Roberto Mognier is an accomplished artist who hails from Mexico City. His work http://mognier.mx/ is full of expressiveness and passion. I call it figurative abstraction. In any event, Roberto is an art master and I truly enjoyed my chat with him.
MICHAEL: Hola Roberto, Your work is stunning! It's BIG, BOLD and abstract. You really believe in making BOLD statements with BIG art. I love it. Why do you make your art this way?
ROBERTO: Ever since a young age, I have always drawn human figures, but with expressionist attitude. I care what happens to humans, their circumstances, their fears, the demons that inhabit them. And my job as a painter is to capture these circumstances and the human condition regardless of race, social or economic status. I have always admired the great teachers and the reporting they do with their art work. I have also taken to expressing the feelings of the people and the American people.
I work on large canvases and in large ways as well. I cannot work in small sizes - except for the drawing - all my work tends to be large and I have great tendency toward murals too.
MICHAEL: Do you think people relate better to large works of art? I can get lost in them and I love that.
ROBERTO: I think when seeing things in a dimension equal to or greater than you, it makes you more easily identify with the characters and therefore gives you more impact. But I do not really do it for viewers, but for me. It allows me to express myself freely, it excites and thrills; working with brushes, turning the ground around the work, in others on the wall, draining the color, which I attack furiously. This is the part that excites me. I'm never thinking about the final result. I never know when it will end and there are parts that lie within this phase of "emotional spontaneity" and there will be others that will work rationally.
MICHAEL: Tell me about your first experience with art. How old were you? What do you remember about art early on? Do you come from an artistic family?
ROBERTO: From childhood drawing, as a teenager I visited the Museum of Modern Art in my country (Mexico City). It recall an exhibition of a Canadian painter living in Mexico that marked me forever (Arnold Belkin). An expressionist exhibition souvenir impressed me, so I came to my house and improvised on a frame I made and a piece of cloth and started trying to do something similar things with acrylic paints. One of those pictures that struck me, I remember it was called "Sad Man." That was my first painting which I still have. I was 12 and I liked it so much that I started frequenting museums and reading art books that my parents had at home. Since then, I have not stopped painting. In that moment, I knew that being a painter was what I wanted to be big. At the age of 12, an art teacher at school told me to study art and to finish high school. I enrolled in the University, studied a scientific career (Chemical Engineering), which I liked a lot, but in the afternoons and evenings, I attended courses in drawing and painting from the famous "Academia de San Carlos." Since then, I am dedicated to painting and sculpture expressionists. Now I have 63 years (63 years old).
MICHAEL: When you're painting your abstract works, do you have a message or meaning that you're trying to convey? Or ... Is your work mainly about simply putting your moods and feelings at any given time onto canvas using the paint and paintbrush as your tools to speak?
ROBERTO: If there is always a message, you can consider that abstract painting can be done in two ways: one is "the simple plastic experimentation" as with Jackson Pollock for example. That showed the beginning to finding thousands of fascinating ideas after blasting, painting background, and that is very true. Another is from actual items, transported to a surreal atmosphere. If we eliminate the figurative it becomes an abstract expression. I follow this method. If you look at an abstract painting of mine, without me saying anything, you will surely find a meaning made by the experimentation of color and textures which in themselves should work. But if I tell you where they come from, they find another meaning and probably you’ll enjoy them even more - but as we know, art requires no explanation. You should feel and understand it like music.
MICHAEL: Your work - even your figurative work - seems so free, expressive and full of PASSION. You cannot fake these things. I think Latin American artists are best at doing this. Do you agree? What makes Latin American artists so great?
ROBERTO: The answer is simple Michael. The people have been through history, victims of all kinds of injustice, always lacerated by poverty and abuse and its inhabitants have the smallest resources and starve, then, are revealed. Who else but the artists can express and protest about these situations? Our weapons are the brushes, the word in the case of writers, body in the case of performing arts. Behold José Clemente Orozco in Mexico, Oswaldo Guayasamín in Ecuador and so many artists who are protesting with their fabrics and books. And then, what is the subject for painting? Just go out and find it!
MICHAEL: Are you in Mexico City? What's life like for artists in Mexico? Do people there appreciate art and support artists? How does Mexico inspire you?
ROBERTO: Yes, I'm in Mexico City on business, but I spend long periods away from the big city. I also live in the Caribbean or some cultural city inside the country like San Miguel de Allende. Life for artists in Mexico is complicated; almost no support, the government gives grants to young artists who are thousands and only a few are accepted and commercial art galleries take advantage of the need for artists to exploit what is fashionable. That coupled with the few exhibition spaces, it complicates the livelihood of artists. Even "consecrated" ones come to have financial problems. Mexico, in this time of terrible violence, all it does is give you a banner to fight for your artistic proposals against this terrible burden that is drug trafficking and the violence it generates. I'm working on a project about "Violence Installation" to be exhibited in galleries and cultural forums. My job is reporting, so the beautiful landscapes and colors of my country, in this case, I do not serve.
MICHAEL: You are quite prolific. Your sculptures are amazing. They're figurative and somewhat abstract yet also ancient and contemporary. Is this the goal for you?
ROBERTO: I think my sculptures are very similar to my painting - expressionist. One is modeled by hand, one is in direct contact with the clay, and then suddenly something emerges. It is something wonderful. I am interested in the ways that give the impression of being broken, so they’re pierced, ripped apart and I introduce metal etc. Your view is due to your appreciation of contemporary and ancient sculpture. I have so much to do. Hopefully I still have time.
MICHAEL: Roberto, you've been an artist for a long time. How have you survived? Also, what do you think about the art world today? There's so much money now for famous, dead artists and many living artists are struggling.
ROBERTO: So Michael, I have more than 35 years dedicated to art. For some years, I do nothing more than painting and sculpture, more than half of this time has been very difficult. Fortunately, I was director at a university in my country the career of Art and Design for over 18 years, so I was well economically. This allowed me to paint without problems, without having to worry about money. Due to the characteristics of my working expressionist, I am not a commercial artist. Since I started painting, I’ve painted for me as an uncontrollable urge to express what I think and feel, without thinking even if other people like and even less if they buy my work. I think I'm still the same. I exhibit little, just when I think I have something important to show. Now times are dramatic. I occasionally sell my work and I cannot complain. I survive.
MICHAEL: And the art world?
ROBERTO: The art world today is a mess. In an effort to "do new things," most artists improvise stupid things just to create. Commercial art galleries are also a mess, but we have to differentiate between Gallery Art (which is what promotes, values and supports its artists) and a shop selling paintings, where the only thing they care about is making money and exploiting artists. I am absolutely against the "artists" improvising, without studies and unprepared. It gives the appearance that it is now very easy to be an artist and this is terrible for young people, because it fails, but they feel it gives them status. Art is one thing and quite another is the art market where artists are just a commodity to the highest bidder. But as living artists, we really love our work and we will fight until the end, even if we starve.
MICHAEL: Fantastic. Finally Roberto, what do you hope people see and feel when they look at your work and what do you want for the future?
ROBERTO: Well, what I’ve always wanted to show focuses around events of the human being. These are situations that cross my work. And for the future? Just what I want is to show my work and that God allows me to continue to that extent possible, discovering the wonders of being immersed in this world of art.
MICHAEL: Fantastic. Thanks Roberto. Great chat.
ROBERTO: Dear Michael, Thank you very much!
Check out Roberto’s work at http://mognier.mx/.