training in the arts and now spends his "free time" researching methods to introduce the realism of Rembrandt or Caravaggio into the surrealism of his own work. He recently brought his toolkit to London and now that he's settled, we talk about everything from weird commission requests to a truly wide array of inspirations - from Salvador Dali to Grand Theft Auto.
When did you start exploring highly detailed work?
I started when I studied visual arts at the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera - in Milan, Italy. My degree was in engraving and etching and sometimes we would use a lens - a magnifying glass. Using a lens was the consequence of my love for details.
There's some history behind your magnifying glass.
Yes. One day, a friend said "Wow, your work is like a young Agostino Arrivabene. Agostino is one of the best painters in Italy and my friend knows him. So he said, "Get to know him." I went to Agostino house and spoke with him. He said, "Try this," and he gave me his lens. Now, I write to him and he gives me a lot tips and tricks. It's possible to create this kind of relationship with contemporary masters.
I'e been using acrylic paint for three or four years now. But before I used pencil - only pencil. I was studying my drawing potential. Leonardo DaVinci tells us that it is important to first be a great drawer. With that skill, you learn easier ways to be a painter.
Any thoughts on digital mediums?
I can't deny modern or contemporary mediums. I love digital art and I like using Photoshop and Illustrator, but I think you lose something. You gain something, but you lose something. I love real paint because there's a relationship between material and the painter. You can simulate water color, acrylics or drawing, but it's not the same.
You've mentioned Dali and Bosch as major influences. What have you learned about their personalities that the average person wouldn't pick up on?
Basically, they had the ability to look at reality and catch the small things that people often did not see. The expressions. The essential details. They modified reality based on their own set of elaborate rules and loved placing the small and normal things into those realities. Sometimes the normal things inside their modified realities conflicted with each other.
What sort of modern day influences do you surround yourself with?
I always have something in background. A lot of music. Korn is one of my favorites. If not music, documentaries. Any kind at any hour of the day or night. Also, I love video games - like Skyrim. You can to the mountains, to a city and maybe go out to a lake. You can go everywhere. Same with GTA - it's an open world.
With such detail, there's so much for a viewer to experience. Is this for others to explore or for you to work something out?
Maybe it's something like masturbation. When I draw, I feel good. But I do also want people to explore my work.
What's the weirdest request on a commission piece?
This one guy wants a portrait of wife as the wife of Dracula - after she murdered him. The death of Dracula being funny, but it was his wife who was the murderer. This guy also always wants a Pacman somewhere. In this piece too.
Another one - a woman wanted me to add a lot of things into her painting - pyramids, a balloon, mountains and more but she said "I don't want any gnomes. No gnomes." So I wrote down "no gnomi" in the piece. And I titled the piece No Gnomi.
Words to live by?
Impara l'arte e mettila da parte. It means to always be learning something because sooner or later that skill will be useful to you. The same applies to art. [direct translation: Learn an art and lay it aside.]
Thank you to our amazing translator, Helenora.
All images courtesy of artist.
Discover more Stefano Ronchi