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April 14, 2024



December 2008 - - Costantino Zicarelli belongs to the new generation of artists whose paintings are difficult to like but harder to ignore. His art differs from the standards as he chooses to paint the deviant and morose. With his art, Costantino Zicarelli hopes to change how viewers look with disfavor and antipathy paintings that are not eye candies. His works reflect his belief that an artist must be bolder in his stance and subjective feelings and emotions must be given priority than reality or nature objectively. In this interview, Costantino Zicarelli talks about his art, his boredom with his brief stint as a graphic artist, his way to success and his views and adventures as a young artist.

Pedro Ubaldo Ain't Holy Anymore
60 x 48 inches, oil on canvas



I wanted to have a career in painting but I needed money for materials, so I did some jobs as a graphic artist and teaching arts to young students. But while I was doing these things, I was always involved in group exhibitions.

60 x 48 inches, oil on canvas


Yup it was. I’ve always wanted to draw comics and at that time I was a real comic book geek.

I think in the whole batch I was the only one who pursued a career in painting. And to think I was an advertising major.

Rompi Pame Automatico
30 x 23 inches, mixed media on paper

Who were your early influences? 

I think all the young professors I was under were all exhibiting but I was really influenced by Wesley Valenzuela, Buen Calubayan, Mark Salvatus and Jaime Pacena. They really inspired me to paint and because of them I attended as many shows that I could.


Yes but it will look like crap or maybe he was born a genius.

Lovers Finding and Understanding
48 x 36 inches, oil on canvas




What does your early works look like? Do you still have them with you? 

Really crappy paintings which now I think are all destroyed. Some I gave away.





After graduation I had a solo show in Cubicle gallery, run by an artist. After the show, I realized that I wanted to paint full time.

Parole Bastarde
60 x 48 inches,oil on canvas





Just really good works.





Art Informal. It’s where I did my second solo show.

Destroyed History, Destroyed Room
96 x 60 inches, oil on canvas





It was pretty successful. I sold some works and had offers from other galleries to exhibit.

A Black Perception of A Ghost
36 x 48 inches, oil on canvas

How do galleries invite young artists like you to exhibit in their gallery? Do they make an offer? Can an artist refuse an invitation?

They jut asked me if I can have a show in their space. It’s really hard to refuse an invitation and I was an upcoming artist at that time so if a gallery asks me to do a show, I would immediately say yes. (laughs)

(I haven’t done anything for her yet). (laughs) I’m too busy.  

A White Perception of A Ghost
60 x 72 inches, oil on canvas
I just wanted to do different things. It’s not like I’m going to paint forever. I also got a few ideas that do not involve paintings.

Words and Events of a Tragic Family Portrait (diptych)
48 x 60 inches each panel, oil on canvas




Are you exclusive in any gallery?


No but I would like to one day. 

I'm Looking Forward To Joining You, Finally
48 x 36 inches, oil on canvas


Why so?


If you are exclusive to one gallery, you won’t be able to have a show in other galleries or even join other group shows. But for now, I try to restrict my shows to only two galleries to limit the number of my works and also to not be over exposed.


Have you had any unforgettable experience with any of the galleries here?


The only bad experience I can think of for all artists is if they feel they are cheated on the sales of their artwork. (laughs) So far I haven’t had any story to contribute to that. The only thing I know is that a gallery gets jealous of a work I did for another show. 


How did you go about with your first exhibit? How did you plan for this?


I had no idea what to do but I accidentally found this box of pictures of my father’s family. It was interesting how the pictures looked and I thought that this would be fun to paint, so I did.

Destroyed History, Destroyed Room
96 x 60 inches, oil on canvas

For your first exhibit, was there a requirement that maybe a minimum of 15 works should be exhibited?


There was no requirement but I was so excited because this was my first real show and it was something really different.


Do you agree that the first exhibit of a painter could make or break his career? Did this apply to you?


Mine wasn’t a big break but it did me good. I had some recognitions and I got excited to do more stuffs.

What Matters Most Is That God Still Loves Us (diptych)
60 x 48 inches, oil on canvas


Do you remember the first painting that you sold?


It wasn’t a painting it was some drawings from my first solo show. My friend bought my three drawings.


Are you a member of any artist group?


Nope, I usually exhibit with the usual people. But I don’t call it a group. I hate it when people call it a "group." It tends to sound like a boy band.

God Created The Devil and the Devil Created The Most Beautiful Disaster Piece Ever Made (diptych)
60 x 48 inches, oil on canvas

Who are these usual people?

Tatong Recheta Torres, Alan Balisi, Ian Quirante, MM Yu, mostly the artists from Finale and West Gallery. 

Have you ever won any important awards?


Yes, in grade 5, a poster making contest. I have no clue that it was a contest. I won second place. I don’t believe in contests anyway.

Born As A Ghost (diptych)
36 x 48 inches per panel, oil on canvas


Why do you not believe in contests?


People tend to recognize or buy the artist’s work not because of the quality but because the artist won some art contest or something.


Do you think awards help in making an artist be commercially recognized?


Yes in a way. But I really don’t think it helps. To let people recognize you, you just have to make really good art works or really scandalous ones (laughs).

Stilled Life (diptych)
48 x 36 each panel, oil on canvas

Do you think a painter can commercially become successful without receiving any award?

Yeah, I now lot of people who are famous not because they won an award but because they are just really good.


Is there any award that you wished you have won?


The Turner Prize! It has a big cash award. It’s what artists are interested anyway! (laughs)

Yellow Bastards Landscape
Post It installation

What is your view on the National Artist Award? 

The government could spend the money on homeless families instead of giving it to an already rich old artist. 

I have noticed that most of your works are "deviant"? How did this idea come about?

Where do you get ideas for the titles of your works? They are long.

Not all of my titles are long. I just feel that the title I put really fits the painting and the story behind it. Mostly, I get the titles from lines in films or articles that I find related to my paintings. 

It Was the Moment That Made It Possible
24 x 30 inches, oil on canvas

Most of your works are in black and white and only a few have color. When you shop for paints, do you tend to hoard these two colors?


At first it was really cheap. I would only buy 2-3 tubes. But for my next show in March it will be fully colored so sobrang gastos ngayon (it has become expensive now) (laughs). I thought of doing something different. (laughs)

Where do you usually shop for your art materials?


Sometimes in Devoir Artshop if I I’m abroad because it’s cheaper there  so I buy a whole box of paint materials. 

In The End The Inevitable Happened
96 x 96 inches, oil on canvas

Do you prefer that your painting is not framed? 

I wish my paintings are all framed but they become expensive because of the size of my artworks. 

Is there a subject that you won’t ever paint?



Yes social realism. I don’t like the subject or the idea of painting political stuff. I find it really boring and annoying and they keep repeating themselves. Same work, same ideas.


What is that one work that you wish you are the author of?



"Him" by Maurizio Cattelan.

Like Paradiso Lik(e) So Lie This
installation, 2006


Could you enumerate any local painters who had an influence on your art?



Jojo Legaspi.


What do you like best in Jojo Legaspi’s works?



His works are very personal to him and he doesn’t care if people hate his works. I like the rawness of his works, the gruesomeness of it.

"Unmistakabli the one lover who made everything possible and yet he failed."
72 x 60 inches, oil on canvas

Any more local artists?


Jayson Oliveria, Manuel Ocampo, Nona Garcia 


What about foreign influences? Who have fascinated your imagination?



Maurizio Cattelan, Jonathan Meese, Luc Tuymans and films by Stanley Kubric

There is More To Life Than This Great Big White World
60 x 72 inches, oil on canvas


You have an unusual name. Can you tell me about your family background?



Costantino Perdro Ubaldo Marquez Zicarelli is an unusual name? (laughs) My dad was an engineer and my mom was a nurse and they have a business together.

48 x 72 inches, oil on canvas

Where were you schooled for your primary and secondary education? 

I spent my early days in Kuwait where I was born but we left for Italy just in time before the Gulf War even started. My family was lucky.  Then, I grew up in Italy where I did my kindergarten and primary education before leaving for Kuwait again for a year then to the Philippines.

This Catastrophe Will Leave A Mark
36 x 48 inches, oil on canvas

What are your other interests aside from comics and painting? Do you play any sports? Do you cook?


Well at the moment, I’m stuck with painting and could not find time for other activities. (laughs) But maybe next year I'd like to concentrate in teaching students what I learned back in my college days and those I learned from other artists. 

Was there ever a time that you felt like totally abandoning your profession as a painter and pursue other job?



Nope I had some work before as a graphic designer and I designed medical label boxes. I was really bored to death in that job.

Still Life (Improvising on the Level of Sarcasm)
36 x 48 each panel, oil on canvas


Has your parents or siblings seen your works? What do they have to say about your works?



In my old works, my dad thought I was "anti-christ." (laughs)

What about your Mom? Does she display your paintings in your house?


Wala pa nga ako ginawa para sa kanya eh


Do you live independently now or do you still live with your parents?


We have a house here in Manila but will get a studio this coming week. Wala na space dito sa bahay.  (We no longer have a space in the house.)

Hail to this National Anthem
72 x 60 inches, oil on canvas

Do you ever remember an instance when you approached a writer or critic to take notice or write about your work?



Never but I have a lot of writer friends who write about art. They usually tell me if they are interested to write about me.


I noticed that artists of your generation present an "artist’s statement" for most of the works that are put out in galleries. Do galleries require this? Are you the type to explain your works to your viewers?



I don’t really explain to the gallery or the viewer my works. Sometimes the meaning changes the tone of the show.  

Mass (diptych)
60 x 114 inches, oil on canvas


Could you say at this time that you already have a group of collectors supporting your works?


Yeah, it’s really flattering that they buy the kind of work I do. 



Do you have any idea what type of collector who buys your works?


Mostly the collectors who buy my work are young and wild. (laughs)


Have you had plenty of commissioned works lately? Does it even interest you to do commission works?


Yeah I had some. It’s really hard to do commission works, too much pressure. (laughs)



Have you had any bad experiences with your collectors?


Yeah, recently I did this commissioned work that a collector requested. I told him that my work is available in the gallery so he backed out. Kasi gusto niya yata directa sa akin (he wants to buy directly from me.) I don’t do that, kawawa yun gallery (I have respect for galleries). But eventually the work that I did got sold so it’s ok. (laughs)


Is there a collector who you wish would collect your works?


Yup, the Saatchi guy. 

30 x 24 inches, oil on canvas

What do you think of the works of the young artists being auctioned? Is it something that you welcome?

Yeah but not now. I think it gives too much pressure to the artist.

Artists, they say, are also superstars in their own right. Do you feel like a celebrity?


I feel a celebrity only to my mom. (laughs). Para makita lang niya that I accomplished something (For her to see that I have accomplished something.) (laughs)

Sympathy for the Devil
60 x 40 inches, oil on canvas

What can you say is your clear talent in painting?



I’m really good at painting over a finish work. (laughs)

Do you ever regret being a painter or was it the best decision you made in your life?



I never regret being an artist because it’s summer time all day long! (laughs)




Was your first show successful?


What was the first gallery you approach?


For a young artist like you, what does it entail for a gallery to exhibit your works?


Did you apply for any job after school or did you approach any gallery on to carry your works?


When you were a student, what were you painting during those times?


Do you think anyone can pursue a career in painting without a formal education?


During your time in school, who would you consider the professor who influenced you the most?


Who are your contemporaries in school?


Was Fine Arts your first course in college or did you transfer from another course?


Graduating from the University of Santo Tomas in 2005, what was your life like after graduation? Was there a plan for you to pursue painting right away?


by: Christiane de la Paz