Interview Mario Cervantes
Born in Madrid and based in London, Mario Cervantes studied Fine Art at the Complutense University of Madrid (2009-13), before moving to Mexico. In 2016 he attended the Art Students League of New York Vytlacil Artist Residency. He is inspired by what surrounds him, often choosing quieter moments. He combines working from life with photo references that contain strong memories and feelings for him. His childhood in England along with frequent changes of residency -being the most recent a four-month stay in Crete- has affected the way he relates to the world and his approach to painting.
Could you define your artwork in a few words?
It's figurative work about things that attract me. I'm interested in how things make me feel added to how I see it. It's playing with the elements of painting to communicate that feeling to someone else.
Having grown up in England and then returning to Spain probably affected my personality and the work as a consequence. Spanish painting is something that reminds me of a place where my family is from and a way of painting that I am more familiar with, but having grown up here helps me understand a different way of being. I also lived a few years in Mexico, where my wife is from, and this gave me a new perspective as a result of a different way of life and a culture which I have learnt a lot from.
How did you start in the art world?
Probably here in England, drawing with my brother as a kid. Later on in Madrid I went to a painting academy, where I became more familiar with some of the basics. My introduction to the art world might have started with my first group exhibition I had before starting the final year of my Fine Art Degree at the Complutense University of Madrid (when the work gets compared, judged, and shared).
Who are your biggest influences?
As well as painting, it's music and places I’ve been to, or people I've met... I think being interested in things outside the art world - like loving football or having done middle distance running for a big part of my life - has added an important element of not wanting to belong completely to a movement or one way of doing things.
As to painting, I made an A2 size chronological map full of painters that I’m interested in. There are too many and I had to do that for myself for clarity and as a quick reference. It starts with Giotto but it goes further back to Egyptian, Greek or Roman art. There’s always a lot to learn from. For a while now, eighteenth century painting has been something I've been paying more attention to.
Some of my biggest influences are Velázquez, Titian, Delacroix, Goya, Degas, Vuillard, Sorolla, Picasso, Matisse... More recent ones would be Antonio López, Lucian Freud, Avigdor Arikha, Sargy Mann, or Miguel Macaya, for example.
How do you navigate the art world?
I like to see what painters are painting now. Instagram has really helped to discover new artists. Showing my work is a good way to want to say more and something different. Speaking about painting also has a similar effect of just wanting to go back to the studio. Sharing and comparing ideas helps me find a path in painting.
Which current art world trends are you following?
I’m affected by trends but I have always been very wary of how we all like the same things, think the same way, and paint the same way… it's natural but I want to be aware of it as it happens. When recording music perhaps I am more affected by current trends, mostly what Marc Riley plays on 6 Music. But even then, I think it’s important to pay attention to what I like, no matter when or where it was made, and dig there. If it goes well with what others are interested in at the moment, I guess it helps, but there are too many things to look at for all to be looking at the same thing. I would say Figurative Painting as a whole is what I follow, and that's something which is becoming more popular in recent times.
Do you collect artwork yourself?
I don't but there are other painters' work that I would love to see regularly so hopefully sometime soon.
What are you working on at the moment?
I always paint the things around me that catch my eye. At the moment, I have been doing several portraits of plants and people at home. I have also continued my work on football paintings, which I find are very theatrical and a great source for painting. Alongside painting, I have been recording music consistently for about a year now and would like to share some things at some point in the near future.