giovanna biallo stone
painter & sculptor / cape Town (South Africa)
1. Can you tell me a little bit about what you do?
I am an artist. I am married to an artist (painter Simon Stone) and we both have our studios at home. We have been married since 1978. Every day we have breakfast together and then we make our way to our studios. I try and get to my studio as early as possible every morning to start painting. I also do ceramics, but at the moment I am focusing on painting, trying to put together new work for an exhibition.
2. Why do you make art?
What are your main sources of motivation?
I make art because I love it and it’s all I love doing. I am very happy when I paint, create ceramic sculptures or something. I have been doing art since I was 12 or 13 and I just cannot think of doing anything else. And that is what I do all day.
3. What's the first thing that comes to mind when you think of your early days as an artist?
Art was not part of my curriculum at school. I didn’t like school, it was very boring. I lived in a mining town near Johannesburg, Randfontein. One of my friends was this very clever girl from Scotland. She once gave me this article she found in a magazine about a school in Johannesburg where they taught art. Featured in the article there was a picture taken at the school of some students standing around a sculpture table with a sculpture on it. I had never seen anything like it! The article said I could apply and finish matric there. I got so excited!
4. What was the first opportunity you were offered in the arts?
I think the very first opportunity I had was actually seeing that picture my friend showed me of the students around a sculpture table. That was my entry into the art world. Then I went to that art school and after that to the Michaelis School of Art at UCT (University of Cape Town). There it was just wonderful because I could meet people that were like me, interested in the same things. And there I met Simon who I then married. I remember being told on my first day at University “we know that people come to university to find a partner and marry”. I thought, my goodness that is so disgusting!! I would never do that! (we both laugh…)
I felt accepted into the art world when I had my first exhibition a few years after I got married, while pregnant with my daughter. I invited the art dealer from a mainstream gallery in Cape Town to come and look at my work. I had everything ready, all my paintings up on the walls. The exhibition was lovely and very exciting. I felt I had been accepted into the art world because, you know, we paint and we work in our studios, but then it's important to be out there, so that a larger amount of people can see the work. Otherwise I feel like we are working for nothing. I work so that people can enjoy my art and this gives me of a sense of purpose and of being wanted. I love this feeling.
5. How do the risks you take influence your work today?
I love taking risks when it comes to experimenting with something new. I think it’s very important for me to challenge myself trying out new approaches and techniques because from those risks amazing things can come out...when you are fearless and you just dive into them. I think I am fearless, nothing can stop me when I make art.
6. What puts you at ease when experimenting with something unfamiliar or trying out a new approach?
When I am painting I never think of what people might think, what the the outcome would be, or whether it will sell . Luckily I don’t have those fears or thoughts. If it comes to me, I chase it out, because I know it will disturb my work. I try to free myself immediately because there is no space for such thoughts in that secret little space that forms between myself and my creativity while I paint. I am free there and no one apart from me has any say. The freedom that comes with the relationship that artists have with their work - this is what i love about making art.
7.When overcoming challenges, what is the role of your community of peers and mentors?
First of all, starting off at home, I feel lucky to be married to Simon who is also an artist because we can understand the relationship we have with our work. I lot of people ask me if there is any jealousy or competition between us. There is none of that, we love each other's work. I have been so inspired by Simon throughout my life. His dedication to his work, in particular to his sketchbooks, gives me a lot of encouragement.
I also love going to other artists' studios although we don't often do that. I have a handful of friends that are also artists. Going to their studios gives me a lot of faith that and I am not alone in what I am doing. It would be terrible to think that I'm the only one doing this crazy thing like making art all day.
8.Are you easily able to consider your work outside of the labels of ‘failure’ or ‘success’? If so, are there tools and techniques you use in thinking beyond these labels?
Again, I think you have to chase those thoughts out. And yes I would rather be successful than to feel like I am failing and have destructive thoughts crossing my mind. Art is actually a way of life and a way of thought. I have to stay on a narrow path in life to be able to do art without it being destructive to me. I think it is art that actually takes me to a safe, wonderful place where I can be positive and go ahead.
I would like to inject some of that into my paintings and sculptures so that people will subliminally see it and feel some kind of joy that can calm their spirit. That's why I love doing these squares, balanced forms and colours that work well with each other. I love when people look at my work and gasp when they can see some of this joy, peace and balance. It’s like a hidden language that we put out there as artists, sometimes without even knowing what we are doing ourselves. But then people, who might also have nothing to do with the art world, see it and understand something that we’ve done - and you can communicate with them through your art. Very often we do not understand what we have put in our work and where it comes from except from the gut feeling that the artwork feels right - that it’s done and you can leave it alone.
9. This gut feeling you are talking about, do you think is something you developed in time or did you always have the ability to feel when an artwork was done?
I think it's always been with me. Even now that I am older there are still things that have been with me from when I was a very young child. It’s that thing, like a spirit, that makes me feel alive while I paint. It is something I felt since I started with my very first painting and still happens to me now. I think it never goes away.
It’s not as if having grown old and having produced lots of work has made me more experienced as an artist. What I am just trying to do is to always get back to the place where I feel like working and working and working, and to keep this spirit alive and moving. There is no age or time, just a gut feeling that something works. It's just a timeless thing.
10. If you could go back in time and give yourself a good piece of advice what would it be, and is that the same advice you give yourself today?
I just want to be fearless in my creativity, and get to the core of things. That’s where I want to be most of the day, trying to work on paintings that are unselfconscious marks. The more unselfconscious I am, the better the work is. Sometimes while I paint in my studio I put music on or a movie in the background, so I don’t think of reality like having to pay for electricity or what I will cook for dinner. I am taken away from reality, so it becomes easier to get to that secret place of my creativity.
11.What are you working on at the moment, and is there anything particular that excites you?
I am working on large canvases which is a fantastic new thing to be working on. I like how colour has a physical effect on a person standing next to the painting.