About the artist
This week’s interview is with Mario Sughi, where we find about his digital paintings and illustrations. Mario’s work is highly distinctive, with images depicting everyday slice-of-life scenes that are often candid. He uses digital media to create art in the same way as traditional paper and canvas. His style has a precise, geometric feel with bold blocks of colour but within it, there is still a sense of organic fluidity.
Mario was born in Cesena in 1961. His father was the artist Alberto Sughi. Under his father’s guidance, Mario began painting and drawing. During his residence in Rome in the 1970s, he first published his cartoons and illustrations for the popular satirical magazines, Il Male and Zut. He graduated from La Sapienza Univesity in 1986 with a degree in Art and History. Mario moved to Dublin three years later, completing his Ph.D. in Medieval History at Trinity College. In 1996 in Queen’s University, Belfast he prepared an edition of a medieval Latin text for the Irish Manuscripts Commission.
On returning to Dublin, he went back to his primary occupation, working as an illustrator for a commercial company of archaeologists. During this time, he started to explore using digital techniques for his drawing and, in 2007 he began creating his art and illustration on a full-time basis. Later that year he had his first group exhibition in Dublin, followed a solo exhibition in Manchester in 2010 and then back in Dublin in 2011.
How did you first get into digital art?
One day at college in the early ’90s, a friend came to the computer lab and showed me the ‘Internet’. I couldn’t exactly understand what he was trying to show me, it was something completely new, challenging to grasp in its entirety; I almost felt a sort of nervous excitement! The following morning that smart friend of mine came again to me shouting “here are some tools for your drawings, Mario!” It was Adobe Photoshop 2. This time I felt the magic entirely and immediately. A few years later, still in Dublin, I was working as an illustrator for a company of archaeologists. It was then that I began drawing using a graphics tablet and Adobe Illustrator. And that was it!
Why did you choose digital art as your medium?
It’s clean and intuitive; it was and still is, a new medium meaning that I could use it entirely in my own way.
What artistic styles are you particularly drawn to?
I like the great representational American painters of the second part of the 20th century. In particular, the works of Alex Katz, Fairfield Porter, Jane Freilicher, Lois Dodd and Neil Welliver. In their work, the style is the real subject, the thing that pops up in front of you. Then, especially with Alex Katz, a beautifully abstract and elegant, almost digital, energic flatness, presents itself. Beautiful!
Tell us about the process you use to make your art.
Drawing and painting are a bit like writing; I will have an idea that leads me in one direction, and then I’ll progress from the first sketch to the next and move on, trying to understand and reshape what appears and keeps changing on the page in front of me. At some stage, usually when the excitement comes to an end, and I have nothing left to add to, or give to it—or to get from it—I will decide that the work is completed, and stop!
What inspires you?
Inspiration can come in many forms. This might be standing in front of an interesting person, an object in the house, or a familiar landscape outside. I can be taken by the desire to create an image that unveils what first attracted me to that item or person.
What is your artistic motivation?
My motivation is to create something aesthetically exciting and new; something that people will be able to recognise immediately as mine.
Of all your images to date, which is your favourite and why?
It’s always the one I’m going to start next!
Which three words or phrases would you use to describe your work?
Light. Modern. Contemporary.
Have you had any particularly noteworthy comments about your artwork?
I was with friends somewhere in some bar, and all of a sudden one of them–it must be the kindest one–said: “Look at that couple standing there, they look like one of Mario’s paintings, don’t they?” Thank you!
How do you think you’ve improved as an artist compared to when you first started?
I might have become better in technique, but on the other hand, I may have lost freshness and spontaneity.
What advice would you give yourself if you could go back to when you started making art?
I should have watched Sughi (my father) closer when I was with him in the studio while he was painting!
And finally, do you find that people dismiss digital art as a valid art form?
The problem with digital art rests in the way it is presented, that is as digital prints. A writer uses either a pen and paper or a desktop attached to a monitor and one way or the other their work is always a novel, and always will be. Digital art, however, is not considered painting, for some reason, it is now a digital print, even when they are selling as unique pieces, and not as editions.
But what if I owned a fantastic tool, a sort of brush-pen with a memory card that stores all the information of my digital painting, that could transfer the pigments of the picture onto paper or canvas? How would that be any different?
Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and artwork, Mario!