Some words on Mario Sughi’s work
Some of us are interested in animals, some in cars, but as people we are primarily interested in other people, even if we don’t know them, sometimes especially if we don’t know them.
When an artist places two people together in an image, as Mario Sughi does so engagingly, we tend to project emotions and a narrative onto them. For example, in Mario’s exhibition ‘Interiors and Exteriors’, I am feeling sympathy for the boy with the expression of quiet desperation in the picture entitled ‘Dublin’ [Plate A]. As for the chap in ‘The Visit’ [Plate B], he is is looking a little too smug for my liking. By extension of this idea, when four or six people are placed in the artwork, a virtual soap opera starts up in the heads of the viewer!
But the artist has not written the script - it is we as viewers that write it.
In other words, visual art is not a crossword whereby there is one answer that needs to be decoded by the viewer.
It doesn’t come as a surprise that when Mario makes a new image, he begins with the face. But the expressions are subtle and there are no wild gesticulations. Although the characters are beautiful and seem affluent, there is a sense of ennui about them. In ‘No Plans for the Weekend’ [Plate C], I am reminded of the characters of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novels, beautiful people with lots of opportunity but little direction.
The subjects are more than fictional characters. They are also a vehicle for Mario’s visual concerns. His aesthetic is based on simplicity, elegance and lightness of touch. Like Alex Katz, the American artist, he rises to the artistic challenge of conveying much with very little.
And he plays visual games too, as in ‘The Red Door’ [Plate D], whereby the focus in terms of content is the face but the visual focus is the door, and so a tension is created by drawing the eye of the viewer in different directions.
Mario draws his images digitally on a computer and, rather like a writer who can move whole scenes around thanks to ‘cut and paste’, he can play with the layout of characters a bit like a child plays with their toy soldiers, moving them around, changing the dynamic of the scene each time.
The presentation of digital drawings in this way is quite unusual in Ireland but regardless of technique, the viewing experience is first and foremost a visual one. It can be argued that the rise of the concept in art has been at the cost of the visual and therefore it is reassuring to find here a visual language at play in the colour, the composition and the pattern. Of course I would expect nothing less from an Italian artist whose legacy is that of the Renaissance greats – Leonardo, Michelangelo and Raphael – and the generations of notable Italian artists who followed, of whom Mario is one.
Arts Director of the Waterford Healing Arts Trust and Writer
Some words on Mario Sughi’s work presented at Greyfriar Gallery, first time published in
Figures and Landscapes, Mario Sughi at 6° Senso Art Gallery (Darwin Edizioni, Roma, 2012)