Virginio Vona, from Tufello to Paris 'saved' by the art: "France has given me a chance, a wall with a few scales. In Italy was flat"

Published on Jul 29, 2016

Twenty-seven years and fifteen hundred miles separate a piece of graffiti in the Tufello, a roman town, and the paintings on display at the Galerie Glénat and Napoléon, or to the Gare de Lyon, in Paris. In the middle, a bunch of the nights as a porter at the mercati Generali via Ostiense and the emptiness of a mother's death, the anorexia of the future in a suburb left to itself and the stubbornness of a dream: the pencil. “Art has saved me. If I had stayed where I was, I would have had the destiny to be. Instead, I wanted to draw, affermarmi, to fight for, despite the difficulties”. Virginio Vona, class of 1969, who emigrated to France at the beginning of the Year, for the first time back in the homeland “as an artist”. Sixteen years after the departure beyond the border, the invitation to “The Enchanted City”, a meeting of illustrators in Civita di Bagnoregio, it is finally the recognition in the courtyard of the house of an old passion, rose up suddenly, in a night under the sky of the French after a long period of apnea.

“It has always been a duel between me and the comics, we loved and abandoned several times in life. I remember the round table that I used as a child to draw. I stood there, in a corner, and tried to beat my brother, who was very good. I admire him so much, still today, it is my unsurpassed master,” says Virginio, the last of six children, grew up in a house for people of Tufello, that to the romans has always been synonymous with drugs, crime and degradation. “A neighborhood is gorgeous at the human level, but difficult, rude. From the point of view of a cultural desert. A day in the French banlieus in paris confided in me of feeling like an immigrant, despite being French. In that moment I realized that it was so also for us, confined in a castle with barriers that are invisible, but there were.” So, after studying at Federico Cesi in advertising graphics, Virginio follows the way of the father, and goes to work on the General Markets. “For me it was like being in Alcatraz. Caricavo and I unloaded boxes with a single, constant thought: ‘I must absolutely find a solution to get out of here.” The design, meanwhile, shoves it where it can: in the afternoons before work between the courses of the international school of Comics, in collaboration with the publishing house Fenix, together with his brother: “We were paying bills in white,” smiles the artist. “Then I enrolled at the Institute of Art in via San Giacomo, to specialize in mural painting, trompe d'oeil, perspective”.

The year zero everything to start over, arrives with the death of the mother. “Was the breaking of the umbilical cord with Rome, a very tough moment - he remembers with shining eyes Virginio - there was Not one tie to keep me there, or prospects. Like Ulysses, hoisted the sail, and I followed my girlfriend then, now my wife, in France”. Gardener, painter, construction, accompanying children to school, a street cleaner: “While attending free classes to learn the language, I put in French society, doing menial jobs. I found a job after a course in graphics”. And it was then that what seemed to be an extinct volcano for years woke up. “I dreamt that Phoenix was a dead man that he was limping. The time had come to resume the pencil in his hand”.

This creature immortal, that comes out on the paper, the daughter of the stars, sent to earth with a handful of grains of roasted coffee to read the good and the evil in the souls of men, fading past the suburbs with his stories of drug and the walls of the false promises and betrayals. But it also flourished a new life, by the artist, made up of people who gravitate around you and enrich. And I decided to return everything that I received.” When the maximum-security prison, Europe's largest, Fleury-Merogis in Paris, has called to hold a workshop with the inmates, Virginio has not had any hesitation:“In one week we have completed a comic book. The challenge was to prove to everyone that you can overcome your own limits, you can always get to the bottom”.

As he has done, of the rest. “The one I built in France I would have never built in Italy. Never, are one hundred percent secure. I love France because it offered me a chance, a wall with a few scales, while in Italy the wall was flat”, reflecting today, and without rancor. There is no blame in his words, but anger, motivated by love. “With Italy there was a period of strong inner conflict. I have lived as a mother, you dodge, that first it gives you to eat, then tells you to take flight,” continues in his roman accent remained intact. “I felt pride, desire for revenge. But without the Italian teachers, I wouldn't be where they are, to work with children in schools, to dedicate myself totally to the design". "Back home? - on the face spreads a smile - All roads lead to Rome, but, as he said in 'Gladiator', you have to win to be able to return. Read here - says pointing to the tattoo on the arm - SPQR I have it in the blood.”

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