Life is a comic nonsense – Mario Sughi aka Nerosunero
I think it’s clear that most people build their idea of who an artist is by looking at his or her artwork. I’ve gotten to know Mario Sughi online, so I have long imagined him through one particular piece, the self-portrait he uses as his profile picture - a man wearing a suit who holds a forkful of fettuccine in one hand while a pint of Guinness sits on the table in front of him.
For Mario this image is “a playful portrait of an Italian man who has been living in Ireland for more than 20 years.” For me it is Mario, or at least the personification of what I see in see his art: subtle irony, strong colors and a direct gaze.
Recently Mario, who defines himself as “just an illustrator and a cartoonist who makes illustrations, cartoons as well as prints,” visited the Greyfriars Municipal Art Gallery to check out the space for his next exhibition. His uncanny ability to imbue the everyday with a touch of satirical intrigue will be on display in around 20 works, some as large as 2 x 3 m. After his visit, Mario took the time to tell me aI’m sure that an uncanny ability to imbue the everyday with a touch of satirical intrigue, to tell me about the show and to answer some of my questions, including the origin of his enigmatic name.
Nero su nero is the name of a book by Leonardo Sciascia and a song by Africa Unite. Why did you choose the name?
There is nothing harder to understand than irony, Sciascia commented once.
Sciascia composed Nero su nero (Black on black) in the 1970s and later he explained that the title signified the black of the writing (the ink) on the black page of reality.
Some critics interpreted this as a statement of his pessimism but I read it instead as one of the most beautiful metaphors ever written on irony.
Your works often have a humorous vision. Where does your inspiration for these pieces come from?
Inspiration can come in many forms from the most different persons and things.
I rarely turn on the television. On one of those rare occasions, I saw two art critics (a man and a woman) in front of a big abstract painting, who had started to quarrel over every possible aspect of the work in question. I switched off the television and thought of the world as a big abstract painting and of a man mixing fetuccine and Guinness.
What has been your favorite project so far? Is there any one project you have done that has brought you more attention than the others?
I have some nice memories of the Couples exhibition at the Complex Gallery in Dublin in June last year. After the opening night, not many people visited it. There were times when the gallery was completely empty and silent and I was left alone, able to see my works as I had never seen them before…
One very successful project was the one commissioned by The Small Prints agency for Absolut vodka. The life-sized bottle I designed for the occasion was included first in a glamorous and noisy exhibition, it was filmed and presented in videos at various locations during the Fringe Theatre Festival, and finally it was displayed at Dublin Airport. Success, even when it comes in relatively small measure, comes always with an abundance of noise.
How did your upcoming exhibit take shape? What do you dread and what do you look forward to in preparing a show?
When I prepare works for a new exhibition I never worry too much about the subject matter. All my works have figures standing in either interiors or exteriors. I am always more concerned about how to do something rather than what to do.
The narrative of my work is minimal and there are no statements or statements of intention at all. To be honest I don’t think my works have any meaning. And this is fine with me. It makes them more mysterious which I believe means more real.
The viewer, if he or she wishes, will offer their own interpretation and look for some sort of narrative, because when you put two figures side by side, it becomes almost inevitable that some people will start to see some kind of narrative and create something out of it.
Why have you chosen to make Ireland your home?
The colours, the Irish people, the sea.
What hangs on your walls at home?
Prints, three by Alberto Sughi (my father), two by fellow illustrators Una Gildea and Joven Kerekes, one by Aboriginal artist Lynda Brown Abaunga and four of my own prints. There are also two small posters: one is an original cover of Fluide Glacial, a French Magazine of Humour and Satire, and one is a delicate portrait of a woman by Amedeo Modigliani.
If you had to choose someone to illustrate the story of your life who would it be?
The Swiss illustrator and artist Andreas Gefe.