Interview with Marco Mazzoni for “Dear Collapse”

Thinkspace is proud to present Marco Mazzoni’s latest body of work ‘Dear Collapse’ which will include a complete Moleskin sketchbook in our main room coming this Saturday, March 4th. This will be Italian artist Mazzoni’s second solo exhibition with us showing his phenomenal pencil drawings that have the dense opacity and immersive depth of paintings. In anticipation of Mazzoni’s upcoming exhibition with us, we have an exclusive interview with Marco Mazzoni to discuss his technique, source of inspiration, and an inspired cocktail recipe.

Join us for the opening of “Dear Collapse” Saturday, March 4th from 6 -9pm. 

SH: What ideas and themes were you exploring in this latest body of work?
MM: First of all, the title of this show is inspired by a chat I had with the famous Italian songwriter Vasco Brondi, best known as “Le Luci della Centrale Elettrica” (who spent with me some of his precious time although he is currently very busy with the release of his new album) !!

“Dear Collapse” comes from a few health problems I have been dealing with throughout this year. Such situation allowed me to reconsider many aspects of my relationship with society. This theme is clearly shown by many of the drawings titles (“Regret”, “Insecurity”, “Compassion”, “A Secret”) and by the Moleskine sketchbook on show, which has been my faithful companion throughout all the waiting times.

SH: Your technique with colored pencils has been able to translate the density of paint and yet a texture like velvet. There are many trials and errors throughout an artist’s journey, but how did you develop this unique artistic style? Did you have a mentor? Formal training with pencils?
MM: The use of colored pencils actually depends on my incapacity to use with effectiveness liquid materials such as acrylics or oils.
For sure my love for such medium has its roots from my encounter with the artist Gianluigi Rocca, a draughtsman (and shepherd!) who dedicated all of his life to drawings of Still Life mainly with graphite.
In order to achieve a velvet-like quality in my drawings, I studied the 16th-century technique of chiaroscuro (to be clear, the same technique used by Ribera and Rembrandt). The final result consists in multiple glazes of pencils, in layers.

SH: What do you feel can be achieved with pencils, that is limited in paint?
MM: Surely a blunter quality of mark and a sensation of overall uniformity due to the specific size of the tip of the pencils.

SH: What was the most challenging piece in the current body of work? Which piece is most personal to you?
MM: If we don’t consider the Moleskine sketchbook (which is definitely the most personal and time-demanding work I have ever done), I would say that the most challenging and representative piece in the current body of work is “Madre” (in English “Mother”), one of my very few drawings featuring an entire face. In this piece, you can see that the tear from the eye of the subject actually becomes the subject’s viscera. This is to say that the Mother is the one who gives birth to an organism, thus forming a bond with her creature that will last until the end of her life.

SH: If your body of work inspired a cocktail? What would it be made out of and taste like?
MM: It would be definitely inspired by an Italian cocktail named “Sbagliato”, 1/3 sparkling wine, 1/3 Campari, 1/3 Vermouth. Sweet and nice to look at, but heavy on your stomach!

SH: In this exhibition complete sketchbooks will be available for collectors, what made you decide to release your sketchbooks?
MM: The making of this sketchbook went hand in hand with the preparation of the show. Inside it, you can see how I studied palettes and ideas. Most of the portraits included, feature people I have seen throughout this year while traveling in the underground or outside the studio, people I know (my mother, my father, my fiancèe, friends), and two writers (Don DeLillo and Paul Auster) whose books I have been re-reading during the preparation of the show.
I chose to release this sketchbook in order to make the show more complete. In fact, whereas the other pieces have been thought and finished inside the studio, the sketchbook has been made mainly outside the studio. Finally, my idea was that of putting together an exhibition capable of showing both sides of the overall work.

SH: What is your creative process? Can you walk us through a day in the studio?
MM: The idea for a piece usually comes from books or from something that hits me about important artists of the past. Some of the works in this show are inspired by my latest passion for sculptors (Medardo Rosso and Adolfo Wildt for example).
My typical day in the studio can be resumed in a few simple steps: wake up, coffee, draw, eat, draw, cook, eat, sleep.

SH: How do you push through moments of creative dry spells? What is the best advice you’ve received as an artist?
MM: Each time I have a dry-spell I usually take a walk outside with my fiancée as she is the one to sense when I am having a block and drags me out of the studio first.
It’s quite hard for me to accept advice from others because I tend to take the whole responsibility on my shoulders for whatever I am doing so that I can be the only one to blame if something goes wrong (or to praise if something goes right).

SH: What elements in other artists’ work inspire you? Who are a few of your favorite artists right now?
MM: Some of the artists of the past I love the most are the aforementioned sculptors Medardo Rosso and Adolfo Wildt, and the Italian draughtsman Renzo Vespignani.
The contemporary artists I admire the most are Audrey Kawasaki, Aaron Horkey, Yoshitomo Nara, Esao Andrews, Federico Solmi, my friend Agostino Arrivabene, Anton Vill and many more I surely love but at the moment I can’t remember.
Although what really really got me deeply touched is a dance by Nosego I had the lucky chance to see on his Instagram a little while ago!

SH: What are three of your favorite places in Milan?
MM: The house of my friends Stefano and Chiara, where my fiancèe and I have the chance to eat something new and exotic every time!
“Fondazione Prada,” a contemporary art museum, a few step away from my studio.
“Circolo Magnolia”, a place where I often go to see concerts of my favorite bands.

Coming in March – Marco Mazonni’s ‘Dear Collapse’

Marco Mazzoni
Dear Collapse
March 4, 2017 – March 25, 2017

We are  pleased to present its second solo exhibition of new works by Italian artist Marco Mazzoni in Dear Collapse. Mazzoni’s phenomenal drawings have the dense opacity and immersive depth of paintings. He achieves this quality of detail and rich tonality, more commonly associated with wet media, through dry, converting traditional old masters’ painting techniques to pencil. These emphasize dramatic uses of light and contrast, like chiaroscuro and tenebrism, to create dramatic extremes and pitches. The density and richness of his works on paper belie the simplicity of their materiality; though seemingly plush and heavy with wet pigment, they are entirely rendered in Faber Castells. Originally from Tortona in Northern Italy and now based in Milan, Mazzoni is known all over the world for his hauntingly beautiful images of women partially obscured by a hallucinogenic flood of flora and fauna. Caught somewhere between the swell of an eruption and the depletion of devouring, the faces Mazzoni reveals from beneath their burden of petals, leaves, and wings seem to bloom and corrode, as though possessed by a manic biology.

Inspired by ancient Sardinian folklore and its traditions of oral storytelling, Mazzoni is fascinated by the history of its matriarchal culture, and the central role women played as herbalists and healers in the 16th to 18th centuries. These women were objects of both admiration and dread, occupying a position of proximity to the great mysteries of life and death as both midwives and shamans; agented in the rituals of birth and dying. Myths grew from these powerful matriarchies and verbally recounted stories of darkly worlds had women as its subjects and arbiters. Prominent in Sardinian myth are Janas and Cogas, female figures deeply connected to nature who were either enchanted menders or seductive, curse-wielding, witches. Mazzoni’s works capture the ambiguity of these ancient harbingers of feminine power – galvanized as emotional extremes in his works. They appear as beautiful and seductive at times, or as vaguely ominous and morbid at others.

The artist’s technique involves the application of several meticulous layers of color pencil, much like the under paintings used in wet media, and “glazes” or final veils of color are applied as a finishing step to unify the pigment and visual tone of the works. Sketches have always been an integral aspect of the artist’s practice; the preliminary space in which he resolves his compositions and develops concepts and technique. Dear Collapse will include one of Mazzoni’s complete sketchbooks, available through the gallery for the first time, which will be filmed in its entirety by Thinkspace.

Mazzoni’s imagery conveys a heavy sensuality. Faces remain unspecific and anonymous, eyes are seldom revealed, either masked or left as expanses of negative space. The figurative component of his work functions almost as a vessel from which the flowers, plants, and butterflies burst. Seeping from mouths and consuming skins, the plants and flowers – direct references to the ancient traditions of herbal healing and psychoactive poisons – are inextricably merged with bodies. It is always somewhat unclear as to whether the growth comes from within or without, whether the body is the agent or the victim of its consumption. The works are also undeniably erotic, magnetized, suggesting something of the ambivalent coexistence of human desire and repulsion – frenzied bedfellows like beauty and disgust, vitality and rot, life and death – these figures, eerily more than human, are uncomfortably necromanced and bloated with strange, beautiful life.