| Who’s Jago?
Known by the Italian and international media as “the new Michelangelo”, or “the one who undressed the Pope”, Jago is an Italian sculptor who has been able to give an extra touch to his traditional bases: the connection between classic technique and modern communication has made this man, only 30 years old, climb the heights in his sector.
He has completely changed the conception that we all have of artist and artwork, sharing his making of on social networks and interacting with his followers with an uncommon simplicity and humility. Thanks to his authenticity he was able to become a free entrepreneur, without depending on “pieces of paper”, but only on his talent and his motivation.
I discovered Jago a few years ago. I was looking for a contemporary artist to write a thesis about for a school assignment. Talking to him was a great pleasure and honour for me, and I’m even happier to be able to offer you this quick, but very important, interview. It can be read as a chat between acquaintances; informal and simple. No big words, no lost speeches, but concreteness and simplicity, just like Jago.
An artist who appears so simple actually accomplishes great things: artworks of breathtaking dimensions, hyper-realistic rendering of the skin, of the details. He even sent one of his sculptures into space. No, I’m not kidding, here it is.
His heroic deeds were inspired by the greats of the past, but he put his own, making it better. Moreover, Sgarbi does not consider you worthy of admiration and invites you to the Biennale just by chance.
In the past, the artist showed the public only the finished piece, but you make us participate in the whole process, behind the scenes. What is part of the artwork today?
It depends on what is meant by “artwork”.
For me, the artwork is everything I do from beginning to end, from conception to begetting (a bit like a child), and then to restitution. The whole path, which I directly experience, in my opinion, is an artwork.
This part, which is not usually studied, has been told to us by eyewitnesses and by the artists themselves; we get information that we must take for granted. Real things are those that are part of a person’s daily life, things that accompany and describe him, such as what he eats and who he attends.
Today there is the possibility of being able to communicate using new means, which give you the opportunity to fill those gaps in communication. I can finally show the making of of a work, which has always been left to the collective imagination. When they tell you “Sanmartino made the Veiled Christ in 3 months” and then you see the video, you see 200 workers who had literally copied the sketch made by the artist and “poetry drops a bit”. However, showing the creative part through, for example, a video, has the strength to become an artwork itself.
Those parts that until now were missing, we can finally tell them. And in my opinion they are part of the work.
They also help us understand that there is the human element behind all this, and that we are human; they can encourage a guy to say “oh look, he did it with his hands! Actually I have two hands, I could do it too. “
Could this communication, therefore, also help young future artists to have more confidence in their abilities, being able to see a practical example?
I hope so.
I hope they can say, “Look, Jago did this stuff here, let’s use it as a springboard to make ours better than he did.”
Because this is the evolution in which we must participate: if you know how to do something, it is normal for you to make it available to the community; otherwise, who do I turn to? These are things that I address to an audience, so it is right that it is used as a basis for the things that others will do.
How will the history of art and the art market change, following the innovations that have been coming out in the last 2 years, such as NFTs for example, in your opinion? What impact do you think they will have?
So it is today, so it has always been, so it will be.
Technology has always helped the development of creativity; the technology itself is the result of an individual’s creative process.
What I think is that what is happening is completely natural, and it concerns our evolution as a genre, in terms of language and expression. All this contributes to changing the way we perceive what is considered a work of art; it affects people’s collective taste and values.
Back then you felt the need to buy something to put it in your home, but today you buy the ownership of a certificate relating to something that you do not need to keep at home, or even to see live in a place. You are satisfied with the idea that that virtual certificate has a real value, which can be converted into money, or simply kept. And you watch it on your phone, share it, or just know you have it.
This means that there is a revolution in the way in which the value of things is perceived. It doesn’t upset me at all.
I believe it is a way in which our creativity and our desire to buy can be manifested. I do not exclude that in the future I could be able to do these type of things as an experiment; everything interests me and I do not exclude anything.
I’m not there to say that this is right and this is wrong. Maybe it will become the standard, or the tradition, in 200 years. Rightly so.
Many people struggle to accept change.
The media refer to you as “the new Michelangelo”, but many don’t approve; indeed, they consider it an outrage to the great master. What do you answer to someone who criticise you for this comparison?
That he’s right! It’s clear that he is right, because there is no reason to compare. First of all, Michelangelo has the history of art on his side: he had the time to settle in everyone’s knowledge and to create a global standard of quality that influenced me too.
Also, things are done in different times and they tell about contemporaneity in a different way, so I don’t even ask myself the problem.
I can tell you this is something that has always been done to communicate. We need to understand the reality that surrounds us by creating comparisons. Rather than saying “that is a sculptor what works with marble”, which does not make you understand what I do without other details, we make comparisons; so, the first thing we say is “it’s the new that“.
It’s almost like when we look at the clouds, and we say “look, it looks like a sheep” and thanks to that, you understand which cloud I am indicating; of course it’s not a sheep, but thanks to the comparison you are able to understand.
Therefore, whoever starts saying “no, it’s wrong, he’s not the new Michelangelo!”, is as if he wanted to convince me that that cloud is actually not a sheep. Well, I know, I know it’s not a real sheep, it’s a cloud! But I need the comparison to make you understand what it is.
I can be happy that there is a good-natured association [with Michelangelo], it means that some people recall a feeling that they may have felt looking at his artworks, and this is a beautiful thing.
I feel I have to pay homage and thank the great masters of tradition from Canova, to Bernini, Michelangelo himself, Leonardo, Raffaello, and all those who inspired me.
It is thanks to their gestures that I found in their work a language that I understood, that I felt concerned me, and that I decided to use, like many beautiful words of a dictionary that I took to write my poems.
This is how the world works: even a scientific discovery is made up of many small other discoveries made by other people. We contaminate ourselves.
Do you think the words that come out of your mouth are yours? You have taken them somewhere.
When you say “I love you”, that idea of love that you associate with that word, that feeling, who put it in there? You, but through poets, songs, listening and seeing when your parents used it and at what time.
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What drives you to portray mainly human figures, and not abstract ones? What do they communicate to you?
For me, “abstract” and “figurative” are two words that should be eliminated from the vocabulary of art. Everything is figuration. When you transform an image or a shape from your head into a physical form, you are making a figurative gesture.
When someone makes a sign, they throw the color on the ground and say “I made an abstract work” .. No! It doesn’t exist more figurative thing than that. It was abstract when it wasn’t there.
You make that gesture, then let the work you did be my springboard for abstraction. By my free choice, I decide that I need that work to abstract. It is a paradox to tell me that that thing is abstract.
It is like telling me that the word God is God. Once you have closed it in the word, who is God? God is perhaps more than a word. As they say: “the river is the glass of water I take to show it to you”. But once you have closed it in the concept, in the glass, the river stops flowing.
I choose to use the human figure, not because I am interested in the “figurative”, but because it is a language that I understand. Because I know that in 200 years a man and a woman understand; even if they no longer know what the title means, if they speak another language, they will see a hand and recognize it.
You left the academy and didn’t finish your studies, so probably the answer to this question will be “no”. Do you think that today it is essential to follow and finish your artistic studies in order to become an artist?
I don’t think it is not necessary to finish the studies.
Not having finished my studies, I like to think that I will be forced to study for my whole life.
The cultural problem of having content, of developing a thought, is not necessarily linked to the piece of paper.
Who gives you that piece of paper? You get it from people who think they have a certain level of knowledge. But who tells you that that level of knowledge is absolute? Absolute even to the point of being able to decide if yours is?
I want to continue studying for my whole life; I did not finish the course of study for reasons that are not related to the course of study itself, but for reasons of an economic nature, of a limited attendance and exasperation with certain situations. It was evidently not my path and I feel I have finished.
Institutionally it is not certified that it has concluded and I do not have the piece of paper that certifies it, but that is a separate thing.
What can I tell to the students/young people instead?
If you are interested in that, continue to do it and commit yourself, thinking that however those things can and must serve you outside. Because if you do it for the piece of paper or for the grades, it won’t help. You will get good at taking notes and will likely use that speed and skill when working at the restaurant, but you may not need it elsewhere.
If you want to get culture, if your problem is cultural, today with a click you can have all the culture of this world. So why do you have to continue studying? Why do you have to finish school? Just give me one reason.
Me, as a person who has not attended the academy, have rightly answered by confirming and arguing that, put like this, his statement made a lot of sense.. Actually, what sense would it have to continue school with so much information available everywhere?
I’ll give it to you, because there is a reason.
If you want to draw on content, culture, going to the library or on the internet, what is that thing that adds value to the experience? It is the human relationship, with people who have gained experience applying those concepts.
A doctor who teaches at the university is clearly different from a book that says the same things, because he will be able to tell you in practice what it means to apply those things; that’s where the difference lies.
The real value of attending university lies in the people who can transfer you in a new way, through the filter of their experience, the application in the real world of those concepts, which would otherwise remain sterile.
The difference, however, will be in how you apply creativity. A good doctor is the one who is more creative than others, he is the one who sees solutions that are not there.
This is the only thing in common with all jobs, creativity. The creative person is the one who makes the difference in every sector. Creativity must be nurtured, this should be done by school with children: nurturing creativity in every possible way.
What does the material mean for you, more precisely marble?
It is of fundamental importance.
As a subject it is very difficult to work with and you have to take into account that it takes a long time. It is something that physically disturbs you, it is like a challenge. You know, like the path of the hero who has to defeat dragons, monsters and attend wars; who has to prove to himself that he really can do it and that he will be remembered.
As a child there was this feeling in me when I looked at the deeds of these artists who were absolute icons, and they managed to be because they did wonderful things by testing their bodies and their intelligence. The mind and the hand connected in a collective effort; this thing has always fascinated me.
Then it is a material that, thanks to these great masters, has earned the nickname of “noble material of tradition“.
Think for a moment: if you go abroad, what are the things you are proud of, on a sculptural level? For us it is just something rooted in our culture.
Do you agree or would you have said something else?
I didn’t expect the interview to reverse; and as a good Italian living abroad, I could only confirm the pride of the artistic culture present in Italy (there is always a little pride!)
It has its own specific value, it is gold for us. Therefore, using it already means embellishing what you do. You have to do it with respect, knowing that it brings with it all this.
I still thank Jago infinitely for sharing his experiences with me, and with you, and for giving us some of his time. Hoping to meet him one day (and to see “La pietà”, which I missed!!), for now I limit myself to dedicating this small space to him: an article written by a person who has always seen a model to follow in him, not only on an artistic level, but of mentality and resourcefulness. Thanks.
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