Tell me, did you have high expectations of the expo? If so, were they fulfilled?
I certainly had high expectations simply because it’s David Hockney. Although I have to admit that I did have some kind of an idea of the expo in advance. I watched some interviews beforehand, so I had already seen some of the paintings, which of course makes it no less impressive to finally see them in real life. My expectations have certainly been fulfilled and I’m pleased to have visited the exhibition. I’m especially glad that I saw the progress in his works. You can tell that all the works are made by David Hockney, although they have changed very much through time. Positively, of course. That's interesting to see.
I see my paintings as if they were my diary
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How would you describe your own work nowadays?
In terms of content, I like to describe my work as autobiographical. I see my paintings as if they were my diary. As for what my work looks like, I immediately think of naive art, like the paintings of Henri Rousseau. I have to admit that sometimes I post paintings on Instagram that I don't really like in the end. I’m critical, which I think is necessary, even though I know that I can’t be too hard on myself. My own criticism pushes me forward. It’s an ongoing process and not only do I value sharing my process, but I also value others being able to follow my process.
Like Hockney, you also work with many colours and always give your paintings a cheerful atmosphere. May I compare your works to his in a certain sense?
I don't know if I can say that myself if you know what I mean [laughs]. In terms of colour, I do understand and can see the connection. As far as technique and experimentation are concerned, I can't match that yet. He has years of experience over my beginner's career, of course.
I work with images, that is my language
Hockney’s autobiography and the landscapes at his home are what I can relate to the most. Last year I worked mainly on memories of Sicily. My work is simultaneously a kind of escapism, so I will never portray things literally as they are. I see my work as a way to 'get away from [something]', but also find myself in it. Now I'm going to work on certain things that I heard when I was with my father, who is Sicilian. I am part Belgian and part Sicilian, I would like to embrace those roots more. At times, I feel limited in my search so I paint as a way of processing. I have to admit that talking about my art isn’t easy because I have to formulate my own words. I work with images, that is my language. My paintings are a form of therapy for me, a place of serenity. I don't want my work to give a kind of dark atmosphere, they have to portray a place of comfort.
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Hockney is constantly looking for new experiments. How do you, as an artist, feel about experimenting? Are you someone who likes to step out of your comfort zone and look for new things?
I must say that I enjoy seeing other people experiment, although I prefer to focus on one thing. If I go out of my comfort zone and make pencil drawings or etchings for example, then I soon will have the feeling that this doesn’t represent me. I stick to my paintings, to my typical shapes and colours, although I’m aware that experimenting can be very good for an artist. I keep looking for new things, just within my own style and my way of working.
Speaking of new things: during the first lockdown in 2020, Hockney made a lot of iPad paintings. What is your opinion on making art through a digital medium?
I have to admit, that's not my cup of tea at all. Don't get me wrong, when I entered the room with his iPad paintings, I did have a pleasant feeling. His use of colours is very nicely chosen. It's only the digital aspect that doesn't appeal to me. Maybe I need to open up to it and put that certain image I have about it behind me. When I paint with my paintbrushes, I feel more connected to the art than if I were to draw on a tablet. I do think it might be a good thing to see work by an artist that is not exactly to your taste.
I do think it might be a good thing to see work by an artist that is not exactly to your taste
You are 20 years old now. Can you see yourself still painting after 64 years?
I would say 'yes', although you can never be entirely sure. I am very focused on one thing at a time and for now, that’s painting. If I know that I can get somewhere with that, then I’ll keep focusing on it, knowing that it will continue improving. I really hope that I can live from my paintings in the future. So when I'm 84, you can come to my exhibition in the Bozar. [laughs].
I want to be happy with my art, that's my wish
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Do you have any plans for the future? Do you like to look far ahead or do you prefer to go from day to day?
In my mind, I'm going to be successful later as well, that's what I'm focusing on. I want to be happy with my art, that's my wish. The goal is to learn a lot more and to fully find my visual language. I certainly look far ahead in that regard. It's a funny question because I am a planner. On Sundays, I always make a schedule for the whole week so I can stay on a certain plan. So it's not necessarily from day to day with me, rather, it is week to week and then forward. In my head, everything is very chaotic, so when I see it on paper, it brings me peace.
David Hockney, the exhibition
Until 23 January 2022 - Bozar, Brussels