I was privileged to be able to interview Thomas Mainardi, a French artist whose work is recognized around the world. This urban pop artist creates large colourful works which radiate beauty and culture. The beauty behind his work is more than just the images one views on the canvas. There is a decidedly philosophical slant to Mainardi’s works, a perspective that clearly come through in our interview.
By Al Gord
I find that each artist has their own story behind their journey. Thomas what led you to becoming an artist?
I went to graduate school, and from there I worked as an Artistic Director in numerous advertising agencies before creating my own independent agency with two partners. After selling my shares in the company I dedicated myself to my art. I have probably been aspirated by my passion, I definitely left this environment to devote my life to my painting.
So far I have simply tried to build a coherent path by giving me the means to achieve my dreams despite many difficult, steps and other hardships of this special life. It is done in a natural way, step by step, and is built from year to year by persevering and obsessively striving to build a coherent career and earn a living.
The advantages are the total freedom or almost, the pride of being realized personally in an extraordinary profession and the independence. The disadvantages are the financial risk, the doubt via a permanent projection into the unknown and loneliness (which is also a source of happiness and inspiration, but also sometimes painful).
For those who are not immersed in the art world, it may be hard to understand the motivation behind being a painter. Why do you do what you do?
In my opinion the first major point to highlight would be ‘need’ rather than ‘motivation’. Confucius said “choose a job you love and you will not have to work a single day of your life.”
It is certain that even when you are an artist, there are many other tasks that fall to you other than painting. I think the need to create for an artist is stronger than anything and goes beyond himself or herself,
Each painter paints for different complementary reasons: To surpass itself, to survive this dramatic human condition destined to become again dust, to try to pierce the intrinsic mystery of his unconscious and to leave a concrete trace which survives him or her.
Your work can often be described as a blend of abstract expressionism, pop art and urban art. For the readers, can you explain your style in greater detail and how you came to develop this style?
Indeed it is – well described. If you want to anchor my style in different movements, this allows the viewer to position it. I think my work is at the crossroads of different influences. My inspirations are plural and very diverse. I like to describe my work as full of poetry and mystery, a certain melancholy, but also a great strength and hope.
There is an interplay between the aesthetics of interwoven complex feelings and messages that are more or less simple to decode at first sight. The erosion of feelings, the strength and fleetingness of memories, the fragility of life, beauty, love, Nature – the drama of human imperfections.
The recurring themes are the ephemeral of existence, the passage of time, human love and paradoxes, the protection of nature, the perfection and the osmosis of the universe, a theological impregnation.
And stylistically I would say that there is a mix of colors and materials that are very important which symbolize the wear of time and the joy of living by bright colors, with layers of paint and ink, pigments, Posca and a lot of others techniques. A wheelbase and dilution, materials, which gives a personal effect to my canvases.
Who are the artists and what are the artistic movements that influenced your style?
As I said before, my influences and inspirations are very varied and plural.
Some movements have been particularly important to me:
- Pop Art for its graphic side and the liveliness of its colors.
- Art Nouveau for its poetry and its symbolic, dreamlike and allegorical richness.
- Urban Art because of the wealth of these techniques and the multiplicity of these applications.
- Abstract Expressionism for the freedom and variety of its expression.
Major artists from or at the origin of different movements, past or present, had more or less important impact on my work as Vincent Van Gogh, Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Alfonse Mucha, Mark Rothko, Salvador Dali, Victor Vasarely, Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, David La Chapelle and Sheipard Fairey to name just a few.
The main subject matter in your work is women. What is the inspiration behind your work?
Women are obviously important in my work, taking a prominent place.
But the human being more generally is really at the heart of my works, with its mysteries, its paradoxes, its fears and its hopes, its magic and its errors, its harmony and its inner chaos.
The woman is actually the representative of the human being. I simply develop a feminine aesthetic to pay tribute while telling the story of the human being more globally.
But behind each performance, a message, a symbolism, a form of pictorial poetry, a marriage of different cultures, a kind of personal esotericism hides behind each canvas to bring other levels of reading that simply a ‘pretty portrait’.
There is also an ecological message very present, trying to put the man in his right place, namely within his environment, far from the current ego vision that pushes us to self-destruct slowly.
I know that for me, certain pieces have special meaning. Do you have a piece which you feel is especially rewarding or which has personal significance to you?
There are many, of course … But of course some more than others. Because of what they represent for me, my personal story or because of their media representation.
For example, “La Métaphisique de l’Apocalypse”, which is a very large format, was made especially for the Musée Dali in Paris and was exhibited alongside the works of the great Salvador Dali for 6 months in 2014 and 2015.
Other murals that are regularly high-profile as the painted frescoes in the beautiful Molitor Hotel in Paris : “The kiss of the Abyss” and “Molitor : An eternal rebirth”.
Then some are important to me for more personal or sentimental reasons, or simply because I am more proud than others for their quality of achievement.
You have been painting full time for the last ten years. Where do you see Thomas Mainardi a few years down the road?
I think my life choices so far have always been indexed to my desire for total freedom.
It is therefore quite difficult for me to project myself to 10 years, I could just as well be in France always in the city center or in the countryside far from everything, in New York, London, or be gone live under the sun and the lush nature of the Caribbean. If God continues to gives me life, one thing is for sure, I will still be painting, because that’s my reason for living. Also finding love could also influence my trajectory.
Your work has been exhibited around the world in both group and solo exhibitions. The art community is definitely taking notice of your talents. How do you define success?
Success is, in my opinion, above all to be happy with oneself and with one’s own personal choices. Then meet the successes and recognition of peers and the public, obviously it is the ideal of all professional artists.
Continue to persevere despite the trials and doubts, keep a cool head during the successes, which can make us intoxicating, to taste the present moment without being too influenced by external phenomena.
To feel that our work pleases, touches, moves, makes react, asks question, resonates in the spectators, is for me the finality after having realized the interior path of the work in itself.
Then begins the time of the presentation to the public which is very exciting and very often source of recognition and motivation. Being complimented, congratulated and sometimes thanked, is very touching and powerful.
It is also very rewarding to understand what our work evokes and creates in others. This returns us a great source of information and influences us also for the future works … And sometimes allows us to decode a little more our unconscious artist.
In closing are there any messages that you hope others take away from your art?
I just hope that I will always be able to talk to my audience, touch them and move them. That I will continue to advance in my life as an artist and continue to maintain my inner flame to continue to enjoy the chance I have to live my art.
I hope that I will always be able to talk to people and make sure that my painting gives them something good, interesting and beautiful.
To learn more about the ultra talented Thomas Mainardi, readers can view his website at www.thomasmainardi.com.
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