In the past few years Giorgio Trobec has abandoned a sometimes incomprehensible abstract impressionism for what may best be described as a naïve fauvism. The popularity of his art has soared.
Gregarious to the point of being effusive, Johannesburg’s Giorgio Trobec is an easily likeable artist, the very antithesis of the broody dreamer who dribbles paint on a canvas and then expects others to recognize a work of a genius.
Trobec is almost child-like in his very real enthusiasms. He says that he does not like art that is too realistically representational and this is why he allows his imagination to run wild when he depicts a harbour or a landscape. His boats have vast prows, stern lines that wriggle their way across the canvas, doors that abut at crazy angles. He uses colour with a gleeful abandon that is all the more effective for its impact. Fauvism is very much a colourist’s medium.
I am intrigued that since he changed styles (and here I must add that I genuinely admired much of Trobec’s abstract work), his sales have gone into orbit. I am even more intrigued that in so many respects Trobec’s work is of the same genre as that of Portchie, another fauvist de luxe and whose paintings virtually run out of galleries such as Alice Art. This implies that South Africans, or at least those South Africans who are still buying art in quite big numbers, are partial to this sort of work and that styles do change in art. It’s almost a fashion thing with Larry Scully being voguish some decades ago, Judith Mason to the fore for quite a long time and now the Fauvists, among whom I would include the popular Cornelius Bosch, right on top. I don’t disregard the work of such masters as Pieter van der Westhuizen or William Kentridge, but theirs is a niche market and their production is not prodigious. Trobec was born in Italy, within the ancient city gates of the renaissance city of Florence on St. Valentine’s day in 1944.
His father ran a food shop and one of the artist’s earliest reminiscences is being scootered around with his mother and sibling on papa’s Lambretta, the four of them on this tiny machine realising a wave and a smile from the Italian police rather than the stern encounters one could easily envisage here.
Is this where he started storing those mental images of Italian seaside villages with deep blue seas, cobbled streets and boats packed to the gills?
"Oh yes," he replies lost in the reverie of those far bygone days. "I remember them so clearly. Those seaside towns and the countryside of Tuscany. Both have formed a strong basis for my art in recent years." But how does he recall the detail, the architecture that forms the basis of a balanced work? Did he take photographs or was it all stored in a retentive memory?
"Neither," says Giorgio happily. "I don’t like to have to clear a memory of those places we visited. I enjoy a vision, perhaps some small detail and then I use my imagination to tease out the painting. I am not trying to make a work that is indistinguishable from a photograph. I want to make paintings that say this work is by Giorgio Trobec. They are playful, fun and usually everything is very disproportionate in size.
"Don’t you think that these days imaging is more to do with the art of capturing a detail?" He turns to me with an inquiring smile. "Don’t you believe that the emphasis on a detail, even if it does make the work wholly disproportionate, also makes the painting more arresting, more visually commanding? I believe that and this is why I feel that I am a naïve fauvist. I don’t strive for rigid authenticity. I am for something that is effective and captures the eye."
"Perhaps more decorative," I venture hesitantly since in some art circles to call a work decorative is to lump the painter as an adjunct to the interior decorator. Trobec is not the least offended. "Of course they are decorative," he says. "Within the confines of the word, all art, even the Mona Lisa is decorative. Otherwise what is its purpose?"
Trobec moved to South Africa with his family as a teenager. He trained as a draughtsman and then as a window dresser for Edgars. But he has been painting since he was six years old and, encouraged by his artist mother Vittoria, he experimented with various materials and techniques, producing 3-D murals of intriguing scope and range. He says that over the years, as his art became better known, he gradually found himself painting full-time from his studio next to his house in Witkoppen.
It was, he concedes, difficult to obtain recognition with only a few small galleries at first prepared to represent him. His big break came when Alice Art recognized his potential and Alice goaded him, encouraged him and indeed guided him to evolve the present style that has proved so popular. His flowers are another big seller although Trobec says that he wishes he had more time to return to his first love – abstract expressionism. "I would really like to have time to do a work that I feel is representative of the inner me," he says with a fervour that belies his real enthusiasm for his present work. "But one must paint what people want…." Perhaps a word that truly describes Trobec’s art is that it is cheerful, it induces in the viewer a feeling of joeie de vivre and this is probably the kernel of his success.
You can’t help but being drawn to paintings that light up your life, that banish dark thoughts, and that often bring a smile. There is a rare talent behind this achievement and Giorgio Trobec is busy perfecting it!