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Dreaming of Pollock: Color and Discovery of the abstract in the art of Gabriella Tolli

Gabriella Tolli has spent her life working side by side with art, until she had the time to dedicate herself full time to painting, suddenly discovering abstractionism. “I’ve always wanted to paint,” the artist explains. “I practiced for years in my spare time, cultivating the figurative style. When, after I quit my job, I discovered abstractionism, I never left it.” Gabriella Tolli’s style has been compared by some art critics to that of Jackson Pollock or Mark Rothko; for the “drips” of color the one, for the large backgrounds of color the other. “They are ideal, unattainable masters,” Gabriella Tolli comments. 

As a child, Gabriella spent her vacations in a country house on the outskirts of Rome, with her grandfather, a sculptor and painter; stimulated by his presence, she put herself to the test and experimented with drawing, “I was very good at reproducing faces,” she explains. Gabriella’s childhood was tragically interrupted by the death of her father in an accident while he was on his way to work: “I reacted by trying to face life, giving myself a positive attitude,” says the artist. “My mother, in this sense, was a great example for us three children. Even today, when I paint, I try to get something more out of what has now become a real job.” In the first part of her life, Gabriella was employed first by a large oil company and then by a public body; for work she dealt with statistics, a field quite far from painting. “It has served me to grow and get to know prepared people,” she explains. In the meantime, she keeps her interest in painting alive, experimenting rather casually, but keeping the dream in her drawer: to be a professional painter. The opportunity presented itself to her a few years ago, when she had the chance to retire rather young. At that point, Gabriella Tolli dedicated herself totally to painting; she says: “I enrolled in the art school of the municipality of Rome. And, thanks to the teacher, I discovered my abstract vein. One day I was painting a drapery and I started to cry: I realized that by then I was doing so well that I didn’t feel any stimulus. At that point I abandoned the copy and the figurative and I began to reproduce what I saw with the strength of the abstract color”.

Gabriella Tolli began to travel and participated in many exhibitions, some she organized personally. “After each trip, I would bring home a new inspiration,” Gabriella says. “I feel the need to express with colors what I see; with abstractionism I discovered a new inner world. According to an art critic who has observed my work, I have the ability to name and shape things. After a trip to Japan, for example, I painted a canvas titled Tzunami. Following the attacks on the Twin Towers, although I have been to New York many times, I felt the need to reproduce this event in a painting titled The Big Apple, which, in the center, has strong shades of red in contrast with white”. 

This year Gabriella Tolli participated in the Triennial of Contemporary Art in Rome, exhibiting a work titled “Lockdown”, conceived during the long months of the pandemic: an ideal city pervaded by black. But the period of forced closures, after the initial disorientation, suggested her, another work, this time titled “Resilienza”-Resilience. “I imagined the virus itself and painted a very large canvas with which I wanted to communicate that, after all, nothing bad would happen to us.” And, in 2021, the artist is also exhibiting in Naples in the group show “Troisi Poeta Massimo.”

Among her goals for the future, Gabriella Tolli has that of spreading her art more, also through social media. “I would like to promote myself even more,” says Gabriella, “and also try to sell some paintings. Institutions should help us artists; it is important to be able to organize important exhibitions that leave a real mark”.