Ricardo Cavolo : The Hero We All Needed

words by alejandra marin

Superheroes. A concept that dates all the way back to at least 1917, with the masked crusaders as we know them only coming to form in the early 1930’s. A fictional character derived from the wonderment of authors all around the world. In the last decade, superheroes have become an inescapable sensation. Their logos, catchphrases, costumes and story have become commonplace.

But perhaps, we could point the finger at the source of this rabid fanaticism. These superheroes possess something we don’t. Be it facing adversity with an unwavering coolness, slickness, outstanding virtue or smart-alecky comebacks, they always turn out victorious in the end. But there are even some fights that these heroes can’t beat.

That fight is the fight we have with ourselves. Our inner demons and monsters. Born out of the culmination of the consequences of our mistakes, the numerous doubts, rejections, fears and ever-present uncertainty. Barcelona-based artist and storyteller, Ricardo Cavolo, created a hero to face this battle for us. The conjurer of colours blends traditional and folk art with references to contemporary culture creating multi-layered designs that transport our minds to another realm, to see beyond the surface.

Cavolo’s unique fighter is named ‘Ghosty’, a steely teenager who is determined to fight and defeat all our inner terrors and fears with wit and a sweet personality. Understanding the duality of everything, he believes that we are all ‘Ghosty’. We just haven’t found it yet. Creating discourse over our inner turmoil will help, however long it may take, to flesh out the answer to it all. Keeping mum will only make these monsters stronger, to the point it’ll take over our lives.

Ricardo enjoys charming masses through deep narratives merged into his illustrations. His portfolio portrays the story of a boy raised among brushes and paints who grew up to become a multi-talented artist. Beginning his career as an art director in an advertising agency, his peculiar style captivated Cirque du Soleil’s attention, who commissioned Cavolo’s first big gig. Eventually, all his hard work paid off as he started breaking barriers with his murals and paintings. Having collaborated with renowned brands such as Alexander McQueen and Gucci, as well as, Converse and Superplastic, his work has carried his name all over Europe, North and South America, and Southeast Asia.

As a child, cartoons, comics and his father’s paintings and illustrations, set a foundation for him. He embarked on a path of storytelling through his drawings. However, with time, Ricardo discovered that he could do more. Longing to be a narrator was not enough, he wanted to have an impact of the lives of people. “One thing I’ve always wanted to do with my work is to spread a message of social nature. At the moment, I’m exploring it, I’ve been doing so for about a year.”  he said when asked about continuing to spread a message of mental health in his future work.

After falling into depression 4 years ago, Cavolo has taken it upon himself to confront these issues and tear down the red tape around mental health. Earlier this year he presented, “Hero’s Wound”, his latest exhibition in London where characters of pop culture are seen going through a depressive episode, with each of them plugged into an iPod, crying to a heart-breaking melody. A presentation of the idea that behind the façade of their character, they too deal with their own issues like we do. ‘Ghosty’ is the antithesis of that notion.

Artists tend to be romanticized. Put on a higher pedestal, pursuing a more noble form of human communication. Hiding behind the façade of obfuscated expression. But on the other hand, when they’re vulnerably sharing their emotions through their work, society and the industry knocks them down a peg. As though showing this intimate side of themselves is an unthinkable act. “There’s a shame on opening up about it, there’s stigma. If you talk about it, that success they (society) put in our heads escapes from us”, he says about the importance of tearing down the stigma around mental health.

There’s not many bigger ways to make a statement than working together with Mercedes-Benz. The German automobile brand known for their luxury vehicles teamed up with Ricardo in a celebration of individualism and self-expression. He took this opportunity, swapping the paint brush for a stylus pen, to spread the notion of tolerance and acceptance. A brand association that sees light at the end of proverbial tunnel of affirmation.

Ricardo walks a lonely path among uncharted waters. Even when things get rough, he trudges on, in hopes that what he stands for today will pave the way forward in the future. He will continue speaking the unspoken, one brush stroke at a time.