Artist Marco Pariani (b. 1986, Italy) talks to Amanda Færk from V1 Gallery about screenshots, figurative language, sky watching and romantic abstraction prior to opening his first solo exhibition with V1 Gallery.
Amanda Færk (Assistant Director, V1 Gallery): The series of works presented in your first solo exhibition at V1 Gallery are emblematic of your recent course. The title of the exhibition Screenshot alludes to a very contemporary theme, from (computer)screen and shot in the photographic sense. It is a function I use multiple times daily working hours on the computer dumping, saving and sharing. Familiarity aside, I feel your paintings speak a very organic language. For me, your paintings have a need to be felt and possess a rare energy, a romantic abstraction if you may. What does the title Screenshot mean to you?
Marco Pariani: Firstly, thank you, it’s the first time someone tells me that my paintings have a rare energy and feel them as a romantic abstraction, I like that! Screenshot for me is just a title to indicate what there is before every painting that I’ve been doing in the past two years. I mean, it’s still the same “subject”, but before I was just looking around, keeping stuff in my mind, now I’m taking screenshots of everything that seems interesting and weird for my process.
AF: Many of your titles contain figurative descriptions, more specifically animals (Caterpillar, Bird, Alligator… ). I did not notice the animals at first, but now with the titles given I can’t seem to see anything but a caterpillar. Some paintings in the exhibition seem to have a more shrouded characteristic reminiscent of the characters Danish CoBra-painters Asger Jorn or Carl-Henning Pedersen communicate. Where do you find your subjects and what inspires them?
MP: Like I said before, it’s always been something around me, years ago the society, and now it’s focused on more specific aspects of the society, in particular human humanizing animals. I find them mostly on Instagram, but also around me, here in NYC. I take pictures too. I like trying to represent them, or parts of them, just because it’s something that is so far from my lifestyle, and it fits well with the composition of my paintings. Maybe, it’s just a feeling. For the titles, I’ve always loved to play with them. In one painting there are a lot of different screenshots and parts of something that I have in mind, so giving them one name is just to avoid saying too much. I don’t like to say too much, and I like to put the point of view on something that’s just a part of the painting, it’s fun! Sometimes, people tell me “Oh, now I can see it!” but sometimes it’s not, it’s just a game and I like that!
AF: Your work to me comes across as very honest and direct. Do you give titles to the paintings after they are finished? Or do you have a clear-cut goal / subject in mind before starting a new painting?
MP: Thank you again, I appreciate your words a lot. I give titles at the end when they are finished, always. Sometimes, it takes some time like hours or days to find the right title.
AF: I feel this series of paintings has very structural, or even archetypal, relationships as figures, symbols, brush strokes and personal marks. Some of the paintings also appear as affirmations of imagery with figural connotations. Talk to me about the genesis of the Screenshot series. What are your criteria or rules? What was your vision? When did you start working on the series?
MP: I like to follow the feeling and the composition, also, colors and layers, that’s the first “rule” for me. Screenshot was something that came to my mind after I started to work on the paintings for the exhibition. I just said, why, it’s been a while that you have been working from screenshots, and you never gave them the right attention? So, I did. I started working on the series for the show in April 2021. I ordered 16 canvases and prepared them all. Then I made 10 or 12 paintings and I chose the ones I liked mostly, and those that were talking with each other. Trashed a couple. Kept one for myself.
AF: What is the most typical reaction you receive embedding recognizable imagery into abstraction?
MP: I don’t know, in the contemporary art world people like to compare young artists to others, and to the masters of the past, and honestly, it’s weird, it seems like they need to tell you that you’re not doing something new, and I don’t know why they need that.
AF: Interesting, I feel most art critics- and writers would have us believe it is nearly exclusively the masters of the past, and predominantly male artists whose art other- or younger artists’ work derives from. I am not sure this interpretation of our shared artistic past / present will improve much here. What do you think?
MP: Maybe the best reaction for me is when people tell me that my work is recognizable as mine, that they can say it’s a Pariani without seeing my name below, maybe. For me the abstraction side of my paintings is just something I need, something to avoid figures and immediately recognizable stuff that might annoy me. I mean outside my own work, I like figurative paintings.
AF: Your large-scale paintings are very bodily. It can appear as if you attack the painting.
MP: I guess they are, I mean, it’s a long process to prepare the canvases, almost one week each, and then when I must put the ‘subject’ as a result, it’s just down to one shot, in like less than an hour, sometimes in a few hours, it’s rare for me to finish a work the day after.
AF: Do you work with sketches?
MP: I’m not working from sketches, for me drawings are just for fun at the moment, they are not related to the paintings that much. I would like to have a better relation between drawings/sketches and paintings, but it’s hard, we’ll see in the future.
AF: I was told by Jesper Elg (Director, V1 Gallery) that you have a very specific interest in graffiti trucks. You don’t strike me as a graffiti artist, but I did notice in some paintings that it seems like you have painted over a tag, or buffing. Is this true?
MP: Yeah, honestly, I like Brooklyn because of the graffiti found around every neighborhood. I have a strong passion for spray paint, I mean, its effects and its colors, the different caps you can use, but it’s hard to work with spray paint sometimes and that thing fascinated me so much in the past. I did some when I was 20 I guess, maybe 18, in Italy. It was just for fun at some places at night. While smoking I would lay outside in the fields and look at the sky.
AF: Interesting. Perhaps this is where the romantic feeling- or abstraction I noticed at first comes from?
MP: I have tons of pictures of some trucks here in Brooklyn. I started to collect pictures like that two years ago. Maybe they are just so beautiful. Layers and layers sometimes with colors. People that try to delete the graffiti create some crazy shapes and they are just so beautiful in my point of view! I think trucks are the new graffiti era in NYC, they are everywhere, the style is almost the same from the subways during the 80s and 90s, but with some new colors and surfaces.
AF: Acrylic, oil, spray paint… Are you specific about what type of paint, or do you use whatever is handy?
MP: Oil and spray paint are just for the final ‘subject’, acrylic, gesso and mediums are used for preparing the canvas with many layers. Like a chemical process. I almost hate preparing canvases. Meanwhile, I need it, I need time to just process work and not use my fantasy, my brain, you know what I mean?
AF: I like how much you care about the process. Have you ever completed solely figurative paintings?
MP: Yes, in the past, I started to paint on huge canvases in 2005/2006, and I started with faces and after with bodies and animals. Like I said before, I prefer the ‘abstraction’ because making something extremely recognizable is something that might be boring to me.
AF: How does a normal workday look for you?
MP: I usually to come by the studio late in the morning and just look around and prepare things. I go back home for lunch and then I come back to the studio in the afternoon to paint. This is a normal day if I must do a new painting. Other days are just for cleaning the studio, listening to music, watching movies, drawing and other things like sitting down and looking at my paintings.
AF: Very interesting. When the world opens and you can go anywhere in the Universe where will you go?
MP: Italy! In three years, I’ve not seen my family.
Studio photos by Javier Romero