Colour is the place where our brain and the universe meet.
In a converted old factory surrounded by rolling English countryside, Mauro Perucchetti works at his magic. The ground floor of what is now his residence and studio, is a rich gallery covering the many periods and styles of Mauro’s art, and he conducts the tour with contagious enthusiasm and generosity.
As we walk in, a white panel with rectangular blocks of resin greets us with an explosion of light and colour, all pastel transparency and movement; the light and shades dancing as we move towards the door, as the fleeing clouds pass over the sun, and the colours change subtly, gradually. With these ice cream colours, they look like sophisticated, adult sweets.
Mauro Perucchetti was born in Milan and has worked in film and fashion, architecture and design, before dedicating himself fully to his art. The influence of these earlier careers is plain to see in much of his three dimensional work.
Having developed a unique formula for pigmented resin, he produced a substantial body of work based on this material, the most recognisable of it being the Jelly Baby Family, who stood, all three metres tall, at London’s Marble Arch.
Things may not always be what they seem in Mauro’s creations: the cute jelly babies wear a cruel smile, the pretty perfume bottles turn out to be hand grenades, the marble replica of David in the yard is a woman.
It is reassuring to observe the consistency (change of medium not withstanding): the forms that fly and float on his canvases are not what they seem either; the longer you look at them, the more extravagantly they metamorphose.
Perucchetti has exhibited in the USA, London, Monaco, Oslo and Paris. His work is part of the permanent collection of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust, among others.
You worked with bronze, chrome, crystal, marble and especially resin. What draws you now to the canvas? Have you always been interested in painting, or is it a newly found passion?
I have always been interested in painting, as well as other mediums. I distinctly remember, as a child, having to use my (very limited) sense of discipline while doing my homework, to avoid wandering away from the school subject and into my fantasy world, that inevitably ended up in drawings - to my parents’ despair. The environment that is created and necessary in the studio for sculpting is very different from the one necessary for painting. I think that painting happened full on in my career now because it is the right time; as they say, they are only so many hours in the day. I believe that you need to stick to one at a time, unfortunately.
Your work has addressed a number of modern society issues (violence, addiction, cloning…). Is your social and political commitment reflected in your paintings just as strongly?
Maybe one day it will do so again, but definitely not now. In fact, I wanted my painting to be totally instinctive, removed from any style or movement and void of any subject matter, which might limit the free flow of my inner psyche and creative energy.
Does this mean that one should not look for significance in your paintings? There is no message?
Maybe after being so passionate about highlighting the serious problems that afflict society, I suffered an overdose of bad news and reacted by creating happy paintings, something that brings out the child within oneself but, more importantly, the innocence and spontaneity of children’s souls. If you can tap into that in an uncensored manner it is like opening a treasure trove. Many people are unable to have conversations with themselves in a totally free, uncensored fashion. I painted Nuvole abstractly and this is where my brush took me. It is the viewer’s turn to see what to make of it. As for me, I am painting happiness.
The colour of your resin is a gentle pastel; you use strong, bright colours in your paintings. Is that to compensate for the absence of a physical third dimension? Which range is the real Mauro?
The real Mauro is most definitely a colourful one! In its way the resin work is very colourful, but it is affected by a very finely tuned balance between the intensity of the colour and the transparency with its wonderful light reflecting properties, which is what gives it that ethereal feel. Too much pigment and you kill that. The paintings push different buttons, but again you caught me being hypersensitive to colour. I think that is the real me, no matter what medium I work with, I think in colour.
Acknowledging that all Western art is rooted in Ancient Greece and Renaissance, I glance in your paintings shapes that echo Picasso, colours that remind Miró, the surreal atmosphere of Dali. Who do you consider your most important influence and inspiration?
I will never know in what percentage the different visual and emotional experiences I had in my life affected what I do now, but you mentioned three artists whose work I love. I remember being drawn to Miro’s work as a child, I always loved Dali’s psychotic wackiness and love Picasso’s work of the 30’s.
A blank canvas is a subject of anxiety for many painters. Maybe less for artists like yourself, who had to conquer the empty space or the block of marble. What are your emotions at the start of a new painting?
I see the blank canvas as another opportunity of expressing myself in in a way that would not be possible with words for example. I am not making a point or expressing a view, I am expressing a state of emotions. It’s like visual music.
How do you find the process of painting, compared to your earlier, three dimensional work? Tell me about the process of working on canvas: do you start with a shape, a colour, a theme?
The images I produce and the reason why I produce them are buried in the deeper layers of my mind and pertain more to the subconscious than to a conscious thinking process. I always start with shapes and never have a plan. The shapes, lines and colours evolve to create what I see as a harmonious whimsical, surreal world. The process of sculpting is more complicated, often technically challenging and almost never something you can do alone. The creative aspect is when I make the clay master. After that I basically know what I am making and the process doesn’t allow for many impromptu changes whether I am working in resin, marble or any other medium.
Do you find abstract painting liberating, or is the limit of the canvas a constraint?
Abstract is liberating and the canvas is a constraint in size only. I have already thought of also creating this work tri dimensionally, I often feel inclined in sculpting abstractly but, as I said, there is only so much time in a day. Maybe these paintings have unlocked the door to abstract sculpting.