Italian artist in Beijing contributes to cultural exchange between China and Italy
Build a bridge
Published: Jan 10, 2023 08:41 PM
Italian artist Jacopo Della Ragione Photo: Courtesy of Jacopo Della Ragione

Italian artist Jacopo Della Ragione Photo: Courtesy of Jacopo Della Ragione

The flexible golden lines stretch across the canvas, showing a strong sense of vigor and vitality… In the ongoing exhibition Border Free on display at Beijing's 798 art zone, Italian artist Jacopo Della ­Ragione's work titled with Conquista has attracted many visitors.

"Each of my painting is a microcosm of life. I have spent nearly half of my life in China. How couldn't I put my experiences in China to my ­paintings?" Jacopo told the Global Times.

During art creation, Jacopo will use acrylic paint to apply layer by layer, which is like his cognition of China in the past two decades - from being almost blank at the beginning to current "something more" as he says. 

Artwork by Italian artist Jacopo Della Ragione  Photo: Courtesy of Jacopo Della Ragione

Artwork by Italian artist Jacopo Della Ragione Photo: Courtesy of Jacopo Della Ragione


Born and raised in Florence, the art capital of Italy, Jacopo showed a strong interest in art in his childhood. While a student of Medieval History at Milan University, Jacopo undertook a ­specialization Master course in ­Graphic Design and Printing Technologies. 

Before coming to China, Jacopo knew almost nothing about China except Marco Polo's adventure to the mysterious oriental land in the 12th century. "My grandmother was from Venice and she was living just besides Marco Polo's house." Jacopo joked that his connection with China has been built through his grandmother.

With a strong curiosity to China, Jacopo moved to Beijing in 2001. "I planned to spend two weeks to know about China, but later I found the time is far from enough, and I stayed here for more than 20 years until now."

Jacopo first worked as an art and creative director for design and advertising ­agencies, and media companies in China, and in 2018, he quit the job and decided to become a full-time artist who mainly created abstract paintings.

Architecture, music, traditional art… everything in China can be the inspiration of ­Jacopo's art creation. "All the works I do are coming out of what is happening around me all the time." 

He created some paintings with traditional colors to express his love to traditional Chinese culture including the five elements: metal, wood, water, fire and earth in Chinese philosophy and I Ching, an ancient Chinese divination text that is among the oldest of the Chinese classics.

"My work has very strong links with the Chinese calligraphy. It's very interesting that many people who do calligraphy told me that my work is very close to calligraphy although they look completely different."

The happiest time for Jacopo is after enjoying his artworks, some visitors who don't understand contemporary art began to show interest in it and realized art is part of their life.

"I want them to find their own relationship and connection with art. It is interesting that sometimes people look at them and say all this looks like something that is much linked with traditional Chinese art. I am amazed because I can see it when they tell me, and their feedback could later influence me."

Artwork by Italian artist Jacopo Della Ragione  Photo: Courtesy of Jacopo Della Ragione

Artwork by Italian artist Jacopo Della Ragione Photo: Courtesy of Jacopo Della Ragione

Enabling dialogues 

Having lived in China for more than two decades, the 46-year-old artist said he was amazed by the country's rapid development. He recalled that Beijing only has two subway lines when he first arrived, and now there are more lines that can reach almost all parts of downtown Beijing by subway.

Jacopo pointed out that he also sees a big potential in contemporary Chinese art, especially through the young Chinese artists who have did a great job in inheriting and rejuvenating the profound traditional Chinese culture.

He recalled he met a lot of talented postgraduate students during a workshop in Sichuan Fine Arts Institute in Southwest China's Chongqing ­Municipality, and they "create ­contemporary work but without forgetting their country's history and art history."

Besides art creation, ­Jacopo sometimes helps to work as an exhibition curator, offering a platform to feel the unique charm of Italian culture. He participated in the curation of several art exhibitions in 2022, and his works were displayed at some art exhibitions including the seminar-exhibition Art and Environmental Sustainability - Matter and Ecology in Beijing as a celebration of the China-Italy Year of Culture and Tourism. In 2023, he wants to enable more dialogues between artists, cultural institutions and academies. 

"My idea is if I can create the chance for people to look at each other's work and through that, start talking and understanding each other. That's it," said Jacopo and he ­believed that there will be more cultural exchange because of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

In 2019, Italy signed an MoU with China to jointly advance the construction of the BRI, becoming the first Group of Seven nation to join the initiative.

Now Jacopo has planted roots in Beijing. "China and Italy has some similarities - we both value family. I was born in Italy and live in China. China is now my home and I will continue to live and work here."