Artist MARCOS BONTEMPO lives in Ronda, a city in Andalucia, known for its spectacular landscapes and rich history. The city’s raw energy and inescapable beauty leaves no one indifferent. Because of the force of these surroundings, Bontempo’s personality and work cannot be separated. In essence, they have become “one.”
Passersby easily recognize Bontempo’s swift and airy gait, as he walks through the town accompanied by his dog, Calma. Calma was found in a trashcan soon after the artist lost his previous companion, Ada. The two have developed a treasured friendship and, like Ada, his new dog gives Bontempo the endless affection and stability he needs by watching over him. We continue to see the duo as we cross by them on their brisk walks.
Beyond this simple anecdote, there is much we can understand just by observing Bontempo and his dog walking by. The artist is like an elf, a man of breath and light. Each one of his inhalations seemingly radiates with kindness and calls out his innate need for harmony. Simultaneously, every day is a struggle for Bontempo against his inner demons, a battle he tries to keep at a distance yet conquer all at once. Are they “Those” demons or “His” demons? No one knows: probably some of both. There are “Those” who becomes “His.” Reality lies somewhere in between.
Bontempo is warm and filled with love. His discourse is extraordinarily poetic while each of his drawings yells out the pain of the world he is trying to depict. In his work, traditional images lying on sheets of paper are transformed into a Dance Macabre. Figures scream and are muted as they explode and twirl. These subjects have been named floating bodies simply because that is what they are. They float in his head then emerge in his art through prolific delivery. All of his figures are different yet equally intense, emanating an eerie beauty from within. Are they genies, totemic spirits, shamans, or aliens? It does not matter. What is most important is that they are representations of Bontempo’s universe. A world built upon a double existence and filled with signs of constantly renewed flights, primal screams, and a proverbial jail with an opening towards freedom. It is hard to grasp the reality Bontempo both lives and creates. Like the artist, this place is filled with extraordinary figures born at night but evaporate within the time of a walk through the beautiful city of Ronda.
Ronda, March 25, 2013
Guillermo Pinilla: Could you explain a little about your background and how you became an
Marcos Bontempo: Ever since I was a child, I would paint and draw for hours. Then, at 26 came my first big crisis and depression. My father gave me the book of Van Gogh’s letters to Theo. As I read those, I decided that painting would become my way of expressing myself. I used to paint outside, in the street, or on newspapers. These was the only thing that really mattered to me, writing and painting. I understood this would become my tool to communicate with the outside world. I read artist’s biographies and I decided painting would become my way to translate my life.
GP: Your paintings seem to be abstracted human forms. What exactly are you portraying and why?
MB: Yes, there are human forms, which cry their pain and suffering. They seek the sky and you see their answers. The shapes express the poor reality, the mutilation of an ill body that does not want to be forgotten by God. It is a voice that is empathic towards suffering. These shapes allow me to understand life in a better way. I do not let them alone in their ordeal. I feel I am keeping them company in their journey…
GP: Do you paint from reality or imagination?
MB: I thought I was painting from my imagination, but it is everyday of my life that I am conscious of and feel for. I may imagine these shapes but for me they are real.
FM: What inspires you to create? Does your illness affect your work?
MB: My inspiration comes from what I feel, what I sense, and what is happening to me.
Sometimes I keep falling down into a void without being able to hold myself to anything. Painting makes me come to the surface and eventually feel alive and happy. Everything inspires me and influences me: beauty, fragility, feelings. I think I am a schizophrenic. My thoughts are altered indeed but I am more of a psychotic and I would not be able to live without my medication. There is chaos within me and I need to work in my studio to organize it and feel how different I am. I believe I have been able to develop and achieve something on my own.
GP: What is your artistic process?
MB: It is painting and creating accidents. It has to burst and happen. I have to be able to connect even if I don not necessary wish so. I have to tune in with myself. When I do not feel good, I try to get in touch with my inner self even more.
GP: When do you paint and how often? Where do you usually work?
MB: I paint when I feel the need of a dialogue and to express myself. My studio is another world where I am both naked and sheltered from the world like in a cave. I need to be in my studio and go there everyday.
GP: Have you always worked with paint? What drew you to the medium?
MB: I did make some sculptures as well. I need to create and transform, invent shapes or use some that already exist and transform them. But painting on paper or on canvas is also natural to me. It really depends what I find in the studio sometimes. Also I work in series as well, so I have to start with a medium and explore it for a while.
GP: Do you have any other artists that you admire and/or inspire you?
MB: There are 3 of them: Baselitz, Bacon, and Lucian Freud. Bacon for his existential anxiety. Baselitz for his strength. Freud for his “assaulting nakedness.”
GP: What is the biggest accomplishment you achieved from being an artist?
MB: What happens to me now is a great accomplishment! A dream come true! My mother looking at the gallery invitation and being aware that I have a show in New York! My desire to keep creating as much as I can and to feel that I am doing the best I can.
GP: What are you goals for the future?
MB: Continue to work. It is definitely the meaning of my life. Be quiet, mute, and paint. Painting takes me further than anything else.
Many thanks to Gloria Cohen and Guillermo Pinilla,, translator Jennifer Pinto Safian, and, most importantly, Marcos Bontempo for providing an honest insight into his artistic process.