• Jamie Rothberg

Rubik's Turned Portrait

Updated: Jan 14, 2019

Giovanni Contardi is just your average 24-year-old. That can solve a Rubick's Cube one-handed in 9.43 seconds. Oh, and he can also create incredibly accurate portraits of people - mostly celebrities - with just about 700 Rubik's cubes.

So, how did this all start?

Giovanni is originally from Pesaro, Italy, but has been living in Melbourne, Australia for the past four years. He is "learning the craft of coffee roasting." Anything coffee-related sparks Giovanni's interests and he enjoys learning about its culture throughout the world. In one month, he will be moving to the states.

But, as you can guess, he has a side gig. Working with Rubik's cubes - and not just solving them.

"I’m momentarily back in Italy as I’m now full time working on my art and I’m officially represented in New York by 'Gallery 104'."

When Giovanni was 14, one of his best friends purchased for and taught him how to solve a Rubik's cube.

Giovanni states, "We soon started competing one against each other, trying to beat each other’s records."

Not too long after, Giovanni discovered worldly competitions. His goal to compete in these competitions led him to practice solving the famous cube for many hours a day.

"I simply enjoyed the process of solving it, while listening to some good music," explains Giovanni.

And so began his career as a Speedcuber. In the past ten years, Giovanni has set more than 60 national records, 9 European records and 3 world records. From 2010 to 2014, Giovanni was Italian's champion. His most recent record was a few years ago, solving the Rubik's cube with one hand in a solid 9.43 seconds.

One hand. Under ten seconds. Call me impressed.

With world records beat and solving the cube tens of thousands of times, Giovanni decided to take his cube skills outside of the box.

"Since I was practicing so many hours with the cube," says Giovanni, "I always thought it would be cool to apply the skills I learned to something different, more creative."

Giovanni's inspiration came from seeing people around the world experiment with pixel art. His love of pixel art and his competitive side forced him to put together two things no one has ever attempted: creating art with Rubik's Cubes.

In 2012, Giovanni kick-started his status as the artist who made portraits from Rubik's cubes. Countless hours were spent improving his designs.

Giovanni's first portrait was a representation of "The Scream" by Edvard Munch. This was a high school project where Giovanni used roughly 900 cubes. ​

Seven years later, Giovanni has definitely mastered Rubik's Cube portraits.

Today, instead of 900, Giovanni uses roughly 700 cubes as he has found this to be the right amount between the quality of the portrait and the size. He photographs everything on his phone and then posts to Instagram so the world can revel in his awesome work.

He explains how it may be easier to create a detailed piece with thousands of cubes, but the size would make it very hard to frame and hang it on a wall. In addition, price would raise, too.

Using the rough amount of 700 cubes allows Giovanni to still represent great detail in his work, but keep the art at a reasonable size: 65 inches by 56 inches. The smaller pieces that he creates are more challenging when it comes to capturing detail.

Thus far, Stranger Things' character, Eleven, is Giovanni's favorite creation.

"I’m just very happy with the work behind it, and how I was able to recreate exactly what was in my head. But for different reasons, I’m emotionally attached to multiple pieces."

When social media became a fad, Giovanni began using it to share his portraits with the world (after all, it is how I came across his art).

"Social media has been an incredible tool, that made real certain connections that wouldn’t otherwise be possible."

Social media, specifically Instagram, has allowed Giovanni to have exchanges with actors like Will Smith, Dwayne Johnson, and Kevin Hart.

At first, he was just "the guy on Instagram" creating art. Now, Giovanni is a represented artist in New York.

Creating art with Rubik's Cubes has become much more interesting to do than solving them. Instead of improving his solving time by maybe 0.1 seconds, Giovanni would rather use the cubes to create art. Every now and then, he will solve a cube just because...why not?

With fame coming quickly from behind, Giovanni has some advice for those aspiring artists.

"Probably the most boring thing an artist could say - but I always recommend, is to learn about business. I think almost every artist needs to have an 'entrepreneurial' side if they want to be successful (economically speaking)."

Aside from that, Giovanni says to do what you love in the way you enjoy it the most.

In his free time, Giovanni enjoys playing the drums, something he wants to focus on more in 2019, as music is "good for the soul."

One may wonder, what's the end goal here? The answer is simple: ​"My goal is simply to show that Rubik’s cubes are not just for 'nerds' and it can be something cool. I like the idea of being able to show that to as many people as possible."

Check Giovanni out on Instagram @jvenb!


Jamie Rothberg | Writer | Chicago

  • LinkedIn - Black Circle