HIV-positive artist Raffaele Ciotola paints with his blood: shocking work
«to sensitize young people»
The artist Raffaele Ciotola was born in Naples on the 17th of October 1964. His loving and receptive family promoted his studies and supported supporting his artistic nature. He obtained the Artistic High School School graduation and got the Master of Arts degree at the state institute of Arts "F.Palizzi" in Naples in 1983. Since he was a boy he has been devoting his life to painting in a professional manner; after his debut in 1980 at an exhibition in his hometown, he kept on taking part in other collective and personal exhibitions set up in several Italian cities until 2002 (Piano di Sorrento, St. Anne in Naples, Milano, Viterbo, Milan). He was awarded the gold medal at the National Biennial of Sacred Art in Torre del Greco in 1980 by prof. Mr Franco Girosi, a famous Neaolitan artist of the last century. It was foundamental for his training, the meetings with prof. Mr Franco Girosi and with Mr Luigi Signore, an artist known as one of the best sculptors of cribs in Italy today. He studied music and attended the voice class at the Conservatory of Naples, but the meeting he had in Rome in 1987 with Master Mr Renato Guelfi, opera singer and painter, was so crucial to his professional growth that he started performing as a singer in some Italian theatres (Lecce, Santa Maria di Leuca, Ronciglione, Villa Pignatelli in Naples). He got to obtained some rewards such as: the gold medal in "La Triade" Prize, Palazzo Sormani - Sala del Grechetto - Milano; the diploma of honor at St. Anastasia, Naples. His personal exhibition in Tuscia dates back to 2002 , in this occasion he exhibited for the first time at the Sala Anselmi in Viterbo. His painting style and production are characterized by an intense use of colours and by the chiaroscuro effects conveying a whole creative freedom and a boundless vital energy, without hiding any strong and eloquent emotion, leaving the viewer a hope, a light , the one that leads beyond any solitude and that blurs roles and social conventions. In fact, from the late 90s, his work is more focused on topical issues and feels the effect of his civil commitment against homophobia and discriminatory behaviors, so it became a vehicle to spread some nonconformist messages, even inspired by universal ethical values. In 2003 he created the artistic movement called " Stop Homoph Art" which aims to spread the culture of respect and fight against homophobia. From this battle, "The Madonna of the homosexuals" came to life, it became the emblematic work of his production and will be exhibited for the first time in the foyer of the Mercadante Theater in Naples on the 18th of October 2014. So his landscapes and his dreamlike hermetic metaphysical views of the first period, they have been gradually replaced by works full of reflection and judgment which are well received by public and by critics, attracting the attention of Mr Jean-Louis Cougnon, Chief Excecutive at General Managment of European Parliament.
Years ago I went to Rome with some friends and through them I met a boy who caught all my attention. Although previously attracted by men, that time I was direct and instinctively determined because the feeling I felt was so strong and illogical. Above all I experienced a physical and spiritual involvement never felt before; even though he was not my man stereotype, this passion came to upset me and make me lose touch with reality, finally it made me slowly abandon my dignity. Obviously it was my instinct to drag me into this experience and I absolutely was not able to predict the catastrophic consequences which I would have been subjected to during a long period of my life, and I am still suffering from them. At the beginning this attraction was mutual, but then it turned into a one-way sense: I was the only one to feel love. I found myself with my ingenuity in front of a person having a lot of experience while I had a few. He looked like a Prince Charming but I couldn’t imagine he was intentionally evil. After our three-months relationship, one day he stung himself while sewing a black sock, (I still remember the color), a drop of blood came out and he asked me to suck it as evidence of my love, I put my lips in contact with his finger, unaware that he had HIV. On another occasion he asked me again to repeat the same action, but I stopped because a little voice advised me to be cautious. Unfortunately, after months without any precautions, being healthy and believing that he was healthy too, I thought he would have had the human duty to warn me in case he had been ill so I let myself go. Despite having lost health, freedom, dignity, and many other opportunities in life, today I am lucky to have a person who has been loving me for 18 years. After many years of suffering, isolation and forced silence, I felt the necessity to realize a pictorial work that shows my illness to be shared with the whole world, with the purpose not to arouse compassion or pity, but simply to be true, to create an authentic relationship not only as an artist but as a man. The faith that God gave me the opportunity through the art of communicating the feelings. From this devotion comes the pictorial work '' MISLED NAIVETY ''. Technically it is an unusual work because the colors do not found space in it, but the only thing I used is a pencil and my blood, yes, my blood, you could tell me that's madness, a dangerous act that puts people’s lives at risk, NO! You are wrong ! The blood applied to the canvas was infected originally, but when the virus comes in contact with the air it DIES after a few minutes. This picture is me and my enemy, I want to leave this message on a canvas that expresses my whole life, my pain, the bitterness and the deception which I would not have to suffer from. Today I say: '' Dear ladies and sirs, Raffaele Ciotola in this symbolic pictorial work wants to advise all young people to open their eyes, HIV is always lurking, there are only some therapy but there is no vaccine, be cautious even when the heart blinds you and shows you what you are not able to see or what you can not see due to your immaturity. Always remember that those who love you, they do not KILL you. Do not allow anyone to make you lose your beloved DIGNITY.
The artist Raffaele Ciotola