In the early 1970s, when the idea of a story for a protagonist who never gives up was in Sylvester Stallone’s head, he decided to first visualize this character on a canvas.
However, he did not want to use a paintbrush because he felt that this man was forged by the difficulties of life. So instead he carved an image onto the canvas with a screwdriver.
“If it looked visually interesting, I think it would carry over into literature and then into film,” he said. “I know it sounds ambitious, but that was the genesis of Rocky.”
“Rocky” in three and a half days
Stallone became famous for completing a 90-page script in three and a half days about a poor Italian-American boxer, Rocky Balboa, who has a chance to become heavyweight champion of the world.
Released in 1976, the small-budget film catapulted Stallone to stardom and produced a series of sequels, the most recent of which was “Creed 11” in 2018, co-starring Michael B. Jordan.
That success was quickly followed by another sequel that Stallone had originally co-written: “First Blood,” released in 1982, tells the story of John Rambo, a Vietnam War veteran struggling to adjust to life normal due to his PTSD.
Stallone’s reputation as a Hollywood action star was sealed, and he quickly overshadowed the actor’s other passion: painting.
“Much better painter than actor”
Having discovered his love for painting at an early age, the young New Yorker used to sign his first experimental works “Mike Stallone”. And despite his growing movie stardom, painting has remained a constant part of his creative life, his artistic production feeding his cinematographic work and vice versa. In fact, he was once considered a better painter than an actor.
“Painting is the purest of the arts. And it is not like the cinema, where 500 people are responsible for the final product. Here is one man who has to endure fame, ridicule or criticism“said the actor at a press conference on December 3, when he visited the Osthaus Museum in Hagen, in western Germany, to open an exhibition entitled” Sylvester Stallone: Retrospective of the 75th anniversary. “
He added that despite having painted for more than 50 years, it is still a new world for him. “Fear and anxiety push you forward,” said the 75-year-old artist. “They push you to the next level. I also approached painting with respect and then ventured into other ways. Failure, however, is still the best way for me to learn. “
In the 1970s and into the late 1980s, Stallone created dark and expressive works in which, among other things, he processed the death of his manager. At that time, he was working primarily with illustrative graphic lines and vivid colors.
This changed around 1990, when the avid art collector immersed himself in the contemporary art world and studied artists such as Picasso, Gerhard Richter or Anselm Kiefer.
Inspired by the abstract works of Mark Rothko, he developed his own style and created numerous expressionist pieces, including self-portraits.
“That is what I like about painting, it is the only true communication you can have,” he once said. “Painting is the fastest and purest translator of the subconscious. When something happens inside you and you put it on canvas, it’s hard to fake it. The artist on the canvas is number one for me when it comes to conveying their feelings. “
Stallone receives a retrospective
Among other works, the piece carved with a screwdriver from “Finding Rocky” from 1975 will be part of the exhibition that will be open from December 3 to February 20, 2022.
The collection, which includes the actor’s works from the late 1960s to the present, and commemorating the fact that he turned 75 in July this year, has about 50 paintings, including self-portraits and early works never seen before.
His works were previously exhibited at the State Russian Museum in Saint Petersburg (2013) and at the Musee d’Art Moderne et d’Art Contemporain in Nice (2015).
“Sylvester Stallone’s expressive paintings energetically demonstrate to us what constitutes our existence. His themes revolve around games, dreams, fantasy, harsh realities, faith and death “explains Tayfun Belgin, director of the Osthaus Museum Hagen, who is also the author of a bilingual catalog that explains Stallone’s works.
Pintar and Edgar Allen Poe
One of the predominant themes in his work is time, the clock being a recurring motif in his pieces.
In statements to Hollywood Reporter during a previous retrospective in Nice in 2015 he had said: “At the beginning of my life, I realized that man is totally pressed by the sense of the race of time. Everything is timed. So I started putting clocks on my images, usually those of actors. “
Actor James Dean and Michael Jackson are among those the star has painted while in between collectors of his works include action star Arnold Schwarzenegger and John Travolta.
Another notable personality who painted nearly 50 years ago is the American writer and poet Edgar Allen Poe. He has already expressed an interest in writing and directing a biopic about Poe, whom he greatly admires. If the project comes to fruition, he will most likely get behind the camera as a director rather than take on the lead role.
“Sylvester Stallone: 75th Birthday Retrospective” will be at the Osthaus Museum Hagen from December 4 to February 20, 2022.
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“Rocky” on canvas: art by actor Sylvester Stallone exhibited in Germany | DUTY