Lou Cosmo Pilleri: With a Healthy Dose of Self Irony

Architerior talked to Swiss artist Lou Cosmo Pilleri who started making sketches while commuting by train and from there on has developed his style. We discussed the dark undertone in his works and how people react to it, aswell as his personal reasons for creating them. We also got a taste of his coming plans of incorporating film and 3D objects into coming exhibitions and the interest to have his art made into tattoos.

Tell us a bit about yourself Lou!

My name is Lou Cosmo Pilleri and I live in the capital city of Switzerland, Bern. Right now in a small apartment with my best friend, next to a park we never visit. 

How would you describe your art style?

I’d describe it as figurative and expressionistic. Tonally it’s often playful and melancholic. My work consists mostly of illustrations, but I make paintings too. 

Has your style or technique changed over time?

Since I started drawing with colors back in 2018 both style and technique have changed considerably. My artworks from 2013 to 2017 were mostly produced when I travelled by train (going from Bern to study graphic design in Zurich). For practical reasons my utensils consisted of only a sketchbook and a calligraphy pen, so my drawings were black and white and quite simplistic. After I graduated I worked more at home and started to add colored pens, markers and brushes to my tool set. By then my illustrations developed into more complex art pieces.

Stylistically, colors can affect art in such a detrimental way it was scary at first. I also feared that it would make my art seem cornier, which I really didn’t want. But in time I realized that it was a fitting “addition” to my former art style after all. It obviously opened up new ways to express myself too. 

I feel like my art style will always be a work in progress though – it’s ever-changing. 

Your art is very expressive and strong, how do people react to your work?

Mostly positively. But because the characters I draw or paint are often troubled, I’ve had people come up to me and tell me that they feel saddened. There has been a case where someone felt seriously triggered because of a drawing that addressed suicide. Whenever there is a negative response like that I struggle on how to react. Although my art works might suggest that I have mental health problems I’m lucky to say that I don’t (at least none that I know of). People may possibly think now that I’m a hack because I don’t “truthfully” represent my subjects. I do feel down sometimes and I do process it in my art. Perhaps in an exaggerated manner but also with a healthy dose of self irony, it’s my way to cope with the happy and sad moments in my life. I hope this satirical nature comes through in my work. In my opinion my art shouldn’t be taken too seriously. 

On another note, people sometimes react with very peculiar interpretations, which I find amazing. I have such high regard for the individual interpretations of others, they shouldn’t be taken away from them with my explanations, so I decided to keep my thoughts mostly to myself. Pieces of art by others, especially movies, have taught me how inspiring it is to leave things open. If a thing is merely suggested rather than shown, it sparks our brains to fantasize. And what we fantasize is often deep and personal. This uniqueness of thoughts is really interesting to me. 

Is there something in particular that you wish to convey to the viewer through your work?

Well, maybe that there is ambiguity everywhere. We shouldn’t see things in black and white. 

What are you working on right now?

Two paintings, one is for a friend and the other is for myself. Have you ever seen an online post of someone you had recent relations with and wondered if that post is about you or if it has no relevance to you at all? It’s about that uncertainty. 

Is there any painting that you’ve created that is extra significant to you?

Well there is this “painting” that is more like a paint-dump. I smear all leftover paint on there randomly and it’s starting to look like a face. It’s interesting because it is being created over years and I have no real goal for it or real active thoughts going into it. It’s just made of intuitively thrown smudges and not particularly significant to me but it is very unique in comparison to my other paintings. I’ve never shown it in an exhibition but I have shown it to private visitors and ironically it’s usually their favorite painting. 

Wow, that’s amazing! Now I’m curious to see it. What are your plans for the future regarding your art?

I really want to do a conceptional exhibition about a fictional, dystopian world in which children go mysteriously missing. All my previous exhibitions were really conventional and boring, I just hung up my paintings and drawings without further thought. In this next exhibition I want to do something different, something themed and multimedia, with different kinds of installations. I want to learn how to adapt my art style into a film and a 3D object. Unrelated to this exhibition, tattoos would be very cool to try out too. 

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and letting us get to know you and your art!