Monday, March 21, 2011

Artist & lecturer Alessandro Rolandi explores why a child´s perception of the "Mona Lisa" differs from our own

(I bought a child´s painting of "Mona Lisa" in my village, Canillas de Albaida, Andalusia. I loved it. Why? I pondered in my blog of 26 February: "When does a child´s perception of Da Vinci´s Mona Lisa become our own?")

I don´t like work so much that I do not even like to see that I´m working for myself.” Alessandro Rolandi, LinkedIn profile.

Exclusive ArtTraveler Guest Commentary

By Alessandro Rolandi

Most artists spend part of their life building up skills and knowledge trying to regain spontaneity.

Because of the direction society has taken, spontaneity is urgently needed.

Virtual technology leads us into becoming its surrogates. And sometimes, we succumb to denying the totality of this event.

Alessandro Rolandi
Even with art there is a serious risk to deny the importance of the aesthetic experience, which has no substitute.

In children, it is organic, amazingly sophisticated but subconscious. Some say it because children are perceived naïve.
Children are not naïve. I take a risk here because I understand naïve is too culturally determined.

Children are playing a game where cultural, philosophical and other hierarchies do not exist.

Maybe it is better if we let them play with objects in the house instead of confronting them with such a complex thing as a painting.

Naïve, primitive and expressionist all apply to grown-up people.

A child is intuitively instinctive and spontaneous; there is no preconceived plan in bringing things or visual elements together.

Up to ages 6 to 8, children succeed in being conceptual without knowing about concept, aesthetical without knowing about aesthetics.

Unitled, Alessandro Rolandi

What they lack is capacity to structure, to have distance from their achievements.

Researchers such as Grotowsky and other experimental theatre companies have proven we can achieve disciplined spontaneity.

They have created methods for this.

Contemporary life often defeats the kind of commitment needed to follow these practices that rejuvenate our childhood spontaneity, only now armed with this arsenal of structure.

"Bread Tree," Alessandro Rolandi

Unfortunately, the need for these methods is slowly disappearing.

So where can we discover spontaneous form other than within a child´s world?
Recently, I developed a project with Beijing factory workers. They use their hands and their brains, since the product they assemble requires precision and flexibility.

They are not miserable workers repeating endless tasks. They are lucky.

Yet, they are spontaneously clever, armed with these methods and freedom of choice.

"Formless Old Beijing Man," A. Rolandi

Using only factory materials, the workers very quickly developed ideas, spontaneous creations with no practical use.

I was surprised, but their management but was even more surprised.

Factory work remains very repetitive and alienating. Yet, if you ask these workers to improvise, they do it nicely and poetically.

This must have something to do with spontaneity and emancipation, where the teacher´s role is not “passing knowledge,” but equipping students with tools where intelligent applications of learned skills fuse into spontaneous options, all developed with enthusiasm and self-discipline.

Not spontaneity for the sake of spontaneity.

Rather, spontaneity linked to discipline and practice.
It is a delicate balance.

If art has a future, it is about artists proposing and supervising processes they initiated but over which they may lost control in favor of other people´s virtual creativity and commitment.

It is not social sculpture because it is not controlled or fixed.

It is social emancipation.

Therefore, the Spanish child´s Mona Lisa cannot be judged with criteria we grown-ups apply to art.

A Spanish child´s "Mona Lisa"
Art is self-referential.

We can more fully study and appreciate art if we accept exploring the territories, the gaps between art and life.

In these territories, maybe the child´s Mona Lisa and art can meet.
And it is within these territories that the future of art and the future of children will be played out.

 Alessandro Rolandi, age 40, is artist in residence at Harrow International School, Beijing since 2003, teaching art and experimental theatre. 

He has taught or lectured in eight art schools, including Institut d´Edudes Politques de Paris. He is also a film maker, actor, theatre director, and author. Rolandi, born in Pavia, Italy, has staged 12 solo exhibitions and participated in 23 group shows.

His mission:

“I observe, borrow, change and document reality to create possibilities that challenge our current socio-political structures and point out the effects they have on our daily life and on our scheme of thought.”

Rock on and practice peace and love.

Stefan, the ArtTraveler (TM) 

Come to Andalusia for a walking holiday or week-long sculpture or mosaics workshop; see: and

"Resting on a Cloud," photograph by Stefan van Drake (2010)
You may reach me at Please alert me to any arts news tips or happenings or story ideas you think may interest us all.

Or, you can call me in Spain at either: (34) 951 067 703 or from the UK at BT landline rates, 0844 774 8349

1 comment:

  1. I like the concept of disciplined spontaneity -- wich I try to pass on to my (adults) painting students. As a painter and father of a 5 y.o. little girl who paint and collages all the time, I am challenged on a daily basis. My question is IF and HOW should I pass her my skills and competence as she grows up -- avoiding her to loose her wonderful creativity.

    And that's a struggle to myself as an artist as well. How comes I work so hard to recover my spontaneity as a child? And if so why am I continuing studing to improve my technical skills? When and why did a lose that child's uninterrupted flow of ideas?

    Sometimes I envy her artistic innocence.

    Live in painting -- Francesco