MARIO SUGHI: A Digital Flâneur
in Un desiderio senza più tempo Mario Sughi at 6° Senso Art Gallery,
Rome 15 March - 5 April 2019, Exhibition catalogue (Vanilla Edizioni, 2018)
(English tranlation by Simon Turner)
The cold heat of Images
In artists we recognise an ability to reveal mysterious affinities between people and situations, environments and objects. The sense of wonder described so beautifully by Baudelaire, in his pages devoted to the painter of modern life, is an emotional state of astonishment in the face of phenomena.
The painter of modernity is the person that, lured by the primacy of vision, fills the kaleidoscopic theatre at the world with forms and colours. It is an observation technique that transforms the discontinuous but never-ending flow of change into an image.
The words of the film director Michelangelo Antonioni come to mind: “I happened to be in Rome some years ago, and I didn’t know what to do. When I don’t know what to do, I start looking around. There’s a technique for this, or rather there are plenty. I have my own. It consists in going back up from a series of images to a state of things. Experience teaches me that when an intuition looks good, then it’s also right. I don’t know why.” 1
Seeing and observing are activities of the eye that require a technique, and a state of mind.
Raffaele Simongini by nerosunero 2018
The artist Mario Sughi writes: It’s like when you sit in a coffee shop and enjoy watching the passers-by. Some of them capture your attention. You follow them with your eyes and you reinvent their stories. And yet the only thing you know about these people and their lives is their image in front of you. And that is what you try to do when you draw and paint: you try to capture and reproduce those interesting images. Nothing more, nothing less, because the image seems already to have everything you need within it.” 2
It’s like a declaration of intent, as though Sughi were murmuring: an image, a work of art, is successful if it emerges not from reasoning but spontaneously, from an inner need, from an intuition that comes from circumstances observed with detachment and disinterest.
Sughi’s “new mixed media” technique involves mixing digital and traditional paint, photography and freehand drawing, and it subjects the viewer’s eye to a form of perceptive disorientation, for even though the figures are set in a landscape, the colours convey the effect of a cold, artificial heat. It is a special treatment of luminosity and colour that reveals unusual analogies with Jean-Luc Godard’s films, such as Pierrot le fou and Contempt, and with Quentin Tarantino’s, particularly in the case of the Kill Bill series.
In an interesting essay on light in Godard’s cinema, Alain Bergala writes:
1) Illuminate the interiors in a uniform manner, with no reliefs, no shadows, no chiaroscuro.
2) Place the camera in front of surfaces with bright primary colours and, in front of the camera, place more colours [...] also bright and primary: red, yellow, blue.
3) Film en aplat, following the axis of the walls, so as to turn the screen into a white canvas on which these pure colours can produce an aplat coloré effect. 3
Are these not perfect descriptions of Sughi’s technique?
Like Godard, Sughi creates a saturation of colours to heighten the symbolic aspect of the image.
Indeed, Sughi’s works take us into a sort of visual short-circuit, which is brought about by digital manipulation. This means we cannot distinguish the light source, nor do we know if it is natural or artificial, even when the subjects are en plein air.
On the other hand, the wide range of technological instruments, such as the Internet and digital images made by IT devices, together with non-places set aside for leisure, such as shopping centres, have altered our perception of light. They create a confusion of colour dominated by a hyperreal aestheticisation of public spaces, which is highlighted by the hedonistic and consumerist dimension of contemporary society.
Roland Barthes is correct when he writes that we obey images rather than ethical or political ideals. We live in an image-crazy world, which means that we obsessively believe in insidious simulacra and fetishes in order to satisfy our needs as blissful consumers of goods.
Mario Sughi has been actively resisting this for decades now, and he does so as a real painter, even though he uses digital technology, in an attempt to bring about a possible reconciliation between man and machine. His characters are taken by surprise during a pause for thought and a disconnection from virtual reality. They are far removed from our schizophrenic everyday lives, in which relationships are dictated by the high speed of increasingly frenzied interactions, such as we see on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and WhatsApp.
“I think the images I’ve created, sometimes colourful, even joyful, modern, at times somewhat assertive and aggressive, portray a familiar world where the figures (in most cases, of women and girls) take up the main part of the scene, and appear to be searching for a moment of separation, for reflection or, quite simply, for a place to rest.” 4
We are know that every medium is modified by software, as Mario Sughi’s technique clearly shows: his “new mixed art” expresses the latest trends in contemporary art, in which traditional media, such as painting, are transformed by software in order to create hybrid images that bring about an intersecting dialogue between visual languages.
New pictorial forms
Sughi is one of the few international artists who – even while using a digital medium – continues to adopt the language of painting as a universal means of expression.
Sughi reminds us that “the work ultimately concerns the image, and the image is made of colours, lights and volumes. It seems to me that the New Mixed Media technique, [...] which adapts so naturally to work with primary colours, sweeping backgrounds and flat surfaces, allows me to create very elegant images with a great sense of depth. At least, this is my expectation and my vision.” 5
Every material needs to find its own reciprocal disposition, in other words what in art we call “form”, even when using innovative techniques. Form, however represents the essence and the methods one uses to create a work of art.
Sughi continues: “When I’m working, I’m never quite sure what I’m doing in terms of significance. That’s not the most interesting aspect for me: what I’m interested in is colour, form, composition, and light. If you create a beautiful image, that image will quite likely also become something interesting.” 6
Even so, the latest artistic trends are often a reduplication and substitution of what already exists. The philosopher Emilio Garroni has written some enlightening words on the matter: “And form is exactly the opposite of the reduplication and substitution of what already exists, [...] and, what is more, it goes against the general trend, which is so ubiquitous today, of reduplicating and replacing it. In cultural even more than artistic terms, might it be a call to order to prefer just a single cut by Fontana to a combination of the most diverse ingredients that already form the substrate of our everyday lives?” 7
Ours is not an appeal to formalism or a call to order, but rather an invitation to reassess form, even by means of new technologies, as an antidote to the duplication and substitution of the status quo, which has become so fashionable in today’s art system.
Even though our artist uses a digital technique, in conceptual terms he remains a painter who paints on a canvas with a palette and brushes.
Garroni continues: “Even installations, for example, which can on occasion be works of great interest, are often a collection of found objects, but with aims totally different from Duchamp’s, always or almost always recalling what exists exactly as it is. And indeed, it is significant that there is very often a television set in these works, almost as though wishing to focus attention on mass media. [...]. I am naturally not making any forecasts for the future. Everything may change, for all it needs is for some talented person to emerge, to create something new, different from what is being done now.” 8
In this sense, Mario Sughi points to new directions in contemporary art. What emerges, however, is his talent.
Breeding will out.
Accademia di Belle Arti
1 M. Antonioni, Quel bowling sul Tevere, Einaudi, Torino 1986, p.88.
2 M. Sughi, A place to rest, Droichead Arts Centre, Exhibition Catalogue, Vanillaedizioni,
Albissola Marina (SV) 2017, p. 43.
3 A. Bergala, «La couleur, la Nouvelle Vague et ses maîtres des années cinquante» in
J. Aumont, (a cura di), La couleur en cinema, Parigi, Cinemateque Francaise, Mazzotta,
Milano 1995, pp. 126-135.
4 M. Sughi, op.cit., p.43
7 E. Garroni, L’arte e l’altro dall’arte, Laterza, Roma-Bari 2003, p.240.
8 Ibidem, 241.
Exhibition Catalogue available @ Vanilla Edizioni