Intentionalism and the Arts

        Croydon Advertiser Friday December 4th 2009


It isn't every day, or even every decade, that a new art movement is founded - but local artist Vittorio Pelosi has done just that as a reaction to cancelled work.

Pelosi, who works from a studio in Shirley, looked set to be a TV star a few years ago.

"I was mainly doing celebrity portraits and I was supposed to be doing a TV series where I would be painting celebrities and interviewing them, but then Carlton Television went bust," explains Pelosi.

"I went from having a six-part series to having to rethink what I wanted to do."

It was through conversations with art critic Brian Sewell that Pelosi hit on the idea of Intentism, and a new movement was born.

"Brian Sewell has been involved in my career since I was at university and we would often meet up and discuss art. A lot of artists these days refuse to say they have any idea what their work is about. We thought, surely the artist who has created it has as good an idea as anybody."

The idea of Intentism is to include the entire process of creating art, so all mistakes and changes are left in the finished product.

It goes against the popular Post Modern idea that anyone can read any meaning into a piece of art and that the artist's original meaning is irrelevant.

"We put in an intentional trail, like dropping pieces of paper in the woods to show where you have been. Every work of art involves a thousand small decisions and editing, but most artists are afraid to show their intentional trail."

Pelosi set up a website and began to research Intentism, which he discovered has a strong following in literature, but had not been approached in visual art yet.

"As I researched it I realised the greatest philosophical debate at the moment is on intentionality. It's a massive hot potato. For the last 40 years, nobody has thought anything of the intention of the artist. We've been asked to speak at art schools and universities. We have 54 artists involved now and it's going from strength to strength.

"I really believe Intentism can be as big a movement as the Young British Artists which includes people like Tracey Emin. We're tapping into something everyone is talking about in other areas of the arts, but which hasn't been done in art yet."

Not everyone has welcomed these new ideas with open arms, though.

"Some artists don't think it's right. In the space of a day on a US art blog there were 25 entries from people wanting to know more about Intentism. Two thirds of the comments disagreed with what we were doing and they even drew a caricature of us!

"It's very unusual to come up with something that's completely new. A lot of art teachers and lecturers now were studying in the 60s so they're teaching Post Modernism and might not be interested in what we have to say. This is as big as any of the movements like Impressionism or Cubism. We really believe in it so it doesn't deter us if an art college says they're not interested.

"It was brilliant to look at things in a new way with Post Modernism, but that was 40 years ago and now it's time to move on."

Pelosi has been working on his Intentist painting, The School of Post Modernism, for four years and it includes all reworkings and editings.

"It took inspiration from Rafael's School of Athens. I've painted Post Modern philosophers as nude artists drawing life models that are completely unrelated to what they're seeing. It's an ironic satire because you can see what's in front of them, but it bears no relation to what they have drawn."

Pelosi says Intentism could potentially make artists in every field more accountable for their influence.

"In Croydon there's knife crime and gangs, and rap music is part of that culture. If a rapper speaks about these things it can influence people, but then the artist can say it was just art and people read meanings into it. Intentists make the artist accountable for what they have created, so they can also be a force for good."

In October Pelosi and his fellow Intentists held an exhibition and conference in London, and are hoping to hold a bigger event next year.

"It was a chance for like-minded people to get together. It's a bit like the opposite of Fight Club - the first and second rules are that you must talk about Intentism!"

Pelosi, who has painted Tess Daly, Barry Norman and Dani Behr, plans to continue with his celebrity portraits as well.

"When I left college I decided I wanted to do celebrity portraits and I wrote to everyone, even Bill Clinton. I must have more famous rejection letters than anyone, including a handwritten one from Anthony Hopkins.

"I once painted Sir Patrick Moore - he asked me to come to his house on the South coast for 7am. It was a three-hour journey and when I arrived he was shaking his head and said 'I just want to say I am not in the least bit happy to see you'. But he gave me some illustrations his mother had done for astronomy books - he turned out to be very nice."

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Pictures by Simon Turnbull.