Enea Toldo | Milan, Italy
Hello, my name is Enea Toldo. I am a Swiss painter based in Milan.
I paint on clay and raw-earth surfaces which I have created myself, to speak about extinction, waste and power.
Prior to painting, I had a decade-long career in graphic design. I was awarded the European Design Award and the Most Beautiful Swiss Books prize.
Eventually, I stopped feeling comfortable helping other people to tell their stories. Graphic design involves tons of waste, materially and energetically. I had a strong need to talk about what I felt was more important, more urgent.
Currently, I live in Milan. However, in 2017 I bought a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere. Only one other house could be seen on the horizon.
While I was renovating the farmhouse, I learned to plaster with a clay mixture, and in 2019 I began to paint on that surface. Something felt right. Almost no waste is produced through this process. I build my usually large canvases with very ‘poor’ materials and plaster them with raw earth, sand and straw.
Fascinated by the absorbing texture of the surface, I leave space in between the oil or watercolour brush marks, which I see as energetic particles relating to their surroundings. Like in a psychedelic vision, I assign the same importance to each element – there is no hierarchy. It feels like every detail becomes important when you give attention to it.
I cover errors or bad paintings with more clay, which just enriches them. If it weren't for this surface, maybe I wouldn't even paint.
Over the last two years, I have created a group of large-format paintings titled "Catharsis".
One of the pieces is "La grande moria (The great dying)" (2021), in which I painted plants from all the species which have survived the six mass extinctions. I ordered the specimens from an online vendor and depicted them as fragile, in the plastic pots I got them in. The red sun, the shimmering sky, and the strong red tones of my studio floor evoke a sense of impending danger – a climate apocalypse. A snake shown between the pots, biting its own tail, can be interpreted as a symbol of repetition.
In "Totentanz" (2022), I depicted cactus creatures which I’d studied in a nearby botanical garden. While in bed with Covid, I reread a story by the Italian author Italo Calvino, in which what is possibly the last living dinosaur finds himself in a community of new creatures occupying the planet. They don't recognise him and just think that he's ugly and strange and keep telling absurd stories and making fun of extinct dinosaurs.
So I placed the cacti plants on a desert clay landscape. I gave them the shape of two human skulls, as if, by growing so, they were making fun of extinct men and women. Again, the presence of a red cloud suggests some kind of danger from above.
Together the works in "Catharsis" are an exploration of the pessimism that currently prevails in the face of climatic and societal changes.
With the materials I use, I also want to experiment with and demonstrate the ways in which new art can be created without necessarily producing more waste.
If you'd like to see more, please check out my Instagram @eneatoldo