If I could use only one word to describe Mariano Pascual’s work, it would be ‘harmonic’. The Barcelona-based artist manipulates colours and textures so expertly that it’s a wonder his work isn’t in homes all around the world. We had a chat with Mariano about what floats his boat and motivates his work and his answers are as poetic as his art.
What drew you to being an artist? What does your work mean to you?
My relationship with art and visual creation stemmed from my childhood. I grew up in a rural village in Argentina where design and illustration were my way to avoid the monotony of rural life, my haven... I was always attracted to issues related to images, museums, art and design and when the time came, I didn’t hesitate to convert my passion into my profession.
I studied graphic design and illustration in Argentina and then I travelled to Europe to continue my studies. I obtained a master's degree in graphic design and I decided that Barcelona was my city. It is now where I live and practice my profession.
My artistic projects represent a balance for me, a place where I can express my creative potential, beyond other works I realise as a designer or an art director. And of course, they have never stopped being the refuge which takes me out of the routine and keeps me away from everyday life.
Colour seems to play a big role in defining your style, is that intentional? Are there particular colour sets you are drawn to, or do you let colour happen organically in your work?
I love the contrasts and the power that a colour can give to an art piece. The use of colour is intended to mark a climate, highlighting the figures and giving character to certain parts that I want to emphasize. I love playing with colour, but I also enjoy creating monochrome pieces, which give more importance to light - shadows and textures to impose hierarchies within the composition. I try to make an intelligent and delicate use of colour.
I dedicate the same amount of time to colour as the illustration itself. Most of the time they go in parallel, I visualise colours in each step and create them from scratch. Sometimes I choose the colours at the end. What I seek is the harmony in the whole piece.
What inspires you? Can you walk us through your creative process? Where does a piece start, and how do you develop it?
My creative process occurs naturally, often born by a particular idea that I have. I try to translate it to my style. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I love learning from my errors. Sometimes I just let it go and that's the really exciting part of my job. What I like more and feel more passionate about. I am curious by nature and have always loved discovering and investigating new possibilities. Finding (or not) the limit. It inspires me to discover other cultures, other languages. I think that is the foundation that has led me to develop my own language.
I take elements from different stylistic aspects such as the Memphis group, Surrealism and Comic Noir, but always seek to combine each to see what I discover. I rely much on observation. I have a weakness for materials, textures and how they can interact with each other. From there I give vent to my creativity and often reach unexpected results. My pieces are usually born like this. They are based on an initial idea mutating into something else naturally, without being forced. As if someone whispers into my ear from someplace I do yet not know. I see my creative process as making steps closer to a new world where I do not know for sure [what] I may find ... and often, despite everything, I'll never know for sure if I have ever lived or dreamt that I live.
All of your pieces are phenomenal, but is there a certain artwork that means the most to you?
I do not have favourite pieces at the moment. Each has its own history and I remember the time when they were created. Perhaps the project "36 days of type” has marked a milestone in my career. After that, I was able to tune my style, and find a language that would work.
It was the turning point of my career.
Your work, Astro Geishas, is captivating. The colours are vibrant and the art almost comes off the page. Perhaps the most captivating aspect is the lack of Geisha faces – is there a reason behind that?
Thank you. I really enjoyed doing this project and I think that is something that can be noticed in the final result. The series is based on the old Japanese prints of the Ukiyo-e period, but raised to a dystopian, futuristic level. Here again the colour plays an essential role for the character that seeks to be conveyed. I especially like the contrast that is generated between the figures, which recall the traditions of the geisha – their clothes and their hands – as opposed to their face, the landscape and the elements which seem to be from another planet. That's exactly why I decided to leave the geisha faces without expression, to relinquish them from identity, with nothing to tie into this world.
They are interplanetary geishas, from another galaxy. Interestingly, the material they are made of can’t be exactly defined, which gives them a touch of mystery. Here is also a great influence of surrealism and metaphysical painting by Giorgio de Chirico. He has always been a great inspiration to me. In the composition appears a message which is similar to Katakana writing. Graphically they are similar, because they are so angular and geometric, but it is a code created by me, to reinforce the idea that there is something extra-terrestrial which we cannot decode.
Does your view on politics come into your work? How do you express that?
My political view does not have a direct influence on my work. I prefer to create parallel worlds that serve to deviate from reality. Art often plays an essential role as an element of confrontation, protest or express ideas in favour or against the world politics, but I think it is not my case yet.
I do not rule out politics, because art has always acted as a social weapon, but right now I’d just prefer to avoid that. My influences come from other aspects, such as science, astronomy, alchemy, religion and other aspects of classical art. I feel more comfortable creating an invisible reality than recreating the reality that we all see.
And finally, are there any artists you’d like to be compared to?
I never liked comparisons and I think the same of my work. There are many artists, illustrators and designers who I admire and am inspired by, so it would be wrong of me to say that I would like to be compared to them. I think that is a judgment which is to be done by others, not by oneself. At the moment I'm not interested in shutting down or including myself in any particular movement. I feel it's all new to me and, as I said, I have infinite to discover. There are many wonderful people in the world creating incredible things in all aspects of art, I from where I stand, just try to reflect my vision.