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Alessandro Sanna & Gianni Rodari

A talk with Alessandro Sanna about illustration and his relationship with Gianni Rodari's work.

  |   TOPICS: Exhibitions
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Alessandro Sanna, celebrated Italian illustrator and 2019 Illustrators Exhibition juror, is one of the artists featured in the BCBF exhibition Illustrators for Gianni Rodari. Italian Excellence, on display on BCBF Galleries.

This year, as a tribute to Rodari, Alessandro Sanna has also created a video animation merging Gianni Rodari’s words for the poem On the Moon, Sanna’s illustrations and music by Stefano Nosei, Paolo Fresu and Sonia Peana.

The animation project, a wonderful gift for BCBF, is dedicated to all artists and is part of a new experimental approach Alessandro Sanna has recently embarked on.

We asked him how the idea was born and to tell us more about his relationship with Gianni Rodari’s works.

First things first: how did the idea for this project come to you? And can you tell us how you came to work with Paolo Fresu, Sonia Peana and Stefano Nosei?

It was a fortuitous coincidence. A few weeks ago, I made a video for the Tuk Music record label’s 10th anniversary. Paolo asked me for a video in which I explained what I had done for him (an illustration for a record) and say hello to the people watching. I didn't feel very comfortable doing that so I decided to create a very simple animation, directly recording the iPad screen as I was drawing on. If you get it organised, you can do really interesting things with this simple drawing application.

A few weeks after that, BCBF asked me if I wanted to record a few words greeting to the fair’s public, since one of my illustrations is part of the “Illustrators for Gianni Rodari. Italian Excellence” exhibition. I immediately said yes, although I wasn’t very sure I wanted to make a video in which I just said hello. As it happened, Paolo Fresu called me on the same day. Stefano Nosei had composed a piece to go with “On the Moon” by Gianni Rodari, and asked me if I wanted to try my hand at a new animation. Not only did I say yes but I immediately thought that the finished work would be a beautiful gift for BCBF. It’s dedicated to all artists who have been caged in a bit by this situation.

What can you tell us about the technical process behind this animation project?

Way before lockdown, I’d already started experimenting a lot with digital tools, like computers and iPads. This was mainly because with a newborn baby I couldn't spend the long hours in the studio I used to before. I’d always had a great passion for digital tools, even if there’s a stark contrast between them and what I’ve always done in my works, where I use watercolors, brushes and paper.The animation for BCBF is anyway also part analog. The various drawings were handmade on sheets of paper, which I then photographed and loaded onto my device.

In fact, the period proved to be a real ideas accelerator, because several requests for a series of small things arrived that led me to understand that making books is not the only thing that matters. I can stay true to myself and that’s very exciting for me.

While making this video, I remembered something that happened to me as a child. My father had been given a video camera, which I immediately declared mine. I used it to create short cartoons, putting together sheets of paper and drawings.

What’s your relationship with BCBF?

A very strong one. I’ve been attending the fair since 1995, and I’ve never skipped a year. It’s a very emotional relationship as well. I’ve met many people here, and had many job opportunities. I’ve met publishers and seen others born. I’ve met many other artists and colleagues here, and then followed them on their growth path.

When I heard that it wouldn’t be held this year, I was very disappointed. So creating this animation project was really the least I could do… besides the fact that I got to learn something more.

And what about your relationship with Gianni Rodari and his works?

Gianni Rodari's work is something that always makes me feel at ease. I feel very passionate about it because I like how incredibly smart he and his stories are. He’s also one of the authors I’ve worked with most.

In 2003, I had the pleasure of making my first important book. The illustrations are in the Illustrators for Gianni Rodari. Italian Excellence exhibition. I’d already made a few books, but I was still a rookie, taking my first steps. Rodari's text was very easy to work with because it was an ironic story about Little Red Riding Hood. But I also found myself constantly put to the test in an extreme way. Whenever I thought I had done something good, Rodari's intelligence immediately shook me up. I had made the mistake of taking his word literally, instead of making a whole game of my own.

Rodari was in fact asking me to take the text and play with it, even going to extremes like tearing up the paper! It took me a long time to get those illustrations done, and even today, whenever I see them, I remember how much work went into them, how much I learned, and how Rodari had always asked me to give and do more. This is what great artists do. Rodari was the first author who asked me to do more and go further. Even today, whenever I have anything to do with him, I’m always asked to do more, to do it better, and above all, to play. 

Sulla Luna


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Rodari was in fact asking me to take the text and play with it, even going to extremes like tearing up the paper!  

Alessandro Sanna
Credits of the pictures:
Alessandro Sanna, Tonino l’invisibile. 
Emme Edizioni, 2009
Mixed technique: ink, ecoline, acrilic, pastels
55 x 37,5 cm
Alessandro Sanna, I colori dei mestieri
Emme Edizioni, 2011
Mixed technique: felt tip pen, ink, ecoline
50,5 x 36 cm


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