Paolo Troilo Elevates the Art of Finger Painting

Paolo Troilo Elevates the Art of Finger Painting


Stand in front of one of Italian artist Paolo Troilo's paintings, and you'll marvel over what appears an impossible process. With an effect that looks akin to charcoal or pastel, Troilo's technique of splattering and spreading paint on a canvas with only his fingers is, in a sense, a natural extension of self. He is the painting.

Troilo's work made its American debut in San Francisco at Coup D'Etat this week after Gap vet Stephen Brady discovered his work on a trip to Rome. The striking Italian artist has shown all over Europe and was selected to participate in the 2012 Venice Biennale, no doubt further launching his work into the national spotlight. He's famous for his brushless technique and figurative style. Don't miss this exhibit at one of the most beautiful design showrooms in the city. But first, a few questions for the artist.

You are a self-taught artist. How and when did you teach yourself to draw and paint?
When I was 4 years old, my mother put me in front of an 8x8-foot canvas of white paper and a small reproduction of a painting by Giotto da Bondone. Then she told me, "try to copy the painting and enlarge it.” From that day on, at least one time a day, every day, I draw something. It's easy to become a good drawer; to be able to communicate is a gift.

What artists do you look to for inspiration?
Michelangelo, Picasso, Sironi, Guttuso, Bakon.

How did you start painting with your fingers instead of brushes?
I started painting in September of 2003. In that period, I was busy with love, work, and life in general, and everyone in my life needed answers from me. So, I went to rent a small apartment, and I decided to translate my drawings and concepts into a painting. I went out to buy everything to start painting, and when I got back home, I realized that the brushes were missing, so I started to paint with my fingers.

Was this a conscious effort to make more figurative work? 
Painting with my fingers was a revelation and a liberation. My figurative work comes from the reign of figurative painting in Italy. And I definitely belong to this dynasty...

Why do you paint only in black and white?
I try to fix my works in your brain like the light does. Look at a lamp with the light on. When you close your eyes, that light is still there—a brain tattoo made of light and shadow.

What was your reaction when you were selected to participate in 2012 Venice Biennale?
I immediately called my mother, as the true Italian boy that I am. Then my thoughts went to my father, but the mobile phone doesn't work in "heaven."


What impact has the Venice Biennale had on your career as an artist? What doors did it open for you?
Participating in the Venice Biennale has brought me a lot of happiness from the collectors, happiness from my gallerists, and for their bookkeepers. Overall, it has resulted in all of the doors not just opened but unlocked.

How would you relate your work and your technique to other contemporary artists today?
I like to go see shows and museums, however we live in a very pop era, so it is difficult to find something without a "Che Guevara/Obama/Mickey Mouse/Jesus/Coca Cola/ Mc Donald" stamp on it, and I don’t like icons. If Warhol was still here with us, he would say, "Guys, don't you realize yet that I was joking?!?"

How did Stephen Brady come across your work? What did it take for him to convince you to bring your work to the US?
Stephen saw my work in Rome, and from that moment, we built a sincere friendship. I think that the passion for my art drove Stephen to start the San Francisco project. His passionate wish to share my passionate work is the reason why I'm here.

How do people respond to your work?
Light, shadows, flesh, bones, feelings—all are basic requirements for anybody to react to my art. We are all actually made by this stuff.

I read that a documentary about you is being produced during this exhibit, including the days and months after the show. Will this reflect your time in San Francisco?
The documentary that I am filming will show me just going with the flow and recording everything I do.

Will the Bay Area inspire a new series of work?
Like Berlin, Istanbul, Florence, and Paris have done, so easily will San Francisco enter in my mind and in my hands.

The exhibit will run at COUP D’ETAT, 111 Rhode Island St. through May

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