Mario Sughi seductive show at Greyfriars Gallery
Theorists of the portrait in the nineteenth century asserted the capacity of the genre to map a social terrain by situating appropriately clad figures in credible surroundings and using pose, facial expression, gesture, and accessories to describe a singular human being as well as a moment in time. From his studies of people in situ, positioned with characteristic gestures and carefully chosen environments and accessories, Mario Sughi has been committed to encapsulating the distinctive and the unique at the same time as revealing something larger and more significant than the details of personal experience. As rendered by Sughi, subjects possess a certain individual presence and cultivate an unabashed sense of romanticism. He has adapted a style that conveys a combination of casual intimacy and refined beauty. A brilliant colorist with a razor-sharp graphic sense, Sughi cultivates a rather spontaneous-looking technique; a loosely brushed treatment of clothing and background with more delicately rendered and distinct faces.
Harnessing his representational strategies to the depiction of ordinary lived experience and a historically located sociality, Sughi paints antic narratives, in an expressionistic, faux-naïve style; creating full-figure portraits of people, alone or in couples, that are as intimate as they are monumental and as poetically thrilling as they are visually lucid. Sughi is a painter of contemporary daily life and his radically contemporary subject matter and realism make clear that the grand theme is community, one that includes his most intimate friends, a fantasy cohort of luminaries, and most importantly us, the viewers, who are drawn in to his world by his work’s frank appeal to our senses and to our common mass cultural vocabulary. His paintings speak of memory, but what memory? And whose? There is autobiography in Sughi’s art, but whether it is his or a fictional character’s is anyone’s guess. Throughout his seductive show at Greyfriars Gallery, Interiors and Exteriors, the promise of intimacy and openness is wholly fulfilled. His work suggests both the barrenness of everyday life and the wistful yet grandiose stories with which we keep it at bay.
Rachael Corcoran, SOMA Contemporary, Waterford
published in Mario Sughi, Interiors and Exteriors, Greyfriars Municipal Gallery, Waterford, April 2012