Italian artist Carlo Proietto is from the town of Foggia, Italy. According to the legend, the city was named after the Greek word “fotia,” which means fire, after 11th-century settlers discovered a panel portraying the Madonna, on which three flames had burned. Here in the 21st century, Proietto is reviving the historical interest in the application of fire to the arts. Proietto is a forerunner in elevating the technique of pyrography, which is the art of decorating wood or leather with heated tools or flame, into a fine art form.

Growing up in an artistic family, he was raised to believe that creative inspiration can come from anywhere, and artistic expression can be beautiful in the simplest of forms. Proietto has studied the arts his entire life, attending an art school in his primary school days and the University at the Academy of Fine Arts in Italy. He studied printing and etching, which equipped him with the skills he needed to deepen his understanding and practice of pyrography.  

Carlo in his studio

His process consists of painting with a burning utensil, known as Pyrography. Few artists today are practicing pyrography, which is a method that rose to popularity in the early 20th century in Art Nouveau woodworks. Proietto appropriates the style to the contemporary landscape by mixing the traditional medium with pop culture imagery. His intention is to elevate what has typically been a minor art form by proving that it can hold his own within and major art genre. He says, “I want to convey to all my viewers that art can come from simplicity.”  

Proietto’s box-like montages (a layout that mimics the modern graphic novel) are mostly monochromatic, though at times offset by solitary splashes of color. They are defined by careful use of line and form within sharply composed scenes. Lines are clean against unadulterated tableaux, lending a sense of drama to the overall effect. Strong energy underlies the two-dimensional look of this stylistic approach, fleshing each figural composition out in a burst of passionate expressionism.

Within his pyrographic art, Proietto is able to create an entirely new “mythology,” one that is reflective of the human experience from his perspective. In today’s highly urbanized, industrial context, his work seeks to address a human struggle against the mechanisms of urban life. To visually represent this analogy, he shows an imposed order, represented by straight lines and geometric forms, paired with chaotic and tense moments represented by his subjects.  

When he is not creating his artworks, Proietto is dedicating to spreading his methodology. He has written two books on pyrography, which are available through his website. The books share the basics of the historic technique and his own derivatives of the method. Proietto is making an important mark on the art world through his work in reviving and modernizing this historically important and interesting artistic medium.  

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Proietto’s work will be in on view at Agora Gallery in his second New York Solo exhibition, Reverie of Fire, September 1 – 22, 2020, with an opening reception on Thursday, September 10, 6-8 PM

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