Vincent Fanauzzo is everything I want to be as an artist! The way he is able to let the personality of his subject shine through onto the canvas is a real talent. Its really something to be able to paint the essence of a person, like painting their soul. His use of colour, light and composition just blows me away.
Fantauzzo was born in England in 1977 before migrating to Australia with his family. Growing up in Broadmeadows as one of five siblings in tiny 2 bedroom commission house is tough. Broady is a well known rough northern suburb of Melbourne where there’s plenty of criminal activity to immerse yourself in, especially f you’re not doing well at school.
Constantly struggling at school and thinking he was stupid, Fantauzzo never understood why he couldn’t read like his peers. But the boy was far from stupid and could draw. He has enormous empathy and intuition which enables him to really get into his subjects psyche! Personally having so many emotional experiences through life enables you to empathise. I think it’s one of the best things to come out of loss. As a makeup artist working closely in a clients personal space and enabling them to feel relaxed and comfortable is a learned gift. Something that I use in my painting today.
Fast forward to his early 20s and he was selling portraits of famous people to make a living. Painting for 12 hours a night! Damn when did he sleep?
Forging his name on someone else’s school results, he scammed his way into university at RMIT. Got caught paying others to do his assignments, confessed, which then led to him being diagnosed with severe dyslexia. Fantauzzo says “You can be dyslexic with numbers and you’re incredible with words and not numbers — I got the jackpot, I got all of them,”* This severe dyslexia also affects his memory. Man I can’t even imagine not being able to remember things, though I am getting old and memory loss is a little thing for me, to have something so debilitating growing up must have made life really difficult. The best way he knew to communicate was through his art.
Through RMIT he obtained disability support liaison and was able to dictate his assignments. He completed is Masters of Fine Arts at RMIT in 2005. You know we don’t all fit into a “mould”. We all learn in different ways and the sooner mainstream primary schools recognise this the better! I know we have come a long way since Farauzzo (and I) were at school (hold on I’m back at school hahaha) but the generic way of teaching is still there and I don’t believe recognises those with different needs earlier.
At the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Fantauzzo has won the Packing Room Prize and been awarded the Archibald People’s Choice more than any other artist! When you look at his portraits you can see why. This one of Heath Ledger really captures the actor and man. Fantauzzo paints souls and that is EXACTLY what I want to do. I only hope I can be as good as Vincent Fantauzzo but at least I’m at the same art school.
Now he has an Art Series Hotel named after him. The Fantauzzo, at Howard Smith Wharfs in Brisbane is filled with his paintings. In a life that has been about overcoming so many odds, Fantauzzo can now joke about it. “I definitely feel that dyslexia is a superpower, and I’m sorry for all you people that don’t have it.” *