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The art of body painting – an experience for all your senses

On September 30st Merano transformed itself into the capital of body painting by hosting the finals of the Rabarama Skin Art Festival, Italy’s most important body painting event. At Boutique & Design Hotel we got into the big honour of welcoming the artist and the festivals’ patron of inspiration Rabarama, alias Paola Epifani. We gladly took advantage of the opportunity to talk to her about the art of body painting and the festival.


Ms Epifani, first a question considering the definition of body painting: Would you consider body painting as hybrid between sculpturing and painting? Which one of the two aspects would you emphasize more?

It indeed is a hybrid of both forms, but I would decisively highlight the painting aspect as the main emphasise. As the body itself is used as the “canvas”, it’s not exactly formed or created, but the art is expressed by painting on it. Then it’s up to the performer to bring the piece of art to life on the stage, but that again has nothing to do with a sculpture.


So the performance plays a key role. Like any other of the performance arts body painting has that fugitive, transitory aspect: once the colour is washed off it cannot be recreated in the exact same way as it was. Is this part of the fascination for the artist? Is it not also painful to know that nothing of his art will persist?

An artist who starts an approach to this form of art of course is already pretty aware of its purpose and is therefore perusing the creation of moments of performance that are unique, so that his art is exclusively for those privileged to witness it.


Is it possible to repeat one and the same piece of art again, maybe even on a different body?

It is possible indeed to repeat the same artwork on another body in order to see how it changes and readjusts itself on a new canvas, but in any way it surely is more stimulating to recreate something new from point zero every time again, then maybe even to find just the right performer for that specific artwork to extend to result of its coming to life.


Who much does the body as canvas to paint on influence the end result? And what is you procedure: Would you normally first draw a sketch or do you let yourself be inspired by the body’s particularities?

How I underlined already, the choice of the performer does play a main role for the result. So normally I first choose the person who will represent my work and then I’ll let myself be directly inspired by that special body.


Your work inspires a lot of other body painters, among them also quite a few participants of the Rabarama Skin Art Ferstival in Merano, which now took place already for the fourth time. How did it change and develop in the past few years?

The project was initially started in collaboration with Kryolan Italia to be a platform for body painting as a form of art in its highest extend and therefore lift it over the tendency of unartful (inappropriate) use that has recently taken place. I’m happy and proud to say that even with some difficulties we’ve been able to come closer to that aim. The young artists appreciate the value of this competition, in which different forms of contemporary art are brought to action and in the final a true happening is brought on stage. That can by no means be compared to other body painting concourses of the kind. The participants become more original and have more skilful techniques every year. They are proving more and more sensitivity with combining their body painting skills with music, dance and video.


Why was Merano chosen for the finals to take place at? Will the festivals peak take place in this city also in the future?

Merano was simply chosen because it is where Kryolan is located, but it’s not excluded that the festivals final will move elsewhere in the coming years.


Merano is a quite provincial place- does that have any impact on the festival?

Unfortunately yes. Despite all our efforts we had to realize that on the administrative level it doesn’t get the importance it deserves as a project of art and culture.


And what about the number of the audience? Is it rather increasing or decreasing? What are possible reasons?

I’m sure that the different placements within Merano are responsible for the unstable number of audience. To solve this problem we seriously consider relocating the festival to a city that has more interest in it, be it by the administration, but also by the citizens.


The festival has two different categories: one for beginners, one for professionals. In what way are the participants different in their approaches and inspirations but also in their skills?

It of course is notable that the professionals have national and even internationals experiences and therefore are more skilful in their techniques. They also operate in a more reflected way. But on the other hand the beginners often surprise with a certain freshness and originality and with their talent; that compensates their lack of experience.


This year’s title is “destiny and free will”. How much freedom do the artists have for their interpretation of the theme?

They have absolute freedom of interpretation. Everybody’s different experiences will affect their studies for the project and whatever it turns out to be in the end will be judged by the jury.


In what way is the Rabarama Skin Art Festival different from other body painting events?

The festival does differ itself, as I mentioned before, by its standard, the high demand to the artist. It’s not just about technical ability, but mostly also about depth of content. And as if that wasn’t enough, we also expect the participants to produce a performance that involves the audience with all their senses.


Involving the audience with all their senses – that’s undeniably what the finalist also this year succeed to do! Are you getting curious? Then we invite you to have a look at our picture gallery of this event.

Erwin Glenn Hillyard - Winner of the photocontest
Team Kryolan City Torino – model Ale Destefanis
Elvira Sorba – model Edoardo Gea
Adela Filipovici – model Maura Militello
Laura Errico – model Sara Alyssa Fiori
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