Artist interview between Shannon Skye Robinson (Curating Futures Project Coordinator), and Lea Della-Cerra (Curating Futures Artist).
Date of Interview: 17th of July 2021
Participants: Shannon Skye Robinson (SSR) and Lea Della-Cerra (LDC)
SSR: What is your background?
LDC: My name is Lea, and I’m a visual artist born and raised half Italian in Manchester, UK, I had no arty influence in my family growing up, so my artistic nature seems completely spontaneous.
I completed my first formal art training this year with my Diploma in Fine Arts. Most people know my work online by the name of Gamma, short for GammaTheReaper which was an alias/nickname from when I had a YouTube gaming channel!
SSR: How did you get into art/ creativity?
LDC: Loaded Question. I discovered my creative self when I was seven years old, I had a life-threatening brain haemorrhage and consequential surgery, leaving me a young child with a series of overwhelming emotions, visions, and concepts recently witnessed, and I needed a way to express them, even to myself, because my mind would constantly provide me with data I couldn’t articulate. At the time I had done no art history, so it was complete naïve drawing and painting.
SSR: What do you get out of producing work?
LDC: Relief and organization. That sounds weird. But the world is chaotic, and I know my art is influenced by both external and internal (emotional) sources, yet I allow myself to be influenced unconsciously. There is a therapeutic practice known as The Write and Burn Ritual which requires one to write down their negative thoughts and burn them; as energy is never lost, only transferred, the idea is the negative energy is transferred to the energy of the fire ridding your body of those emotions. So, for me, art is not only a way to show others the positive aspects of what I feel, and my perception of the world, but also to rid myself of the negative and show the world how to conquer it.
SSR: How do you want your work to be perceived by an audience?
LDC: There is a Henry Ward Beecher quote that goes: “every artist dips his brush in his own soul and paints his own nature into his pictures” When you view my work, which is a piece of me, you have an intimate perspective, you see with my eyes. I don’t want to tell anyone how to view my work as that ruins the experience, but I do want to say: don’t just look at a piece, feel it, art goes so much deeper than aesthetics and some of the most powerful opus in the world are those that you can’t help but build a connection with, this practice is a lot easier with music, I would like to show people how you feel a painting like you feel a song.
SSR: Who are your biggest inspirations?
LDC: I am old fashioned. I’m not a strict realist but I have high regard for Da Vinci, Michelangelo, and Raphael, yet I doubt I can learn much from them; as of record there are only three paintings in the entire world composed completely of Da Vinci’s original brushstrokes, the rest have been repeatedly restored, and historians admit there might not be any of his original brushstrokes left in The Last Supper!
So, we need to go more modern, but not too modern.
My favourite artist of all time is Vincent Van Gogh, and I encourage anyone who wants to know more about me to view his whole story as the well-known madman cliché is mostly false, I’ve never actually seen a Van Gogh in person, but I know pretty much all academic knowledge off by heart.
My other favourite artists are Salvador Dali, Rene Magritte, Edgar Degas and John William Godward.
These are my inspirations. The great artists of old.
SSR: What are the main concepts or themes you explore within your work?
LDC: Emotion and Identity are my main concepts. Fiery anger, passion, determination etc. Especially the emotions people don’t talk about. Who we are as people, all individuals, and that’s the only thing we all have in common – “Always remember that you are absolutely unique, just like everybody else” ( Margret Mead) I also like to explore the concept of Eternity because it seems impossible and inevitable at the same time.
My work intends to inspire, conceptualise, invoke emotion, and reach out by the way of relating to an individual, which I consider the greatest honour of an artist. Creating art to calm irritated minds, soothe broken souls, bring a sense of peace and clarity, also of fire and determination, of hope and prosperity, of love and life, of anguish and recovery, of fights and freedom, converting those emotions to the physical is the passionate and endless journey of my art.
SSR: What is the main thing you have learnt through your creative practice?
LDC: Don’t force it. Some days you’ll complete thirty sketches and jot down a load of good ideas, sometimes you won’t want to do anything for two weeks. Also, an artist is something you are not something you do, you don’t get to turn it off. Having a party with family? Potential art idea. Running on the treadmill? Potential painting planner. Going for a walk in the park? Taking reference photos. It’s a job you love where you’re always on duty. Even if you’re a student, I don’t think art is something you “choose” to do – an artist is something you are, you know, people train to “become a lawyer” or “become a doctor”, but you don’t become an artist, you already are one, you learn to become recognised, that’s about it.
SSR: Who is your work for? Yourself? A small community? A specific sector of society? Or is it for everyone?
LDC: Not to sound dramatic or anything, but I work for the future. As I said, I highly admire van Gogh, and he was born nearly two hundred years ago and can make an impact on my life today. I long to see the Sistine chapel which was painted in the 1500’s! I hope one day I can make that impression on at least one individual, particularly one who is struggling; from experience, I know the mental struggle, the battle that nobody knows you’re fighting, is the hardest of all, so if even long after I’ve ceased to exist physically I can have that impact on somebody, I’d be honoured, and, believe it or not, I’m perfectly satisfied to just believe, knowing that I’ll never see that day. Fundamentally though, my works are like letters you write to your future self, they are my own and not directed at another person or group, so if I’m honest, I probably work for myself.
SSR: What is the best piece of advice you could give to another artist, or someone just starting out in the creative sector?
LDC: Right. Here it is. When I started out, I was so concerned about the ‘market’ that I separated my art into “works for myself” and “works for the public”, my main problem at the time being the former was rather macabre, which, I later learnt, is fine; there’s an audience for that too. Whatever you are, don’t do what I did. You’re separating your artistic self in half and that’s a bad idea.
Overall advice? Get into art history, it’s really interesting and you won’t believe how inspired you can be by just reading about art, not even seeing it – and you’ll probably find some artist along the way who thought just like you. Once you get the timeline it feels like you’re a part of the greatest and most unique never-ending reality TV show in history. Work for yourself first, then expand to others when you’re confident. Don’t worry about an art style, it will develop itself, and it may take years. Most importantly: Don’t settle for less than you’re worth.
SSR: Why did you decide to join the Curating Futures community?
LDC: I needed a community. To be honest, I was charmed when reading about the Salon De Refuses, and how Pissarro, Monet, Courbet and others met up, headed by Manet, the most experienced of them all, in an artsy café in Paris, to found the impressionists. Similarly with Picasso’s artist group in Montmartre, pooled their ideas which spurred on each artist to greater levels than before. Picasso also lived in a digital revolution, a dangerous one at that for artists: The photograph. In a new digital age, these interactions can take place virtually as long as the artists are authentic and genuine. This is why I joined.