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Interview with conceptual artist Carmelo Buffoli - Restraint and reduction

1 July - 2020
by Alice Broeksma


For Carmelo Buffoli, Swiss-Italian conceptual artist, grasping the essence of existence is his core subject. It is a constant search, using various techniques -images, illustrations, installations, video- to express his discoveries. Meticulous diary keeping is an important part of this process. Buffoli’s acclaimed work is sold in his native Switzerland, in the USA, Canada, Italy and Germany.

From a young age Carmelo Buffoli wanted to be a photograher or a graphic designer. ‘I went to art school, but it was too linear for me and too dogmatic. So I left, because I realised art cannot be learned. I acquired my skills over time.’ After living in Paris when he was in his twenties, Carmelo Buffoli founded his own advertising company in Zürich (Switzerland). Ten years ago he decided to dedicate a much larger part of his time to art, an old wish. ‘Art,’ he says, ‘has always been my constant companion.’


- Where did art start for you?

My parents worked in Switzerland when I was born. It was an ordinary working background and art was not part of my parents’ lives. My first ten years, however, I grew up with family in Italy. An uncle was interested in art and introduced me very early to the old masters, contemporary art, Hieronymus Bosch, Caravaggio, Pollock, Arte Povera and more. I must have been 5 or 6 years old and remember how I felt looking at Bosch: fascinated but also very scared. Only later I realised my uncle had introduced me to artists who were different in their time and created their own worlds.


- How do you work?

I have always sketched and drawn wherever possible, on trains, on planes, during meetings.. Also, for thirty years I have been writing diaries: every single day, to record details on my private life but also on what I see around me. The diaries help me a lot, they are like a script, a story-board and practically my memory stick! The diaries consist of notes, drawings, video fragments, photography. By doing this, I discover connections. The diary can trigger an idea, or something can fall into place.

For instance: I saw the unrest of the masses on their way to work, witnessed by the surrounding buildings, and noted this in my diary. Later, in my studio, objects on the table cast shadows on the wall. Helped by my previous diary entry, I saw the link. The result is ‘Conceptual Project CityNoCity’.

‘Reduction’ is my focus. At first glance my work is graphic and minimalist, at second glance the object is separated from its environment and reduced to the essential and elementary. Feeling and spontaneity are a part, but I restrain this in the later process. It is a complex process but my approach is simple: all my work is a simplified version of a given. This requires a wealth of thinking material, which needs to be released to get to the very core hidden under many layers.


- The colours you choose are often subdued, with some exceptions.

There is a simple and practical reason. I am spontaneous and use the material I carry with me, often just charcoal and pastels. As my mind never stops it is good for me not to have too many options, otherwise I lose myself. It is true I do like black, not an easy colour. But the heart in ‘100 beats per minute’ (geometrical art/illustration 0120), at first sight a technical drawing, is red! A big and robust heart, on second sight fragile, leaning on thin sticks that can snap any minute. With it I wanted to say: stop from time to time, to take care of how you live. A heart can fall in love, or get addicted. A heart can break.

OIL CHALK SERIES - Geometrical 8/20
OIL CHALK SERIES - Geometrical 8/20

- For OnlineGallery you have selected very compact work. Is this your preferred format?

No, my largest picture measures 2.8 x 1.5 meter. The work shown here reflects how I create. Wherever I go, I always carry A3 and A4 sized paper with me. The lines in this format often have another function: small pictures can be combined to form a large one. The small format makes it possible to work in a restricted space and yet accomplish large-size works. ‘Composed pictures’ became a concept - the buyer can acquire a part or the entire composition. It is ‘connected’ work. For me however, not only the end product, but the whole process is important: the coming into existence, the idea of the meaning and the development. That is what conceptual art means. With the surrounding world as my source and inspiration, and also nourished by the masters in art who have the ability to create higher level worlds and emotions.



For more available work please visit the page of Carmelo Buffoli.