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The Covid-19 Pandemic and the Creative Urge: Now We Need Art More Than Ever

Interview with artist and engineer Cesare Catania who unites science with art, and shuns commercial reproductions

by Pamela Goldman

Cesare Catania

When I realized that the artistic passion could turn into a job, well, it came as a "shock" to my life…Just as an engineer breaks down and analyzes the problem before reassembling a process aimed at giving a solution, so in the same way the artist produces an artistic work after having "broken down his feelings" and after having analyzed them and filtered them, slowed down in time, focused transported by them.

“Jazz Trio”

Cesare Catania, painter, sculptor and civil engineer, born in Milan in 1979, combines his artistic vision with his talent as an engineer, believing firmly that science and art are inseparable. His sculptures especially depict this combination, where Catania harnesses the power of nature’s resources and creates elegant works reliant on this scientific and artistic synthesis. In this brief interview Catania discusses the art world of today and the sources of his inspiration as well as his processes. He also speaks of his passion for New York and the pandemic of 2020, not just how it has affected the art world but humanity in general.

Cesare Catania has received numerous accolades during the span of his career: for example, the XXIII International Cultural Exchange of Art (2016 – Rome – Maffei Marescotti Palace). He has also been selected to represent the Art section during “The International Week of the Italian Language”, an event supported by the patronage of the President of the Republic, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Embassies of the Swiss Confederation and the Italian Consulate.

On January 25th 2021 due to the pandemic, Cesare Catania will be speaking virtually, via Zoom at the AOTA, “Artists Talk on Art”,  which is a NYC artist forum organization founded in 1975.

As an artist, what is your philosophy of creation?

“I have been creating for at least 25 years, through adolescence, college and now as an adult. I am a self-taught artist so my primary belief is that the ability to create is something we are born with. I would say that the playfulness of using materials is sourced from my inner-child’s mind and heart. The pleasure principle is very strong in me; therefore, I first create to enjoy my sensory expression, which knows no boundaries and is not self-conscious. People are drawn to works of art that demonstrate this free-spirited quality. My fans are attracted to my work because it addresses their need to feel free in their thinking and perhaps in the way they live their lives.”

Self Portrait. Painting inspired by Michelangelo and Newton.

How has your desire to create been affected by this year’s pandemic and how has it affected your business?

“My urge to create is even stronger than ever. When I am alone, in the perfect silence of my studio and materials to work with, I have no protective gear on and I rise above the time I am living in, transcendent of the current reality and the world that surrounds me. Actually, I think my urge to create is even more powerful now and has taken off in such a way as a type of rebellion against all the government restrictions in place right now. So, when I am in the safety of my privacy, I release all the pent-up stress from contemporary events and thrust the blockage out of my system.

In terms of business, my regular clients need art more now than ever. Buying art in this specific moment is a safety raft for the soul, eyes and hearts of the people as the art seems to keep the love and hope in their existence alive while bringing positive energy into their homes.”

How has the pandemic changed your outlook on life?

“I wish for contemporary art to become exciting again not only for what it represents on the canvas but also for what it means ‘behind the canvas.’ The main thing is that we are all in this together. My dream is that it comes naturally to all to help each other rebuild society and that we succeed through a smooth cooperative nature we find within ourselves”.

Heart of the Earth sculpture

How do the engineer and the artist coexist within you?

“I began to approach art already when I was a child. The passion for art grew over the years; as well as the passion for engineering. The predisposition to produce artistic works instead is innate. And when I realized that the artistic passion could turn into a job, well, it came as a “shock” to my life. Over the years, I have understood that engineering training has certainly favored me. Just as an engineer breaks down and analyzes the problem before reassembling a process aimed at giving a solution, so in the same way the artist (at least this is what happens to me) produces an artistic work after having “broken down his feelings” and after having analyzed them and filtered them, slowed down in time, focused transported by them. In this sense, therefore, the artist in me was certainly favored by an innate sensitivity but was at the same time educated by his own academic path, a path that certainly taught a young man who wanted to ‘play with colors’ such as are the rules to best express your individuality.”

What link is there between you as the artist and the city in which you live?

“The actual artistic production was born for me more as a form of introspection, therefore disconnected from the city or cities where I spent my time most often. Instead, it was more connected to my feelings, and in this sense, it can be said that the world around me was able to condition my first artistic expressions. Over the years I have learned to channel my attentions and my inspirations also towards the world around me. At this point, therefore, an indissoluble link was created between my artistic inspiration and the place where it developed.

What is the most rewarding aspect for you about being an artist?

“Definitely the feeling of freedom. And this not only in reference to one’s state of mind but also in reference to one’s professional activity. There is nothing more beautiful for an artist than thinking that one’s emotions can be transformed into work. It is not just a question of money. It is the possibility of being able to produce artistic creations in a liberated manner, free from constraints.”

The Mouth of Etna, sculpture

What is the greatest difficulty that you have encountered as an artist?

“Let’s say that the main difficulties are related to the fact that modern society does not facilitate pure artistic expression, but favors the standardization of processes and the normalization of professional figures. Practically speaking, this means that the gallery owner selects the works to display not only on the merits of the artist’s body of work, but on its ability to reproduce it, in particular for sculpture. In recent years, ‘design pieces’ have been proposed on the market as ‘works of art’, projects that favored easy reproduction by algorithm and which, moreover, were very easy to replicate at an industrial level. All this was calculated to reach the right profit margin to all the links in the artistic chain. Fortunately, customers who previously said ‘… I’m not very expert in contemporary art …’ now instead go to museums and follow the world of art not only for what is presented to them but also with a critical spirit. And in this the COVID and online exhibitions have certainly helped, in the sense that they have led people to approach contemporary art with a critical spirit.”

What has been your impression of the art scene in NYC?

“It goes without saying that an art lover cannot help but get excited in New York. A city that after the 1920s was able to show and teach the rest of the world what is now recognized as contemporary art. It’s a city of emotions 24/7, of oxymorons, of contradictions, the city where everything is ‘normal’, where during the day everyone has their own life, while in the evening almost magically, different cultures meet to create the same kind of cultural exchange that artists usually seek when they aim for an energy exchange and artistic mixing.”


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