I met Ilo Oxa thanks to my friend Allan Gorman during a visit to his studio at Mana Contemporary where Allan is a resident Artist. Of course when passionate of art meet, they chat and so I invited Ilo to tell me more about his career taking him from Europe to New York, the capital of photorealism. Thanks Ilo!
Tell us about yourself: Where do you live? What is your background?
I was born in Albania, a small and beautiful country in Eastern Europe. I studied painting and graphics at the Art School and the Academy of Fine Arts for eight years. Three years after I had finished my studies, communism ended and I was able to travel and live abroad. I spent two years in Athens, Greece where I learned the art of iconography, and then moved to Bolzano, a beautiful city in northern Italy. In October 2013, I moved to the US and have been living and working in the Bronx, NY.
How did you become a photorealist painter?
As I said above, I received formal training at the Art School and later at the Academy. My studies were based on a figurative painting program called: the painting of socialist realism. I was able to learn from the great old masters with the best living artists of today. This set me on the path of technical perfection and the realization that light means everything. Then, In 1996 I met the amazing painter Luciano Ventrone, which changed my life and set me on marvelous journey of hyperrealist painting.
A very important moment for me took place on February 2013 when I visited a group exhibition in the prestigious Bernarducci Meisel Gallery in NYC, I also got the chance to meet with Frank Bernarducci, the Director, who reviewed my work and was very positive about it. This first contact with the masters of hyperrealism, and the positive encouragement from one of the most important insiders in the genre convinced me to move to NYC. I was then lucky to be welcomed by my friend and great artist Allan Gorman who invited me in his studio. It was the first time that I got to see an artist’s studio in the United States. He told me a lot about the history of American Art, which has served me for my work in these last three years. Lately I had a wonderful experience in participating to ARTEXPO2015 New York and the good fortune of meeting with other hyperrealist artists, gallery owners, and art critics.
How do you get inspired for your new creations?
I find inspiration from my environment, and familiar objects. After working on still life for a long time, I am currently working on a new series of landscapes. It’s a new experience for me and I love it. New York is such a marvelous and magical place and documenting it makes the city come alive for me. To get started, I use photographs. I take plenty of photos of places, which inspire me so much that I feel as if I had been living here for years. The pictures serve me only as a source of visual information and then the painting takes its path in a natural way. It’s a long process impacted also by the nature of oil painting, my chosen medium. It’s a long process, with a lot of layers, and the painting is finished when I feel it has a soul.
What’s the question people ask you the most?
Since few artists in the world have decided to dedicate their lives to painting in a hyperrealist style, most people ask me these type of questions: “Is that a painting or a photo?” ” How can an artist create such a beautiful picture?” ” How long does it take to paint this?” “How do you paint metal to be so realistic?”
What is the question you want to be asked?
I’d much prefer questions that have to do with me and my relationship to painting than questions about the technical aspects of painting. In that respect, I was very happy with the questions you asked, and I feel lucky to be a part of your wonderful blog. Thanks so much! One question that I am also happy to receive is: “Do you think the hyperrealism is the true art?” or “Do you think the hyperrealism is the art of the future?” To this, I say that it’s true art if you felt changed as a result of seeing my work. “Did it make you feel better?” Then I’m happy.
What are your projects in the coming months?
I would like to continue to explore the urban landscape of the inner NY, which still intrigues me a lot. Not having grown up here, I don’t take anything or any neighborhood for granted, and it’s my wish to share my impressions of this fascinating and wonderful city with the world.