Apr 17th, 2017, 02:06 PM

A Portrait Of Armando Cabba

By Fernanda Sapiña Pérez
Image Credit: Armando Cabba
An eponymous gallery in Pigalle is taking the Parisian art world by storm.

Tucked away in one of the most eccentric and bohemian quartiers of Paris, you can find Atelier Cabba. It's large windows and open space will make you feel invited into the world of abstraction and reflection that  Cabba has to offer. Armando Cabba is a Paris based artist that divides his work into three categories: Bruts, Portraits and Self-Portraits. Meeting Armando Cabba for the first time was an experience in itself. He's a man with an eccentric aura, a presence in the painting-covered rooms.

Yet the questions arise: in order to become such a revolutionary artistic mind that is taking the Parisian art world by storm, what steps must be taken? What places must be explored? And most importantly of all, where does one find inspiration? 

"It all started when I was 16 and back in high school..." — Armando Cabba

Image Credit: Armando Cabba

Q: Where are you from and how did you become interested in the art world? Did your country of birth stimulate your artistic career?

"I’m from Montreal and I fell into it all by accident. It all happened when I was 16 and back in high school. I really wanted to get into band because I played guitar. If you got in, that meant you could go on the music trip to Disney World with our sister school. I was at an all boy private school so this was a big deal. There was a girl I had a crush on who would be on the trip so in my head “guitar solos + the girl of my dreams + Disney world = the most rock n' roll thing ever.

"I didn’t get into band after the audition so I was left to join Art class. My mind set going in was that I’ll make macaroni owls and get a good grade to get into college. There wasn’t any talent in me and I wasn’t a prodigy growing up. My teacher almost wanted to switch me out because I was so bad. After a couple of poorly done projects, something kicked on inside of me that made me want to be better. Next thing I knew, I was accepted into Fine Arts at Dawson College and it all became more serious for me.

"I wouldn’t say Canada has had an influence on my art as a country. Describing my art work as patriotic isn’t valid. Kent Monkman is the only Canadian contemporary artist I admire. The reason I left Canada in the first place was because of how I felt out of place with my art."

"From sharing stories, looking at their art, hearing their songs, cooking with them, you grow and learn so much. Your ideas change and you can look at things from perspectives you never imagined." 

Q: How many countries have you lived in and how have they all contributed to the way you express yourself via your art?

"I lived long term in Montreal, Florence and now Paris. I’ve spent some short time living in a small town in Switzerland and London. The cities have had a major impact on me for sure. Of course the direct influence is the art found in museums and galleries. All the shows that tend to be exclusive and don’t come around that often were on top of my to do list.

"More importantly, it has been the people in these cities that have influenced me the most. Florence was a big one due to the variety of people living there along with the turnover of expats. I’ve met some amazing people both in and out of the artistic realm. You realize how different everyone is around the world and how their views are so unique from yours. From sharing stories, looking at their art, hearing their songs, cooking with them, you grow and learn so much. Your ideas change and you can look at things from perspectivesyou never imagined." 

India. Image credit: Armando Cabba

Q: How have your travels influenced your art overall? Have certain commissions from clients changed the direction of your art?

"No commission yet has really changed the way I create. Most of my patrons want me to create a piece that’s both one of a kind yet maintains my identity as an artist. Traveling has influenced me. I’ve discovered new artists I never would of heard of if I stayed stagnate in Canada. Sure, I might have had the chance of finding them online via social media, but it’s not the same when you’re there in person."

Q: Do you find that traveling aids you to broaden your artistic perspective? Why?

" For sure. You get to learn and see from the source how a culture has represented its beliefs visually. It engulfs you like a giant wave and you have no choice but to swim through it. For the parts you don’t understand, you get to live it. You get to be part of the day to day life of that culture and experience it which fills in the blanks for questions you had before. You take a piece of that back with you that alters the way you live and create."

Here. Image credit: Armando Cabba

Q: You have lived in two of the most revolutionary cities (Florence and Paris) when it comes to art. Do you feel that your time in Florence influenced your art towards a more classical subject matter (Italian art) and the same goes for your time in Paris (Parisian art)?

"It’s a funny story because I went to Florence with the hopes of pledging my allegiance to representative art. I was a pain in the ass back in my university days and wanted to be where I felt I belonged. Things didn’t work out at the school and I began to paint the way I do now. I wanted nothing to do with classical art. So to answer your question about Florence, it influenced me in the opposite way. That’s not to discredit the beauty of the work that inhabits that city. I didn’t want to fit into Florence in the sense of being a direct product of its masters.

"Paris more so because there is a good mix of all kinds of art from all eras. My work is varied so I feel more at home when it comes to visiting galleries and museums. It’s like being at a buffet and I can make my plate whatever way I want each time I go for another serving. The French are also more open to my work and due to the history of Paris, they can give feedback. I’m growing here at the moment. It hasn’t been that long, but my art has changed since being here. With the amounts of artists that have come and gone through this City, I feel I can be more myself and not judged in my work. For example, I’m back into portraiture after avoiding it in Florence for so long."

Q: Have your travels themselves shaped you as an artist? In what manner?

"They’ve shaped me as a human. It’s not so much adopting the way of life in the city I’m in, but more the people I meet. I’ve come across many wonderful people that live incredible lives. They remind you of the bigger picture and that you really don’t know much about what’s out there."

"I think you need to travel. Period. Artist or not, go get out there and see all you can see."

Propia Manu. Image credit: Armando Cabba

Q: Traveling is said to broaden one’s mind. As an artist, do you feel that traveling is imperative in helping artists such as yourself find new subject matters, new ideas for paintings or it just aids you to expand your mind as a painter?

"I think you need to travel. Period. Artist or not, go get out there and see all you can see. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to live in a new city for a while. From traveling, I have discovered new ways to approach painting. You get to see who’s doing what and where. Every country has a different form of creating. It’s like music; everyone has the same instruments, but the songs sound so different from one another and it’s beautiful."

Q: As an artist, specifically one that is focused on portraits in general, have you ever met someone during your travels that you have felt the need to paint and tell their story in some kind of way in your painting?

"Of course. When it comes to my portraits, they are very intimate for me. I haven’t painted someone just based on their nationality or strictly physical appearance. The moment has to be right and I’m currently working on a portrait of someone I met back in Florence. We’ve shared stories and spent a brief amount of time together, but the moment felt right to paint her. It’s like I have a souvenir while she’s away." 

Image credit: Armando Cabba

Q: I know that you have various portraits with heavy political images; “It”, which is a picture of Donald Trump, “Terrorist” which is a close-up on a Klan member’s face and two portraits, odes to Mike Brown and Sandra Bland, the people who commenced the #BlackLivesMatter movement.  As an artist, why is it important to you and to other artists to be engaged in the worldwide events? Do you feel you have a duty to portray political events and to take a stance in order to resist and revolt against injustice?

"You can only be quiet for so long. I feel artists can remain neutral up until a point. I understand why artists will remain neutral and not touch on these subjects and it’s the hustle. At events and parties, the golden rule is to avoid talking about politics and religion as to avoid conflicts and keep things in a positive tone especially with people who can boost you forward career wise. But there comes a time where you’re going to have to pick a side. People will eventually want to know. You’re going to want to know. You’re going to feel it. 

It. Image credit: Armando Cabba

"It’s nice to paint in peace and work out whatever you have going on, but the world can’t be ignored. If you’re not bothered with the majority of issues happening today, you’re a zombie. Just because something doesn’t impact your life directly doesn’t mean you should ignore it. That’s your privilege acting up. You don’t have to devote a collection to it, but you shouldn’t stay silent.

"I took a stance because over time I had to learn and unlearn many things. I’m aware of my privilege of being a white cis male in today’s society. My goal is to try and use my platform to help bring more light to issues that need to be spoken about. I’m not a hero. The fight against injustice didn’t begin when I got into it and it’s not going to be ended by me. The ones we should be acknowledging and talking about are the ones who suffer directly from it. The ones who the media tries to censor and keep the rest of us ignorant about. I’m just trying to help with what I have available to me." 

Terrorist. Image credit: Armando Cabba

Mike Brown. Image credit: Armando Cabba

Q: Do you plan in broadening your horizons as an artist by pursuing more challenging commissions in different countries, traveling more in order to expand your perspective, with a wider palette of commissioners in order to take your art even further or see where these experiences take you?

"It would be nice to be invited to work on projects around the world and I know that’s going to happen one day. We’ll see what happens in the future. As of now I’m content working away here in Paris in the same neighbourhood all the greats we’ve read about used to be. I’m currently working on projects with other artists. People who commission aren’t always the ones who make “experiences”. It’s collaborating ideas that promote creative growth. I hope to inspire other artists the way they have inspired me."

Sandra Bland. Image credit: Armando Cabba

Be sure to stop by at 3 Rue de Vintimille (aka Atelier Cabba) for a day of immersion in the newest wave of art that is hitting Paris. And for a chat with the artist himself, of course.

Check out his Facebook, Instagram and website for any questions or queries you may have.