Interview: Mario Felipe
Mario Felipe is an Illustrator, Graphic Designer and Art teacher based in Santiago, Chile.
Specialising in the abstract, Mario creates highly conceptual work expressing ideas through simple shapes and emotions through colour.
Whatever he is painting on to, be it a large canvas, a found image or a page from an old book, a striking, modern aesthetic is always achieved. There are a number of elements which go in to Mario’s work including a great understanding of colour and its emotive properties, skilled use of medium to create a striking contrast and an evocative use of line and shape. Mario has designed album covers, books and prints with this formula, a mix of knowledge and skill, producing unique and powerful results each time.
We found out more about Mario and the influences and ideas behind his abstract wonders.
First of all, tell us about yourself and your work.
I live in Santiago and I’m 29 years old, I work as art teacher and also as a graphic designer. My visual work uses abstraction and is divided in two directions that I research and develop, one is painting and drawing and the other is the intervention of discarded materials (magazines, books, encyclopedias, photographs, cardboard and wood), you could classify as collage. I like the different surfaces, experimenting with different sizes and materialities. Also I use a very limited palette of colours and very synthetic shapes.
Can you talk us through your process?
I think it’s pretty neat, like a scientific method, with very marked steps. First comes a question, which is follows by an idea, then comes a lot of information from all sides, I read poems and interviews, I see documentaries, talk to friends and walk a lot. Then experiment with various materials and surfaces for a while, then sketches and eventually I produce a series, which would be the solution. Lately what has caught my attention is the topics associated with hyper-connectivity, the relationship with time, information overload and void.
What is an average day like for you? Where do you do your creative work?
A good average day could be a quiet morning in the studio, then lunch with a friend, after that, read in the park and return to work at the studio for the afternoon and evening, which is where I concentrate more and progress further.
My creative work develops and materializes in my studio, but I think its born and is growing in the moments of leisure and recreation, in the most unexpected moments there’s a click that reveals something, that’s where the idea starts.
Your style is very abstract and painterly. What attracts you to this aesthetic?
Basically I’m attracted to abstract forms which suggest something, which have an implicit message, a secret. I feel more connected to the idea of things than by his naturalistic representation, I feel it is more subjective and genuine. The ideas and concepts I think are best understood and communication is more effective this way. The ideas become shapes and emotions become colours.
We particularly liked your two series In Black We Trust and In White We Trust. Can you tell us more about them and what inspired you to do it?
The name was taken from a Dead Kennedys album, a parody of the phrase “In God We Trust” which appears on a dollar bill. I intervened photos of an art book from the sixteenth century, with cuts of white paper, in order to hide and create a double reading, generating a parallel mystery and reflection. In the first series was concealed with black ink the photos, then in “In White We Trust”, in the same way I was hid some parts of the body with white. White is associated with purity, cleaning, in this case would be a kind of irony to the sexual social control said by Foucault; the fear of nudity, sexual repression, trying to hide the body with a cultural idea of external purity, which is associated with white.
When did you know you wanted to be an artist?
I think since childhood, I drew, painted and built things with Lego all day. When I finished school I studied chemistry at university for two years, then I decided to study arts. When I finished, I started from scratch, drawing and painting, to find my own expression of ideas and concepts through this medium, which has revealed gradually to be a way of self-understanding and exploration of my own personality and unity with the world. This gives shape to my artwork.
What influences your creative work?
Many things influence my creative work. Nature always, silence, the temporality, the contemplation of time, the cyclical life, the pre-Hispanic American art by its simplicity and power, Tarkovsky’s films always help inspiration and reflection. Also going for a walk outside the city.
Are there any artists’ work which you have seen or books you have read recently that have inspired you?
Yes, there are always books that inspires me. I recently read an intimate diary of Werner Herzog of when he was filming in the jungle of Peru. The way of facing the jungle, nature out of control, excessive and obscene that rots everything, It’s amazing to see how he achieves his project under his own law. I’ve also been reading some Julio Cortazar stories, it gets my attention his way of telling and structuring time. And the last thing I read was an investigation of the origins of the American man, migratory people who inhabited the continent and the roots that gave how to languages that exist and that are becoming extinct.
What is your dream job?
The ideal work would be make art direction for bands – from thinking the concept to getting the physical final piece, I think all processes are very amusing. I would also like to make textbooks for children with different kinds of disabilities and make them more accessible.
If you could see into the studio of any artist (dead or alive) who would it be and why?
Now I think that would be three, I would like to know the studio of Kazimir Malevich be able to experience the weather, context and understand a little more the direction that he took his work in over time. The other one would be Paul Klee, I think it would be very entertaining and I imagine he should have many small drawings. Finally Bruno Munari because it must be a very educational and entertaining experience.
Where do you see yourself in five years time?
I guess I’ll be existing and having more stories to tell. I also imagine I’ll be doing something I like, living between the city and the countryside, and above all I imagine living a lot slower than the current rhythm, I’m trying to recover slowness of things.