Massimo Polello Headshot

Massimo Polello

When was the first time you picked up a calligraphy pen?

It was a long time ago…when I was 18 years old and it was hard to find calligraphy pens in my town. I had to place a mail order (there was no internet or Amazon at the time) to get my first set of nibs. In fact, my very first nib was given to me by someone who would later be important to my professional life.

What is the best advice you ever received (lettering or otherwise)?

Incredible to say, but the best advice I received was from a famous calligrapher (I won’t mention his name) to whom I had asked advice on whether I could pursue this profession and who advised me against it because it would be difficult to survive with calligraphy. This discouragement, however, gave me even more courage and strength to start believing in it.

Why do you letter? What keeps you coming back every day?

I really can’t say. I think it’s a kind of inexplicable magic and attraction, like a natural inner necessity, a hunger for letters and signs. I realize this need when, after a long absence from them, I realize how good I feel my self making letters.

Massimo Polello’s work in the Rijksbook project: From Massimo’s website, “A limited edition prestigious book catalogue of the great 17th century paintings in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.
The paintings would be reproduced on a large scale and always accompanied by a full page calligraphic composition on the opposite page. Me and Brody Neuenschwander worked in tandem for about 95 calligraphy works and takes both busy for more then half of 2015.”

What is your dream project?

One dream? ohh, so many, but one is now pressing me harder than the others. Writing a book. It’s not that unrealistic I think, so yes, I think as soon as possible I will want to realize it.

What research do you do when learning or starting something new? i.e. a new style or new project.

First thing I trust my instinct, (doesn’t always happen though ?) then of course, I do visual research or cultural references in the field of interest of the project. Then I wait….if they give me the time.

Name 3 non-lettering artists who inspire you.

Just three? Hans Hartung, Bruno Munari, Leonardo Da Vinci

Large scale projects by Massimo Polello

What do you aim to say with your work?

Please read with your heart not your mind

Why do you teach? What is your teaching ethos/style?

I teach because I think I have been given the gift of empathy, and that is critical to teaching. Then because in the moment that I teach something of my own I make room for something new.

What is your favorite pastime when not in your studio?

Gardening, cooking for my friends, theater, cinema and lots of art shows

What jobs have you done besides being an artist?

I have been an educator, fresco restorer, folk dance teacher and other small jobs

Examples of Massimo’s work with classical forms & expressive lettering

At what point in your life of letters did you realize the value of the transition from classic form to expressive form in your work?

I believe the important step toward expressive letters coincided with turning points in my life. The moment of liberation and enfranchisement of my slowly building personality and independence. In that moment the letters were freed from mental constructions to go towards something that revealed myself. I always include this phrase in my bio: “…letters become a means to exist outside myself… going beyond the letters, captured by a sole need to see. They become signs, images, evocations, urgent needs, emotions.”

You use a lot of layering in your work. How do you ensure your different layers play well together?

I absolutely have no any assurance of what will happen! Otherwise what pleasure would there be in the discovery and surprise of the unexpected?

Examples of layered work by Massimo Polello