Roberto Innocenti
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few words about me few words from others about my birth

few words, from others

Roberto is a special person.
I’ve known him for a long time, we are friends. But I don’t consider all my friends as special.
Roberto’s life is hard, fascinating and extremely boring at the same time. He spends the majority of his time in his studio, where he goes to every single day and where, once closing the real world door, he opens an another one on a fantasy world. His studio is quite small, placed, not by chance, in via Degli Artisti (Artists Road). Through his window, in front of the desk he works on, you can see trees and the glimpse of the backstreet, very few passing cars, very few noise and people. And every day, like a normal employee, he arrives and gets started. His studio is clear and rationally furnished with few, necessary ornaments. The light, that you can imagine isn’t a worthless thing in his job, is good, carefully calibrated in Kelvin scale, in order not to have chromatic aberrations in the original-to-print process. He sits, with his desk equipped with the necessary: a ruler, a pencil, the rubber, paint brushes and watercolors. With these things, we performs astonishing tables. Mind you, it does not take a few time. It is not possible to achieve that detail of such perfection just with an outline. Anyway, seen the results, we can say he is a really fast performer. What strikes the most in his way of working, is accuracy and rigor. You can create new world by painting and drawing, exclusive realities that just you can own. It is so easy to indulge, to find shortcuts, schematize, avoid difficulties. Roberto does not do that. He has a philological and iconographic rigor like a Viscontian film director. I bet that if we could open the drawers of the illustrations of Rosa Bianca (Rose Weiss originally), we would find schillings, not simple metal washers. Say nothing of the characters, framings and backgrounds rendering. This quality explains Roberto’s abilities best: definite draftsman ability, but above all, his imagination, comprehension, sensitivity and intelligence. As I said, Roberto is a special person, really complicated: he is kind and willing, but staunch in his own values; apparently absent-minded, but accurate as the Treccani encyclopedia on what he cares about; simple and “folksy” in his attitude, aristocratic and deep in his thoughts, choices and judgments. Cleverly humble, in the way an artist can be, but aware of his abilities at the same time. But speaking well of the draftsman Roberto is too simple; the astonishing thing is that his writings raise the same emotions of his drawings. As he himself says, he does not feel a writer “… I’m a not a writer but a draftsman, because I get lost in words, but I find myself in figures…”  I’m sure Roberto could be a really good film director, sculptor or architect, achieving the same excellence he reached as a draftsman, because quality and ability dwell in the entire person, not in just a part. As a writer Roberto is acute, intelligent; he does not avoid difficulties, he does not schematize, he isn’t trivial or superficial, and he has a lot of ideas. These few texts are just outlines, the first try in opening a new door on an another world. Let us let time run its course, and you will see his narrative flair finding the same fullness like the one reached in illustrations. But it is true that you get fed up in telling someone else’s stories when you have your own.
Eugenio Cecioni
From “L’Isola delle Figure” 2001

Like all the great draftsman, Roberto is firstly a narrator. Many years ago, about the difference between painting and drawing, he asserted: “If don’t know what I would do if I was a painter, but I know for sure that I would miss the possibility of telling stories and finding the right language to communicate. I don’t do paintings on canvas, but I draw stories because I prefer not to choose a private code. For me, the difference is just in the code.” So, telling stories or, even better, commenting a text.
When, in 2000 I was working on my illustrated books: how can I choose them? I was astonished by a non-fortuitous coincidence. With a forty years gaps between them, two great masters as Gustavino and Innocenti, expressed themselves with really similar words in their works. The first one used to underline how the draftman does not have to waste “his activity in repeat the text where its perfection can make the support with graphic equivalences unnecessary; but he prefers spend his time filling up silences, voids and literature reticences”. Roberto, from his point of view, used to say: “I prefer to underline the voids of the stories in order to fill up these spaces with notes that seem to be paltry, but that indeed, they clear the ground for other situations.”
Then, a way of working is born, carefully mused and severely carried on over the years. We can say his work is nothing but a constant comparison between text and stories. Innocenti confessed, more than once, that he feels extremely comfortable in those sequences where the author leaves for the artist’s paintbrush, wide and undefined spaces (it is certainly the case of Collodi)  , or when a small, apparently secondary glimmer, can set the tone to underlining, different accents, ready to become something else. Because, in Roberto, stories are always two (or maybe more). There is always an another, parallel (but not secondary) one. The task of the reader is finding it out and clearing it up. This happens even when is Innocenti writing the text or ideating the tale. His patient and delicate mark, careful and calibrated, his archeological inspecting sets always little and big surprises aside, continuous details and marks, whispers, murmurs, slowly disclosing. Roberto know perfectly the essence of the classic fairy tales, he knows that – as Calvino asserted – they are real, “the list of destinies that can be given to mankind”. I think his extraordinary poetic strength is born right from here, the untouched, rigorous civil responsibility and, where required, a constant mark of irony. The same thing happens on the cover of this list, where the Little Red Riding Hood theme is efficiently connected with the theme of privacy. And we come to think, about that, that the choice to the images is, similar to the table, a sort of head to tail inspection of Roberto’s work.

Walter Fochesato
Roberto Innocenti "Da capo a piedi"

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