(by Michael Corbin) Andrea Mancini is a fantastic artist who was born and still lives in Florence, Italy. Even though he lives in a country where art was basically invented, his work www.andreamancini.it is inarguably contemporary and fresh. Check out our cool chat …
MICHAEL: Hello Andrea! I LOVE your work. First of all, tell me, how did you become an artist? Why do you paint? Do you come from a family of artists?
ANDREA: I come from a simple family. My mother was a seamstress and my maternal grandfather was a chef. Then I inherited some handiness, I think, which is the basis of my art. I’ve always drawn since childhood. I loved drawing comics and cartoons. When I was 13 years old, my father put me in a private visual art school. In those years, I created my first cartoon together with a friend and my uncle’s 8mm camera. At 16, I published my first comic strip in a French magazine. Then after five years of Art Academy in Florence (Italy) I started working in a big advertising agency, the largest in Florence, where I lived. That really was my first “art studio” where I learned the art of visualizing and communication. I mean, I had a “mix” of visual emotions in my education. Today, I think that my roots are very similar to those of my beloved American pop artists. They also are trained in advertising!”
MICHAEL: Your paintings are contemporary still lifes. I love the stacks of tires and stacks of books and other things. The paintings are very cluttered and fun. Why do you paint these things?
ANDREA: First of all, what’s left in those stacks should go back to be a resource and not just waste. With the books, I would say they’re the memories that each of us carries, like a weight unquenchable. I depicted them as “burdens” associated with and impossible to be disposed of altogether. And then today, there are tablets, e-books – in short, mine is a souvenir photo. Books are almost a species in extinction! At the end, I think artists paint what they see and books are more often the landscape that surrounds me. Gauguin had ocean, around him. I have, most, books!
MICHAEL: And the tires?
ANDREA: Just a word: transformation. Last summer, I visited some sites for recycling. I explored that place armed with a camera and sketchpad, walking between mountains of cardboard and pyramids of tires and imagined the extraordinary force of those images, unclean and painted on canvas. I saw those giant masses of materials of all kinds as monuments, ideals of a world in decay, but also in continuous transformation. I looked at these twirled buildup, there was a logical structure, almost biological spontaneity. I saw the informal order of chaos. Capturing that concept takes a lot of work and careful observation. It’s impressive and even photorealistic; the rawness of expression. For this reason, I have chosen close-up views, painting the backlight or the last setting sun. I remembered a principle of modern physics:Nothing is created,nothing is destroyed, everything is transformed.” by Lavoisier. It’s the hope of a sustainable future.
MICHAEL: Your work has a very wistful quality. It looks as if we’re seeing it through sheer, white curtains. It almost looks like an old film. Is this nostalgia? Why do you do this?
ANDREA: Maybe the reality is never so vivid, shining, hard-edged, but more often elusive, evanescent. Or is it seen as through a dream, so far as a memory, of which we hold anything perfectly clear, but just a blurred impression. It’s also a way for me to “dirty” paintings with the experience.
Nostalgia? Maybe, but usually I’m more curious about the future than past.
MICHAEL: Where are you? Rome? Milan? Italy is basically the home of art. So many Old Masters. Are you influenced by them?
ANDREA: I was born and I live in Florence. The city of art and renaissance! Sure, I was influenced by the great art of the Renaissance. I remember living near museums like UFFIZI, but my generation was also deeply influenced by rock music, advertising, TV and cinema. I think mine is a mix of contemporary and ancient inspirations at the same time. My favorite old-masters are Piero della Francesca (what beautiful icons!) and Caravaggio for the “realism,” but during school, I followed illustrators such Milton Glaser and Jean Michel Folon and Pop Artists Like James Rosenquist and Claus Oldenburg. Anyway, I believe we are what we were before we were born.
MICHAEL: What about every day, working Italians? Do regular folks in Italy appreciate contemporary art? I’m sure everyone there loves Da Vinci and Caravaggio, but do they support living artists? What is life like for artists like you? Is it difficult?
ANDREA: Italy in this moment is going through a difficult economic crisis as the rest of Europe, one of the worst since the war. It’s even more difficult for the art market, where supply exceeds demand today. Yes, it’s true: Italians loves art, but sometimes they’re too tied searching for the “investment.” They seek authors acclaimed and well known and are likely to underestimate less established artists, but certainly very promising. Emerging skilled artists, however pay back in the results. An artist’s life today is more difficult, but I’m facing the challenge. More than a year ago, I opened a studio-gallery where I work and display my works in downtown Florence. It’s an ancient-style workshop of the past (Bottega). And I must say, I have gotten good feedback. I also teach courses in painting and creative design for adults and children. They speak with me and we talk about art and projects. I’ve established a direct relationship with the audience that artists often avoid, and too often fear. I always say to my students, “If you want to be an artist, you must have a lot of courage!
MICHAEL: How do you create your paintings of crowds of people? Do you take photographs first? The paintings look very natural.
ANDREA: The composition of the “Bathers Paintings,” begin from sketches taken from real life on my “Moleskine” and shooting photos. It doesn’t matter to me, as long as the final effect is that of the “texture” of bodies represented. It’s everybody in the hottest hours of the day, when the sun creates even stronger effects. I’m careful with the color tone in these paintings. That’s the natural look you see.
MICHAEL: When people look at your work, what do you want them to see and feel?
ANDREA: About My Bagnanti Paintings: I wish people would be touched in the soul, but also in thought. The image moves inside yourself and that’s why everyone sees something different in a painting or in an artwork usually. André Gide, a great French bookwriter, said: “Please, do not understand me too quickly.” For example, in my bathers-paintings everyone sees a friend, the cousin, or the mother or own husband. Just like as in my book-paintings everyone sees his schoolbook or its fishing-handle book forgotten in the cellar…
MICHAEL: Finally Andrea, What type of works are you creating now and what do you want to paint in the future?
ANDREA: Right now, I am creating a very large-painting series of bathers-paintings for an exhibition on the Tuscan coast, in Castiglioncello, in the places where I take my inspiration to create those paintings. And then, I would like to start a new project that takes inspiration from the “working class,” at a time like this when there is a big economic crisis and no work. I’d also like to show a big exhibition in Rome presented together with a book writer.
MICHAEL: Well Andrea, I wish you the best and I absolutely love your work.
ANDREA: Michael, thank you very much for all what you do for artists.
Check out Andrea Mancini at www.andreamancini.it.
Michael K. Corbin is an avid art collector, writer, full-time broadcast journalist, yogi and runner. A New York City native, he travels far and wide for art’s sake. He writes for various art websites that include www.absolutearts.com and of course, www.artbookguy.com.