The apple tree of knowledge of good and evil, Adam and Eve, an insight into a forest, a peacock with such a detailed golden tail reminiscent of Gustav Klimt’s precious textures. These are just some of the visions that compose Eden, the first solo show of Riccardo Prosperi, otherwise known as SIMAFRA, on display at Maddox Gallery in London.
Award-winning Simafra, at the age of 32, has made a name for himself with his dream-like textural, abstract expressionist landscapes. His work is collected by celebrities, royals and adorns luxury venues across the world. Simafra can be found gracing the walls of Cameron Diaz’s New York apartment, the private residence of The Royal Prince of Qatar, Diego della Valle Tod’s Palace in Milan, and the Ciprani Restaurant in Ibiza. His artworks have been featuring on international film sets and exhibited in galleries in Paris, Berlin, Istanbul, Rome, Florence. A favorite with the interior design community, this January solo exhibition at Maddox Gallery, his first London solo show, will display new, previously unseen works. The London exhibition, in association with Bellini Cipriani, the original Harry’s Bar cocktail, will start the 26th January until 11th February 2017.
Simafra is a self-taught artist, even though it was thanks to his father’s love for art that he got so engaged with the process of creation. His father,”a very rational man”, who worked as a varnisher and coach builder, decided to send him to practice in a shop as soon as he got rejected from school at the age of 14. On the other hand, his mother was extremely creative: “I believe to be the good mix of the two DNAs”, he explains to me. No friends in high places. It was a summer job that became a lasting experience where he learned the art of sketching and decorating: “I have always loved painting; it represents my freedom. I was very vivacious as a child and the act of holding a white sheet of paper and a brush, in my hands, embodied my way to be in peace”.
How did you come up with your alias, Simafra?
The elaboration of my name coincides with the elaboration of my art: I put so much, so much into the subject, so many emotions and then I go for subtraction. My ‘nom de plume’ derives from many factors. First of all I wanted to dissociate from my original name, Riccardo Prosperi, as a sort of juvenile rebellion, a way to differentiate me, to make a clean division among what was out and what was inside the art. The
second motive is because of San Benedetto del Tronto, where I met a rather good tattoo artist who’s my homonym. Though the true reason for the name Simafra comes from a night when I was considering and writing down everything that I wanted to become. Then I started to cancel some random words and the initials of the ones who remained composed SIMAFRA. For example, I is for ‘Interior’.
At the beginning it seemed me conceited to sign only as Simafra: for example, the paintings in Cameron Diaz’s house, which are signed with both Riccardo Prosperi and Simafra.
What’s your Eden on Earth?
Eden is the world which comes from my inside, it is my family, it is what I am living. Nature and environment have always provided me with sources of inspiration and I represent them through the use of rich gold and strong colors. Adamo and Eva are my partner and me. The peacocks depict a sense of grace and elegance that I have consciously acquired while working surrounded by beauty and luxury.
It is a surreal world, but with important symbolical references, such as the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. It wants to be the representation of my life and a way to celebrate my forthcoming 32nd birthday in March.
The turn of your life?
I was working in a friend’s shop as a decorator and displayed some of my work in local exhibitions, eventually selling small paintings. One day, an interior designer with a modern furniture store next to mine asked me for some paintings for its bare walls. They started to sell, until one day I saw a photograph of one of my paintings hanging in Cipriani Restaurant in Ibiza. Then two other works were noticed in Diego Della Valle’s building in Milan. Two paintings were sold to a buyer from New York, and that’s all I knew. Two years later I was contacted by a lady who read about me on a magazine: the famous interior designer Kelly Weasel had chosen one of my works for Cameron Diaz’s apartment.
What’s your favorite work?
I don’t have one, because every work is a chance to grow and to improve myself. When I sell a work I am happy: “it is as a cellular exchange”, to give a piece away gives me the possibility to start with a new creation.
The best location to create of your work?
When I was 22, I worked in Paris and Bonn, Germany. In Paris I sold my first painting: a two meters big view of Paris. It was very pleasant to paint and I tightened a great friendship with the buyer. In Germany I felt cold and transferred that feeling in my works. Florence, my studio in Oltrarno, my ‘warehouse’, is the best place where I can express myself. I need to be close to my partner, my two children and my city.
Florence or London?
Florence is good to create. London is a good place to work.
Della Valle or Cameron Diaz?
Della Valle because he is Italian, a collector and has a special link with Florence. He also said “Yes” twice, to two works of mine. Qatar or Los Angeles? Los Angeles: for the reputation of its galleries and the panorama on Contemporary Art.
Private collectors or large public projects?
Both. Working with private collectors is engaging: it creates the possibility of a relationship between the artist, the art dealer and the collector. This allows me to make friends with the buyers. It is a beautiful aspect of my job and it gives me a lot of satisfactions. My ambition is to be able to work also with public institutions and museums, creating installations, without losing my ‘storekeeper’ soul.