Remember doodling in school? Drawing fantasy worlds that picked out the best bits of the television shows, comics and films that we've been looking at. Ugo Gattoni does that, but much better, articulating a vision of the world as only he could.
His intricate and labyrinthine worlds illicit thoughts of surrealists like Dali, purveyors of illusion like Escher and the artwork of fantasy evident in Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings and even Ghost in the Shell. It's a complex concept - the city - to explore and understand, but with the childlike awe and a dose of humour, we are invited unequivocally into Gattoni's with full permission to explore.
Like a Where's Wally? image, there's plenty to see and plenty to look for, although unlike that cartoon, we don't have an objective, instead our eyes can leisurely meander through the architectural and fantastical layouts on offer. When we do find something, we can just as easily lose it as the walls and pathways seem to shape-shift and merge into each other.
Working at an impressive scale, the drawings are doused in mythology and seem to contain folkloric characters whose presence tell their own story and under Gattoni's hand, see it woven into the world they live in, creating a very contemporary fairytale that seems as if it's still very much set in a past-parallel timeline.
The creative process itself is deeply immersive too. Watching Gattoni work is to see someone deeply attached to the world they're creating, a riddle that is attempting to solve itself. As he marks down the Gods and fallen angels that populate these ancient-themed civilisations, each line comes with multiple meanings. This is the surrealist aspect of his work coming through, where the outlines of a body emerging from water could just as easily be a mountain. Even if it's a human form, that human could be a statue.
Movement is something that exists in Gattoni's work, but the images don't carry an impending kinetic atmosphere, more like anything that once moved is now holding themselves still for long enough to be captured in an image. Parisian born and bred, elements of his home naturally make their way into his work. The dreamlike streets of France's capital invite the same free-spirited approach to life that Gattoni's art does. Paris too, rarely has a street or road without a thousand stories attached.
Perspective is a key facet to the power of his worlds. The artist notes that, "When you’re quite far away, you see a cityscape for example, with a beginning and an end. But when you’re close to it, you can’t see the frame anymore. You are surrounded by the drawing, and thanks to all the details, your eyes can wander freely, going in a different direction every time."
It's true, there's a multitude of levels that become more or less apparent depending on where you're standing, but also, on what you have experienced. Such is the detail, it's natural that certain things stand out more to certain people, depending on what they have personally experienced.
Collaborating with interesting clients, it's in the animations that his work really comes to life. Seeing him work on a film or short, a comic or a storybook, would be an interesting move and something that would allow his worlds to become even more malleable and free for exploration. One thing is for certain, even confined to a page, there's a lifetime of stories - some told by him and the rest by you - to be explored, added to and understood. It's an ephemeral world within worlds.
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