The image of a skull is timeless, a permanent reminder of our own impermanence, and has been covered in art since times began. In the early Renaissance a skull would be kept on the desk as an ornament along with the phrase “Memento Mori” (“Remember you will die.”) and the same obsession has remained until today when we are casting them from platinum and encrusting them with over eight thousand diamonds. One artist, however, has taken it upon himself to undertake a three year long quest to explore our fascination with the humble cranium, everything it is, does and makes us feel.
Steve Locatelli is happy to admit his passion for skulls “has become a bit of an addiction” which is undeniable as this is the third exhibition in the series, namely SKL13, SKL14 and finally SKL15. Locatelli seems to draw inexhaustible inspiration from what appears at first to be a simple concept. When we asked him why he chose skulls as his three year-long muse his answer was as thorough and lengthy as the history of icon itself.
“I have always tried to create a timeless image, filled with symbolism whilst allowing me to play with colours and graphical forms. The skull is a very strong icon throughout all ages and art movements.” He was, however, very keen to detach it early on from the negative connotations our modern age associates it with. “In ancient times the skull symbol stood for great change rather than death or danger. He is seen as protection, strength, power or can show that someone has taken or overcome a difficult period.”
“I think that my skulls trigger different reactions in every different person. My aim therefore is to take away the uncomfortable feeling people get when seeing them. This worked, the prime example being my mother.” He adds with a small smirk. Every piece in the SKL collection shines through in lurid colours, oozing positive energy from every skeletal curve.
Not only does Locatelli experiment with a variety of colours, shapes and effects when working on his “SKLs”, he also practices across a wide range of mediums. SKL14 focused on this variation in particular; “SKL14 was a year that I worked on paper and I worked with lots of different material as pastel, varnish and acrylic, everything I could find in my studio if I could work with it on paper. Then I also find it a challenge to start working small as I am not used to it, in the past it was always about being impulsive and working with spray-paint on walls.”
If you fancy seeing the three year retrospective of what lurks beneath every one of us, rendered immortally vibrant you can catch the show on its tour of Western Europe, beginning in Antwerp’s Artifex Gallery on the 25th of April until July when it will move to Amsterdam’s Dampkring Gallery. In September it will finally settle in Dortmund, Germany at the 44309. Between each move Locatelli will create fresh pieces and circulate out older works, creating a kinetic experience unique to each location and making the show definitely worth a visit.