“The Stars Reflected in the Eyes”: Drawings by Federico Cortese, A Mouse in its Box

Federico Cortese (born 1971) – an artist from Turin, Italy – has a playful portfolio of paintings and drawings that explore a variety of subjects, among them real and imaginary cities, ornamental moths and octopuses, designer barcodes, sensually moving Chinese alphabets and busts of Greek sculptures set in psychedelic circles.

Federico’s “The Stars Reflected in the Eyes” is a most enchanting series, executed with the help of cementite, oil, graphite, wooden sticks and cotton thread on paper. As the title suggests, the collection of drawings impresses the macro on the micro. Large, bright, differently-coloured irises become maps around which constellations are fixed and connected (the style here reminded me of Serbian artist Dragan Jovanović, about whom I had published in September 2016). What do these scenes convey? Every person has hidden within them worlds waiting to be discovered? The universe is an organic entity, aware of and attentive to our little moves and desires? Both interpretations are possible.

Federico writes: “I always liked to draw eyes. Individual eyes, wide eyes, groups of eyes, half closed eyes. I would change the expression or play with colours and decorations as if drawing were make-up, allowing endless variations. The constellations in the sky are endless as well, and I drew these too, as if they were geometric embroidery created for the sole purpose of interpreting a reality difficult to understand. Then, when the verse of a mawkish romantic song came into my thoughts (“The starlight is reflected in your eyes …”), I could not resist the urge to create a new series, based on the union of those two, which have nothing to do with each other and are related only by the fact of being homogeneous sets, ready to be classified to quench the thirst of an artist that is anxious to bring order into his chaotic imaginary world.”


Federico Cortese


As a creative person, Federico funnily considers himself “a mouse in its box”. “A little mouse safe in its shelter,” he says, “that passes his time gnawing the food stored for the winter. But my food are the drawings.”

Federico derives ideas from books, music and of course, the internet. His computer, he writes, is “a small microcosm closed in on itself, rather impervious to the outside world (despite a large window with a beautiful view of Turin, almost always I work with the curtains closed). It is as if the suggestions of the real world are allowed to enter here only after being filtered and digested, only after they have already been turned into experience. Exactly like a rat, quietly eating its supplies in its den, waiting for the end of winter.”

Federico’s artistry revolves around the drive to sort, to label, to arrange. This attitude, he guesses, stems from a primordial insecurity. The illusion of putting order into chaos – as in “The Stars Reflected in the Eyes” – eases his concern and anxiety.

Links: Website (www.federicocortese.com) | Saatchi Art (www.saatchiart.com/ico71) | Facebook (www.facebook.com/federicocortese1971) | Twitter (@federicocortese) | Instagram (instagram.com/federicocortese) | Tumblr (federicocortese.tumblr.com)

Images used with permission.