Marco is a brilliant artist who sees through people with great integrity and sensitivity. I am honored to have the opportunity to publish his stories and ArtandMe is fortunate to host his art on our site. His art carries the stamp of passion and a new dimension delivered through the intricate details. His work “Poppies” is a great demonstration of how his art can compeletly transition a room.
Marco is Italian-born, and grew up in Africa from the age of 12: in Zimbabwe (then Rhodesia). He studied Geology and Chemistry in Cape Town, South Africa, but he was always intrigued by philosophy, and art. He sought to answer Gauguin’s three questions: “Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?” by living and assisting in the development of alternative lifestyle communities. Later he worked for many years in hi-tech/internet technology in the USA, UK, and the Netherlands before moving to la Gomera, and dedicating himself to painting.
I live art as a meditative activity, and as my chosen way to know myself, and the world that surrounds me … always anew.
1. What was the first piece of art you created and what was the inspiration behind it?
I was 12 years old, and had recently moved continents from Italy to Zimbabwe with my mother when I painted my first piece. It was my first in the sense that this felt like a very big piece of paper, and I used an easel and water-based acrylic paints instead of the ever-present crayons or water-colours. It was also the first time I was deliberate about it, rather than playing or doodling. I knew this was important.
My state of mind was troubled at that time, and I was both confused by the changes that had recently wreaked havoc in my life, and stimulated by Africa; she was unarguably working its magic on me. The subject matter was of a boy in the foreground with a melancholic expression standing upright and face-on. His back is to a girl, just behind him with garish red lips, and seemingly appealing to the boy’s attention in a shy manner. The colours were extremely bright and, the lines almost geometric.
It hung in my mother’s room henceforth, although I wasn’t at all satisfied with it at the time. In retrospect I think that painting greatly assisted me in working through several complex, intense psychological dynamics that I was dealing with; including my parents’ divorce, my entry into puberty, my sense of isolation as a foreign, non-english-speaking school-boy, and my wounded self-esteem. Unfortunately I didn’t keep the painting after my mom’s passing, and I don’t have a photo of that piece to share with you. But I do have a recent piece that speaks to that time in my life, as I use art regularly to dive into unprocessed events in my life.
In retrospect I think that painting greatly assisted me in working through several complex, intense psychological dynamics that I was dealing with.
2. What was your latest work? And what was the inspiration behind it?
I have just finished a small (30 x 24cm) oil painting of a group of sperm-whales. The perspective is from beneath the pod, looking up through very light, clear water, to the subjects swimming near the ocean’s surface .
I have a display of small pieces of art in the local seafood restaurant, near the beach in the village where I live. I call it the “painted aquarium”, because its a large wooden frame with separations, each containing a small painting of a fish. When one is sold I replace it with a similar size fish painting, and “Sperm whales” will replace the “John Dory” I sold last week.
One of the greatest gifts that I received when I came to live in Alojera, in the Atlantic island of La Gomera, is that it enhanced my awareness of nature; and of the ocean in particular. I discovered how the ocean influences my moods, and state of mind, that it can magnify emotions or cleanse them, and that below the surface lies an alternate reality to the world on terrafirma. As a result, for the past few years I’ve found myself painting sea-scapes, water, and fish, although not exclusively.
3. What is your favorite piece of art?
I don’t have one single favourite piece of art, but if I had to start looking I’d probably search among Gauguin and Rothko’s works. In both cases because their art, in my experience demonstrates the sheer power of colour; to view their pieces is to let yourself be carried into introspective visions stimulated by nothing more than their colour shades, intensity, luminosity, texture and contrasts.
Perhaps the most important piece of art I painted (although definitely not the prettiest) is the one I referred to earlier – it was a dive into memories of my youth which lasted several months and produced a series of 7 pieces. This, the final piece in the series is called Pax Tibi Marce, and it hangs in my studio; I’m looking at it as I write. It is an autobiographical piece which records my experience during a month of painting in solitude. If you are interested, I wrote about my process with this painting here.
4. What are your biggest achievements so far? Both private and professional ones
I consider my biggest achievements in “private” terms, to use your terminology, and to call them “achievements” is a stretch; I’d be more comfortable describing them as “major life-themes”, and they involve my having lived and worked in 8 different countries on three continents, each for a minimum of 3 years, and the wealth of experiences I’ve accumulated as a result. On a professional level I’m proud to have worked exclusively as an artist for the past 7 years, deliberately self-taught, for an average of 5 hours per day, almost every day, and to have witnessed my progress in the craft mirroring an increasing trust in the creative process itself, unaffected by external influences, whether educational or commercial.
I exhibit my work once per year. It is always special to enter a space entirely influenced only by the original architecture, and my art. To feel its effects on me, and to witness them on my audience.
5. What is the advice that you would like to give to the other artists?
I’d shy away from advice, and that would be my primary advice to other artists. Of primordial importance to me is that art be a genuine reflection of my personal experience, and not created for its potential effect on the viewer. Paradoxically that disinterest with art’s impact is what makes it potentially impactful. Just as writers find that the most worthy material for their stories is to be found in their experience, so would artists do well to trust what is inside them, and deliberately provide a frictionless vessel for its expression. As an artist I am always working on being true to myself, deliberately ignoring all else. I must be less interested in how my art looks, and more in the state of mind in which it is produced. Ultimately art should fill the canvas through Marco … rather than Marco seeking attention for his scribbles. 😉
As an artist I am always working on being true to myself, deliberately ignoring all else.
6.. Who are your inspirational artists?
I find the artists I admire were almost obsessively driven. Giuseppe Caporossi painted the same symbol for decades . Frida Kahlo expressed her powerful art regardless of her physical and spiritual frailty. Mark Rothko insisted on his preferred colour forms, and experimented wildly within his chosen modality. And Gauguin was willing to move to Tahiti, and lose everything, just to find a life worth painting.
7. What do you think are the biggest challenges artists are facing currently? And why?
I wouldn’t generalise. The fact is that I don’t know what challenges artists in general are facing, but I do know what challenges I face, and they are all personal. The core challenge is to be true. Without compromise.
My mantra is ‘Let it be ugly, but let it be mine; let it be short but let it be real’.
I don’t see art as a means to make a living, but a way to express life. My painting has to be a concentrate of my perspective, my essence. When it is … it will find its way to the person/s who need it. And if it doesn’t its because it shouldn’t. Maybe I painted that last oil piece as a blessing for the whales themselves, rather than the customer who might buy it. In other words, I believe I’m a part of nature, no more and no less than a tree, say. Like the tree, my job is to bear fruit/art. The tree doesn’t pick up and head for San Francisco because that’s where the art galleries are. It is content to be a tree. My challenge is the same – to be content to make my art, sensitive, and respectful of my experience. I’m convinced that all the rest is a consequence. And if I should be wrong what am I risking, a few years in the old age home, perhaps? Has our modern obsession with improving our lot actually served us? In fact, as I look around, I sometimes feel we are all alive in spite of ourselves, and our best efforts to self-destruct. I for one am not impressed at all with civilisation’s advancements – they seem to have spawned more problems than they solve. I’m happy painting for its own sake. That’s the challenge. One of the corollaries of our troubled times is that more and more people feel they have little to lose. If so … I’ll lose my ambitious plans, and do my best for its own sake one painting at a time. The challenge is to let that life find its way to the canvas through the labyrinth of my judgemental mind, and its penchant to constantly seek to hijack the process, control it, shape it, define it. The challenge is to make a picture, then let it go … make space for the new one, and love them all.
Check out more Marco’s art at his portfolio page on ArtandMe here.
More of Marco’s art: marcomenato-brazza.com.