This post showcases the work of artist Mario Seoane. Mario has been interested in making art all his life, finding his current style during his high-school years when he would doodle away in class. He now calls this style ‘symbolic automatism,’ and has created his own private dictionary of symbols that all have a consistent meaning throughout his work. I asked him a few questions about his life and work.
When did your interest in art/creating begin?
I believe I’ve been interested in the arts all my life, independently of the medium. I have an unpublished poetry book stashed in a drawer somewhere called “The little boy sings the Blues”. I’ve always felt the need to express myself artistically. If you look at my books and notepads since primary school, you’ll see drawings all over the place. I used to draw on top of the book’s illustrations and made them my own. Needless to say that my parents and teachers used to kick my ass a lot because of this irreverent behaviour.
But, the way I express myself today – which I call symbolic automatism – was developed during my high-school years; doodlin’ away endlessly, instead of paying attention to those classes.
What is your starting point for each piece?
First, something needs to happen that catches my attention. It could be anything, it doesn’t matter: a conversation, a landscape in which I’m embedded, something I’ve read… Then, I start to imagine the whole narrative in terms of symbols: what symbol can I use to represent this or the other. After that, I try to transpose my symbolic ideas to a notepad I always carry around with me and when I like the results I start a new piece.
Who or what influences your work?
Everything influences my work. I just need some random event from the outside world and off goes my mind in trying to distort reality into my creations. The challenge here is to choose the best themes, since it is impossible for me to implement every idea that crosses my mind.
In terms of big art names influencing what I do, I’ve had people telling me that my work looks like some fancy name’s, but I really don’t care for that. If it reminds them of anybody else’s, it is not my intention at all. I am doing my own thing here!
What do you hope the viewer gets from your work?
I’m really not working with the viewer in mind. I simply expunge my mind into paper. I guess most of the time the viewer will have no idea about what is happening in a given piece, since I am the only one who knows the symbol’s significance. And I like it that way. I have a notepad that I use as a symbol dictionary, where I keep track of every symbol I devise. No one else has ever seen that dictionary and no one ever will. At least while I’m alive. But I guess you can make assumptions about some of the symbols if you pay attention to every piece and their titles, since they’ll keep their significance throughout my work.
What do you think about the term outsider art? Is there a term that you think works better?
I’ve been an outsider all my life and in every aspect it. If there is a place in art for me, I guess it would be on the outside. But I like the term art brut better (not sure if it is because of the French sound to it or what). I believe that art is about brutality, even if it’s about hiding it. We are all animals, brutes. All our actions, as much as they are masked under the shroud of civilization, are brutish in nature. Art is no exception. For me, the existence of an artistic expression that inherently humbles itself to this level is fascinating.
What are you working on at the moment?
Right now I am finishing a piece called “On how to become a man”. It is a 21.5 by 30 cm, pigment ink and Indian ink on Bristol board. It’s about going into the woods, chopping down some trees and becoming a man in the process. It’s a coming of age kind of thing and I will say no more about it. After that, I have some other ideas ready to be implemented, also on the same support.
Where do you see your work taking you in the future?
My work is a private thing, but I don’t mind if anybody wants to pay for it, though. I am willing to sell my mind, encoded into paper, but I’ll never sell the key. That being said, I wish I could live off it and, honestly, I am actively pursuing this goal. However, if I can’t, I’ll keep living to create it, because there’s little else I enjoy doing and nothing as much.