by Carmina Masoliver

I recently moved to Forest Hill, and amongst the shops, pubs and restaurants, I found a pop-up gallery displaying the work of local artist Maria Luisa Azzini. Normally found in Greenwich Market, Azzini is originally from  Florence, Italy, though she has been based in London for nearly twenty years now. 

In the present times, the visual arts is just one of the many industries that needs support, with arguably very few industries not heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s possible to buy Azzini’s work from as little as £45 for a print (£55 framed), to a few hundred pounds for an original painting. Each print is unique as Azzini touches them up with small strokes of silver and gold.

Within the paintings, you will find often hidden messages that espouse Azzini’s political views about the way society is controlled by mass media and governments. Painting a kind of parallel universe, Azzini calls this collection ‘The Futuristic World’ as cities like New York and London come alive in technicolour, with UFOs flying around on occasion in some, and little TV-people walk about. They appear to have a sense of humour and exude happiness. 

These brightly coloured cityscapes celebrate the places they depict, showing them in their best light.

Aside from the hidden messages, what appeals to me most about Azzini’s work is the brilliant use of colour. These brightly coloured cityscapes celebrate the places they depict, showing them in their best light. As evident when you meet the artist herself, the purpose of these paintings seem to be to create joy. As a born and bred Londoner, I was drawn to these images of my city, with both the daytime complementary rainbow of colours used, and the night views that are luminous with the lights shining from its buildings.

In ‘Purple Laundry London’, among other pieces, there seems to be a clash between the idea of past and future, with the hanging of laundry on a washing line evoking ideas of tradition. This contrasts with the modern buildings in both the photographic backdrop and the cartoonish buildings painted on, with the spaceships highlighting the development of the modern world. It’s very common to see clothes lines across apartment buildings in countries such as Italy, where it is the norm to rent and own flats, rather than houses, where around half of the market live in flats. Whilst this fostering a sense of community and a strong culture for socialising outdoors, even the fact that home ownership is quite common is reflective of flats being more affordable than houses, especially in cities, where most of the jobs can be found.

With an often warmer climate, being less practical to hang clothes inside, or lacking modern dryers, it makes sense to hang clothes outside in the sun. You could also argue that there is a comment on class here as around the world there has been a history of certain affluent areas banning such clothes lines. In Pavia, in the Lombardia region of Italy and not far from Milan, there has been a ban on outdoor clothes lines that can be seen from the street. Ironically, it is often tourists that like to photograph the authentic lives of real Italian people, with such scenes often seen as emblematic of Italy and other Mediterranean countries.

A self-trained artist, and as much as Azzini wants her messages to be seen in these images, the paintings also have a simplicity to them that shows that it is important to have art that is aesthetically pleasing, and especially if you are able to display it in your home. By waking up each day to such vibrant paintings, they offer a spark of joy, and it’s easy to see that as Azzini says, the ‘magic ingredient is always love’.

You can view and buy Azzini’s paintings every Sunday at Greenwich Market, in London, or check out her online shop with Artfinder. You can also find out more about the artist herself from a short film created by Chris Papadopoulos on Vimeo.

All images by Maria Luisa Azzini

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