On this edition of “Travel Influences”, I interviewed a dear friend of mine, Giuseppe Bellia, the man behind Beddru Art. We met in Brussels eight years ago at graduate school and quickly connected over our love for travel and food. He left a lucrative career in marketing to pursue his passion, his art. His art now has been exhibited throughout Europe and I’m waiting with baited breath for a showing here in Washington, DC. He candidly shares how food and travel has inspired his beautiful pieces of art.
Art, Travel, and Food: Beddru Art
What was your first trip abroad as an adult? What were your impressions?
Greece was the place I chose for my first trip as an adult. I visited the island of Corfú. My choice was probably influenced by the fact that the city I am originally from in Sicily, Agrigento, is a stunning and well preserved Greek site with amazing temples, statues and open air theatres. Growing up within such a premium historical location has also influenced my approach in art when it comes to expressing human bodies’ volumes and beauty. I planned to travel alone but eventually three good friends of mine joined as well. My recollections are still fresh like I did the trip yesterday.
I remember a pretty green island with a transparent sea. I also remember the feeling of freedom while discovering the island on an old vespa with my chaps. The warm wind blowing on my face while driving made me feel so good and free. I was 19. It was not my first time away from home. I had already done many city trips with my school fellows. But this was the first time away just with my friends and no parents’ control whatsoever. I loved it up to the point I haven’t stopped travelling the world since.
Which place abroad have you been to that has given you a completely different perspective on travel?
I am constantly on the move. I have been visiting many countries but the one that probably has marked me the most so far is Tanzania. I flew there with my partner in September 2014. Preparation was different from other trips before. Vaccinations and special care before, during and after the trip were needed this time, which gave me the sense of how different this experience might be. Too often we are used to destinations in developed countries enjoying a certain level of comfort and an appealing offer of amenities. Well, this time I landed in a place where workers unloaded my luggage manually (no belts), where the airport had no shops with the exception of a snack corner and even no roof, where I had to manually serve myself from a bucket full of water in the restroom. I am a traveler who likes touching at different experiences and a bit of adventure is always very welcome. I loved the contact with Nature in the national parks, especially the Serengeti, but I would not go for a safari again. I felt my place was not there disturbing the natural habitat of wild animals. In order to reach the different preserved areas, we had to drive for hours through local villages tainted by discouraging poverty. This gave me the chance to witness the conditions locals live in, but also to think of how spoiled I am and how unnecessary many things in my “civilized” European life are. I left the country with a promise: avoiding both unnecessary complaints and food-waste. African children are not only smiling and welcoming but also brave, as they use to walk long distances on bare feet, and, under a boiling Sun, to go to the closest school. Looking at them, I thought of me sometimes complaining for the stuck lift in my building just because this forced me to take the stairs to reach the 4th floor and I suddenly felt ashamed! Africa opened my eyes making me change my perspective on how I look at things.
Which destination has been your most interesting to explore on business and which on leisure? Why?
For my Art, London has been a great spot. I am in love with the city and with English people in general. They are sensitive to art and so charmingly different from the rest of Europeans. They have always fascinated me with their peculiar sense of humor. I am going for business again to London in June as I will take part in the Affordable Art Fair in Hampstead, such a great opportunity to increase my visibility as an artist in such a vibrant art environment. London has offered me great connections for projects I have had the chance to be involved in or that I am currently working on. More news to come….Moreover strong personal recollections, very dear to me, are the link to the City. I would never say no to an exhibition in London or even simply a city trip. For my business, I have also started looking at the United States to represent a valuable extension of what I have been doing so far in Europe, and it’s also a mature and knowledgeable art-market. One thing at the time, I know I will get there as well.
When it comes to leisure, Istanbul is the city that pops up in my mind. I visited it for the first time on my own in 2010. I fell in love with it instantaneously, up to the point that in the following 40 days, I went back twice. Istanbul for many aspects reminds me of Sicily which is not a surprise as the Ottoman Empire conquered us in the 10th century. I loved walking in its streets, crossing its bridges on foot, stopping in the port and eating a local sandwich with freshly fried fish on the traditional boats, visiting the amazing architectural sites such as the mosques, Hagia Sophia, the Basilica Cistern and many more , relaxing in the traditional baths, shopping for colorful spices, drinking the Turkish coffee and meeting the locals who were valuable city-guides and also precious advisors when it comes to food and beverages in traditional restaurants with an astonishing view on the Bosphorus. One of my favorite dishes is manti, a sort of traditional Turkish pasta, somehow similar to Italian tortellini, typically served topped with yoghurt and garlic, and spiced with red pepper powder and melted butter, and topped with ground sumac and dried mint. Simply to die for!
How are food and art connected?
Well, cooking is an art, taking meticulous care when presenting dishes. When a chef mixes his well-chosen ingredients, combines them and obtains a tasty result is a process similar to what an artist like me does when I paint. I carefully select my pigments, I weight them, I project mentally how I want them to blend to create the vibrant chromatic effects my paintings are known for. Then, another similarity between food and art, is the desire to taste the ingredients while executing the preparation. Food is source of pleasure. Tasting and monitoring the ingredients is part of the control process that brings to excellence. In the same way, I am so addicted to my inks that if I could I would drink them. No worries, I haven’t tried yet but I like when they penetrate my skin while painting. I like feeling them. I don’t use gloves on purpose. To me it’s a sort of osmosis. It’s unconscious but necessary during the creative process.
You’re from Sicily. What are your top food/experience recommendations?
Well, this is a tough question. The choice is very large. Moreover, any traveller passing by Sicily can witness how impressive and diverse food experiences are from place to place. Of course I have my MUST HAVE, choices every time I go back to visit family and friends. To someone who desires discovering Sicily from a gastronomic point of view, I would surely recommend to try Arancine (fried rice balls). This is a classic! With meat, fish, veggies or simply butter and mozzarella they are simply stunning!
I am also a big fan of Sicilian Caponata(Eggplant stew). The best one is the homemade version. My dad is so good at it. Moreover, a traveler should not leave Sicily without trying the Cannolo Siciliano, a crispy brown shell filled with fresh sweet sheep milk ricotta and chocolate chips, garnished with candied fruits. In Piana degli Albanesi, a small village close to Palermo, where Albanian is still spoken, there is a gigantic version of it. At breakfast time another MUST have is the Granita (of lemon, mulberry, pistachio, coffee and many more sorts). It is iced and super good. Don’t forget to taste it with a warm brioche. The experience will be priceless. When it comes to red wines, I love Nero D’Avola. My favorite white one is called Gocce Di Luce, It’s a white wine obtained from black grapes. It sounds weird but its taste is gorgeous. To end, anyone must try Passito of Pantelleria and Marsala, two traditional liquors that honor the richness and the diversity of my marvelous island.
I want to thank Beddru again sharing his travel influences with The Dining Traveler and for his years of unconditional love and friendship. He’s a role model for those who want to follow their passion. You can learn more about his art on his website, Beddru.