Writers Chat 50 (Part 2): Mario Sughi on “Dubliners” (Marinonibooks: Italy, 2022)

Mario and Mia, Welcome to Part 2 of our Writers/Artists Chat, in which we chat about and focuses on Mario’s work and his processes. Readers, see Part 1 for Mia Gallagher’s Writers Chat.

Mia Gallagher (MG): Who do you believe were your major influences on your artistic practice?

Mario Sughi (MS): I’m not that sure Mia. Many times we confuse what we like with what might influence our work! You can like something and maybe just being influenced by something you don’t like I certainly like Francis Bacon (but I can’t see Bacon influencing my work) same for Giacometti (I went to see his exhibition today beautiful) I like his drawings and small sculptures. I like David Hockney (not everything) I prefer his early works (60 and 70), Alex Katz & Matisse (and I try to understand them! and to learn from them). I like Kafka, and Milan Kundera and I prefer Tolstoy to Dostoyesky, I like Beckett & Joyce, I like Piero della Francesca (but I can’t say they influence my work).

When it come to painting images come first but the quality of a painting (the brushes strokes and technique some time can make the difference and being the most interesting thing in the painting that is why I like some great American abstract masters, Franz Kline and even Richard Diebenkorn, and on the other side for the same reason I don’t like too much pop art. I like Fairfield Porter a lot I find Alice Neel very interesting but bit too illustrative/illustrator same for Paula Rego (I prefer Alice Neel to Rego). Hopper for me is not that interesting (voyeuristic and artificial, too illustrative). I met Alex Katz in person: I like his paintings and his writing same for Fairfield Porter (never met him of course). And what they do and write make a lot of sense (Alex Katz even more sense than Matisse at times). I like Lucien Freud for the image, not for the painting ( I don’t like his brushes strokes! not at all), and I like many many more, Manet, Chantal Joffe, Goya, Giotto….

Paul and Francesca, 2021
Image provided by and used with kind permission of Mario Sughi

MG: To what extend do you identify yourself and/or your work as Italian/European/Dublin…

MS: I’ m either on the bus or the dart and I’m looking at other people (they are Dubliners). My observation point is one that I really like (possibly one of advantage for me) – I have been here (Dublin) for so long that I can get very close to them – to that group of people – without almost being noticed,  and yet I can still see them from an external point (of course) and this has nothing to do with being Italian Irish European. This has never been this my preoccupation; culturally speaking (probably) I must be Italian especially when it comes to work and European (when it comes to culture, mentality, etc) and Irish (when it comes to drinking Guinness in a pub).

Selfportait with fettuccine and Guinnesss, 2010
Image provided by and used with kind permission of Mario Sughi

SG: Mario, can you speak of your process in motion?

MS: Well…U walk the streets or seat at a bar looking at people walking or u move through town u feel attract and touched by some of the people there and you start following them with your eyes then when you paint or draw (or write) you hope you will be able to have that fleeting moment/image (as it appeared to u) present (still live) in your work. I want just to show it without having to add anything else (it has to be almost unconscious).

SG: I love the notion, Mario, of still living in the work, showing it still raw and unconscious.

MG: Mario, to what extent, if at all, you feel your Dubliners might be different to other images of the city and its people?

MS: If you draw an old lady smoking on a bench with a plastic bag in her hand alone in Stephen’s Green people will see and recognise her as a character. I would like to be able to draw her in a way that people probably will not even recognize her as a Dubliner (or not even as an old lady). As long as the image I create will maintain its optical energy and a some sort of plausible link with that lady I will be very happy with my work.

Red on green (A place to rest), 2017
Image provided by and used with kind permission of Maria Sughi

MS:…. and then there are people who say that my work is far too saturate, too colourful to be representative of real people! (so in other words is not serious!) but I think … maybe is just too colourful for them! not for me, for what I see…I think that under this regard we are quite similar as we only care to portray people the way we see them, we don’t have to be conventional!

SG: So much of what artists and writers do comes down to perspective and interpretation, doesn’t it!

Sarah and the yellow paper, 2020
Image provided by and used with kind permission of Mario Sughi
  • Visit the website of Marinonibooks (the Italian publisher):

Thanks to Mia Gallagher and Mario Sughi for taking part in my Writers/Artists Chat Series and being so generous and open about their individual and collaborative processes.

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