Giovanni Contardi’s celebrity portraits aren’t made with paint or ink but with hundreds of Rubik’s Cubes.
It’s estimated that only 5.8% of the world’s population can solve the Rubik’s Cube at all. Giovanni Contardi not only holds the world record for solving the brain teaser one-handed in 9.43 seconds, but he can also manipulate hundreds of them into realistic celebrity portraits. In an interview, the pioneering Rubik’s Cube artist shared a glimpse of his process and daily inspirations.
You mentioned on Instagram that your hometown is Pesaro, Italy. How has your environment influenced your art?
Although I’m in Pesaro, Italy, at the moment, I’ve spent my last four years in Melbourne, Australia. I would say that my art is not particularly influenced by my location but more by pop culture in general. I could be inspired from one of my favorite artists, a movie, or a simple YouTube video—my current inspirations come mostly from the online world.
Your portraiture is amazing. When did you start making portraits in general, and how did you develop those skills?
Thank you! I’m developing my skills as I go. My only artistic background comes from the graffiti world, so it was mostly lettering. I’m now focused on understanding more about portraiture and how to improve the definition of my works.
What’s your process with Rubik’s Cube art?
Most people think an automatic software does the job—it doesn’t (at least not in my case). I like to spend a lot of time modifying many different elements, as I’m only at the beginning of this journey. I apply a very easy concept: Each “square” of a cube represents a pixel. The main challenge is the limitation of using only the six colors available in a Rubik’s Cube.
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How do you choose which people to feature in your art?
My Instagram feed is a chronological order of my inspirations. For example, after going to the Foo Fighters concert back in January 2018 (Melbourne), I felt so many emotions that I wanted to create a Dave Grohl portrait. For me it’s just a way to “give back” to the people who inspire me in that moment.
More or less, this concept is applied to each single portrait found on my page @jvenb. I also do commissioned work, but if it’s not related to me, I won’t upload it to my feed—I want to keep my page genuine.
What are the greatest challenges and rewards of your work?
There are lot of different elements needed in the creation of a portrait and the frame to hold the piece perfectly.
Organizing everything in a timely fashion is always a big challenge, as I also do fully customized works. It can be a pain sometimes, but it’s also the biggest reward. There’s not a better feeling than seeing one of my portraits hanging on a wall. It gets me every time!
Aside from making visual art, what are your everyday inspirations?
I probably listen to music six to seven hours a day, minimum.
Depending on the type of work and mood, music inspires me to get the job done.
Especially if I’m working on a design, if the portrait represented is a music artist, I listen to his/her music as an inspiration to modify the piece according to the emotion felt during the design process itself.
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What’s one truth you’ve learned as an artist?
I think almost every artist needs to have an “entrepreneurial” side to reach certain objectives. I love reading and studying about businesses and how they work, and it helps me implement strategies that I would have never thought of otherwise. Everyone can have a good message, but it’s how we communicate it that makes the difference. I remember watching this YouTube video made by Casey Neistat about this whole concept. It’s called “How to Be Heard.” Here’s the video for anyone interested:
Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?
Rather than finishing this interview with a cliché moment, I’ll simply recommend two very important books that have helped me through this journey so far:
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson (don’t judge this book by its cover).
The Personal MBA by Josh Kaufman.
The first one will help mostly on a personal level. The second one is 100% business focused but explained in very easy words—each concept is two pages or less, so it can be divided into small daily pills of business knowledge.
Follow me on Instagram @jvenb to stay in touch or if you’re interested in my future projects!