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Louis Sidoli

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With most of his family being either artists or designers, it was probably written in the stars that Anglo-Italian contemporary portrait artist, Louis Sidoli would become something similar. This commonly held view wasn’t detracted from when you discover that his best subject at school was….yes, you guessed it…art. Furthermore, during his school days Sidoli emerged victorious in just about every local or national art competition to. Talk about predictable. Having said that though, nobody predicted that he’d leave school and embark on a successful career in car design/engineering, once he’d completed his higher education course in engineering. Which is the industry in which he excelled and remained for the following 15 years thereafter.

To the casual observer, Sidoli had landed his dream job as such, due to the underlying fact that he has always considered himself to be something of a petrolhead, plus in this guise he was responsible for producing new concepts for some of the best automotive brands in the world, including BMW and Mini. Yet despite this, Sidoli didn’t necessarilybelievethis was his calling in life as such, and that ultimately he should be involved in something more creative. It was just a case of establishing what that was, precisely.

One of the ideas he flirted with was that of becoming either a studio engineer or music producer on account of his life-long passion for music, which also might embrace his keyboard and guitar-playing attributes to a certain extent somewhere down the line, and would obviously put welcome demands on his technical ability at the same time. The only thing which blotted this particular creative landscape was the fact that it wouldn’t be long before Sidoli felt stifled and trapped by the status that came with holding down a good job. That and he simply couldn’t face re-training and starting all over again from scratch.

But then, in what in retrospect might be seen as something of a cathartic moment in Sidoli’s life to date, he was introduced to glass making through a friend. Suddenly the budding artist in Sidoli felt awakened and inspired, so much so that he went out and invested in a small test kiln so that he could experiment and explore this new creative tool in his own time and space. Poring over books and the internet, Sidoli thoroughly researched the subject matter to discover that the (then) niche medium and associated marketplace was just that; niche. And that there were only a handful of kiln-fired glass artists practising in the UK at that time.

Spurred on by his natural ability to create glass Sidoli decided to quit his secure job and launch his own glass design business, arriving at the conclusion that there was a huge commercial opportunity to use the process to produce contemporary glass wall tiles, which were not widely available in the UK at the time. Whilst met with a few raised eyebrows and concerns over the viability of his vision, Sidoli plugged away regardless only to be completely justified in his brave decision as his fledgling business boomed. It wasn’t long before Sidoli’s workshop was part of a supply chain for major high street retail establishments with his glass tile designs featuring in customer’s bathrooms and kitchens.

Forging a new career in this heavily commercial arena for a few years, Sidoli started to expand his ideas and look at the more creative and leftfield possibilities this process could envelop. While reconnecting with his love of art courtesy of venturing into art galleries to find pieces to embellish his home with, Sidoli found it increasingly difficult to locate objects that he would give house-space to and eventually, exasperated by a seeming lack of choice, he began creating a few pieces with his glass technique. Describing how he approached this, Sidoli says; “My concept was to mount handmade glass tiles onto frames to create contemporary art. Although my first pieces were fairly crude, the reaction was positive and I decided I wanted to pursue it further”. At the same time, Sidoli wished to blend his inherent creative skills into his glass-manufacturing skillset more, as he admits that designing wall tiles is limiting as the majority of customers opt for relatively conservative designs in their homes.

In 2005 Sidoli transformed an old stable/garage space to the rear of his house into a home studio set-up, affording him the luxury of creating his art at his leisure as it were and without incurring the overheads of renting commercial premises. Over the next two years Sidoli evolved his creative ideas and tested the water so to speak with a number of local galleries and art fairs to determine whether or not he was heading in the right direction. In February 2007 Sidoli staged his first collection.

Sidoli feels that being self-taught gives him an edge as he doesn’t hold on or become prisoner to any pre-conceived ideas about what is practical and possible in this field, so he can push any perceived boundaries without actually realising that he’s doing so. Sidoli brings together and artistically fuses a diverse and eclectic collection of creative ideals, including photography, digital art, stencilling, ceramics and fused glass so as to achieve his end result, and although under no illusions that he’s particularly gifted in any of the aforementioned, individual disciplines when they all come together so well, Sidoli feels his sometime unpopular decisions have been validated. Accepting that his unique broaching of the difficult to interpret subject may not be fully understood or appreciated by everyone, Sidoli comments; “I work in a very different way to most other artists, who draw or paint a picture and then publish an edition from the original. I produce every single number in my editions by hand in my studio, so every piece is a 'limited edition original’.

It’s evident that Sidoli is a very visual person, and this follows through in his everyday life where he absorbs everything and anything that he encounters on his travels. Which explains why his brand of art is very much rooted in pop culture in the illustrative main. Not one for traditional painting, instead Sidoli buzzes off TV adverts, video games and the imagery used in music videos and freely concedes to losing hours in front of music videos and YouTube clips. Anything which tickles his fancy is then stored on his computer to be revisited and potentially form the catalyst for a future glass-fused composition. Sidoli cites Pop Art pioneer, Andy Warhol as his primary creative influence and was first made aware of him as the man responsible for working with mainstream music artists of his childhood and formative years, including David Bowie, Lou Reed and Blondie. Warhol’s iconic graphic and photographic body of work which contrasted his luminous quality silkscreen prints really caught Sidoli’s attentions, while his deployment of colours remains key to Sidoli’s work as much as the all-important hues and saturations did to Warhol’s. Otherwise, another New York-based artist – Joshua Davis – has caught Sidoli’s imagination in the past few years, or more specifically the fashion in which he plunders digital filters and computer code to randomly generate artwork.