Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Artist Profile: Francesco Jacobello

Francesco Jacobello: A Profile

Francesco Jacobello was born (1970) in Militello, Val Di Catania, Sicily, a UNESCO World Heritage “monument”. As such, the artist, now based in London, and currently working with Debut Contemporary, explains that almost as a matter of course his path was set to become an artist. “It was impossible to avoid all that flavour of the Greeks, Romans, and the Classical Italians. I cannot ignore more than 2000 years of Art History,” he says.

Nevertheless, Jacobello is largely self-taught. Having failed to get into any of the over-subscribed local art colleges, he studied ceramics in Caltagirone, another small town near to his birthplace, consoling himself that any knowledge of art and its techniques would be useful. And, indeed, his time there allowed him to make some important contacts, and, by the time he graduated, he was already winning competitions – but not for his ceramics. His early love for drawing persisted, and it was – and is – in this field that Jacobello excels.

His current series, Graphitology, named after his ongoing study of the material, uses pencil and pastels to almost sculptural effect. Jacobello’s work combines the classic and the contemporary, as he sets Grecian faces within modern contexts. His aim is always and simply “to create something that actually excites me when I’m working on it.” At least 30% of the idea is there when he begins, but each work is an adventure with its own personality, and Jacobello works diligently for 10 hours a day, with an average work maybe taking him a whole week to complete.

Building up layers and sections, Jacobello usually begins with the pencil drawn face, since that’s “the powerful part of the work,” and then adds in the coloured pastel background using carefully researched elements that have a relevance to the subject at hand. He is fond of the use of symbols and likes to incorporate elements of nature as well. His works spill over with majestic birds, fruits, berries, and flowers, each drawn with the minute accuracy of a nature study.

Jacobello’s work is also recognisable from his use of mirroring and symmetry – “another way of making the classic more contemporary.” In most pieces produced over the past two years or so, there is not just one face, but its reflection as well. Again, as if this were to be expected, Jacobello explains: “You’re never alone: there’s always two of you. If you look in the mirror, you you’re your reflection. Wherever you go, you have your shadow.”

Jacobello works primarily from photographs since his method is so meticulous and slow that the sitter would, he suspects, get bored. He, on the other hand, doesn’t get bored, but he does get tired. He also confesses that his mind is faster than his technique, and that he’s always projecting ahead to new ideas. Accordingly, he tends to work on more than one piece simultaneously. Alongside his Graphitology series, therefore, Jacobello is currently also working on a series entitled Ritratti Scritti, or Written Portraits. For these, whilst it might be scarcely credible at first glance, he is using what he terms his “forte”, namely black biro. “It gives a very distinctive, contemporary feel to the drawing,” he says, or, as Samir Ceric, Founder and CEO of Debut Contemporary, puts it, “an attractive urban edginess.”

“It’s a big challenge,” adds Jacobello, “since you cannot afford to make any mistakes. But I love challenges. I am into the wow effect. I’m after my work being stunning. I don’t do lovely.”

Jacobello tries to produce at least 20 works per series before moving on. “You grow with a series as an artist. You perfect your technique. It’s part of you.” His current two series have more than this number in each already. For now this work, and his work with Debut Contemporary, remain his focus, but he also has forthcoming shows in Italy and Canada to prepare for.

“I am proud of what I do,” says Jacobello. “I believe in my work. I know I’ve got potential.” With the support of his gallery, and a number of convinced jurors and critics, it would seem that he is not alone in this view.

Jacobello will be appearing in Debut Contemporary’s window on 18 May as part of their Saturday Debut programme, providing people with a chance to watch him as he works.

For further information, and to follow Jacobello as he works, see his blog:

See also Debut Contemporary’s spotlight interview with him:


Francesco Jacobello 
January 2013 
42 x 60 cm 
pencil and pencil pastels on paper

Francesco Jacobello 
August 2012 
42 x 60 cm 
pencil and pencil pastels on paper

Francesco Jacobello 
October 2012 
42 x 60 cm 
pencil and pencil pastels on paper

Francesco Jacobello 
April 2011 
42 x 60 cm  
black biro on paper

Francesco Jacobello 
December 2009 
48 x 60 cm 
black biro, pastels, ink and sanguine on paper

Francesco Jacobello at work

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