“You are never truly alone”: Tony Toscani draws from modern themes of tech, loneliness and anxiety
Tech continues to rise, and never before has the modern world felt so complex. Inspired by these issues, Tony’s disproportionate figures are a familiar sight for us all.
- Ayla Angelos
- 28 February 2020
“I was raised in your average middle class neighbourhood in southern New Jersey, where god, sports and money were considered the holy trinity,” Tony Toscani tells It’s Nice That. Not someone who comes from an artistic background, his friends and family didn’t share any of Tony’s interests in the arts.
“It was quite an unattractive environment for me to grow up in.” This “distaste” in his immediate surroundings meant that he grew up questioning hierarchy, something that – alongside a heavy dose of punk music for its visceral “sonic power” – positively fuelled his creative process and reasons for making art.
Now, Tony creates surrealist paintings that appear to have been pulled from a modern moment of self-doubt and loneliness. There’s something quite comparable here to the paintings of Prudence Flint, yet in these works by Tony, we steer away from the female protagonist and towards honest and satirical remarks on technology.
“I’m mostly influenced by our perpetuating apathetic behaviour,” he says. “It’s one of the leading causes for our melancholy and is what makes us uniquely human, much more so than a specialised contemporary theme that narrows in on a social climate during a specific time period.” It’s for this reason, that Tony’s work seems outlandishly familiar – he references a personal experience that is inevitably universal.
When his ideas are perfectly brewed, Tony will begin to sketch and rework these forms until they reach a level of coherence and resemble a “stripped down” ink drawing. He continues to explain how, once that’s complete, he will then transfer this drawing onto a primed and ready canvas, before the painting process commences. The time it takes for him to complete a painting can take anywhere between two to four weeks, with the final product finished in one to two months – a process that is highly dependable on his productivity. “If I took a break or paused, I would never finish anything; there is barely enough time for me to rest.”
Process aside, his subjects are undeniably interesting. Surprisingly, the people that he paints are completely made up, which is fascinating considering that they seem so poised, so detailed and are in some ways so realistic – despite their exaggerated angles and small heads.
“I find drawing from life or from a photograph will always ruin what I am trying to express in my work,” he says, before adding how if he were to use a subject, he finds himself paying too much attention to the “useless” components, like technique, colour or proportion. “Most of my figures are slightly based off my own face and body, just because I am the easiest model to copy or look at whenever I need to, but I try my best to maintain a certain amount of ambiguity.” His subjects do indeed tend to evoke a sense of the unknown, where the artist leaves no obvious clues or hints as to where his subjects are, who they are or why the people are doing what they’re doing. “That is why they tend to look anonymous or even androgynous, and they never really have any distinct features – I want the viewer to be able to relate to any, if not all, of my figures.”
Although his figures don’t explicitly represent the human form, Tony believes that he paints with a level of familiarity. “I am simply painting what it is like to be all of us,” he continues. “The heads are smaller because they are no longer of any use. Limbs continue to grow because their functions are still needed in order to survive.” This forms the crux to his work – that is, the notion that the real world is now dealing with the rise in technology and the problems that come with it.
“To put it simply, we are very basic creatures. We eat, sleep, love, fear and crave, but we deal with a wide range of complexities that are too abstract for us to understand or confront easily,” he concludes on the topic of his concept overall. “In order to become more proficient, it is our duty to take on this burden and learn from it so that we can grow harmoniously.”
We’ve all been there – binging on Netflix or Instagram so that we can forget about our daily struggles and tasks. It’s a form of escapism, just like the process of looking at Tony’s work. “I just hope that my viewers find it an easily accessible motif to relate to, or at least find some relief within my work and see that it is a universal emotion in which no one is ever truly alone.”
Tony Toscani: Social Anixety 46" x 38", Oil on Linen (2019)
About the Author
Ayla is currently covering Jenny as It’s Nice That’s online editor. She has spent nearly a decade as a journalist, and covers a range of topics including photography, art and graphic design. Feel free to contact Ayla with any stories or new creative projects.