Using found objects and symbolic images, Marco Luccio reveals new subject matter and materials in his latest works at Metropolis Gallery
Marco Luccio speaks quickly and energetically, gesturing with his hands to emphasise a point. His boundless enthusiasm is apparent not only in the artist talk he is giving about his exhibition New York Found 2 at Metropolis Gallery, but also in the vigorous and expressive linework of his art. The artist is surrounded by over forty of his mixed-media works hanging on the gallery walls – watercolours, drypoint etchings, ink, pastel and acrylic – the result of several trips he made to New York.
Marco Luccio, Athena in 12 Parts. Image courtesy Metropolis Gallery.
Luccio explains that he has always been fascinated by New York ever since he was a young student printmaker and saw the silent film ‘Metropolis’ a German Expressionist movie. The imagery of the frenzied city, the towering buildings and crisscrossing escalators has stayed with him and informed some of his work. The Italian born artist is perhaps best known for his prints and drawings of cityscapes, construction sites and iconic buildings. However, Luccio decided to take a new direction in this latest body of work, departing from his usual subject matter. Instead of domed churches and soaring skyscrapers, he has depicted dramatic images of Athena, the goddess of culture and war. He was immediately drawn to the statue of Athena, and spent many hours sitting in the Metropolitan Museum of Art sketching her extraordinary shape, and imagining her as once standing proudly as the guardian of the city.
Marco Luccio, Athena e il Cavallo. Image courtesy Metropolis Gallery.
“I discovered in Athena the ability to explore line and form, two things which were tied in to the images of cityscapes I have created over the past twenty years,” Luccio says. “I am also drawn to the representation of Athena as both creator and destroyer, and as wounder and healer. Grand statues such as Athena’s head, separated from her body that was once thirty feet high, immediately struck me as a symbol of beauty and power pointing to an aesthetic that is both primal and sophisticated all at once.”
Marco Luccio, Quattro Teste di Athena. Image courtesy Metropolis Gallery.
Luccio was intrigued by other ancient artefacts which he discovered at the museum and these also appear in his work. He believes statues and artefacts, and the way they are presented, signify people’s attempts to represent themselves as cultured beings. “I have always been fascinated by symbols of civilisation as evidence of humanity, progression and storytelling. I believe time speaks to us through the marks that we make and that they are never entirely rubbed out.”
Marco Luccio, Head of a Youth. Image courtesy Metropolis Gallery.
Artefacts of antiquity may have fired his imagination but he was also inspired by the objects that he found on the streets and in the flea markets of New York: tossed away train tickets, unwanted old letters or discarded postcards and envelopes.
“The story of civilisation seems somehow concentrated in these found objects, intensified by their shrinking down of the whole into a part,” says Luccio. “Time seems locked within the confines of these sometimes haunting fragments of life.”
Intrigued by these small items, testaments of lives once lived, Luccio draws, paints and prints images onto them to give a new narrative to the work.
Marco Luccio, Head of Youth on an Envelope. Image courtesy Metropolis Gallery.
Luccio has completed a series of works based on found postcards, some of which are on display in the exhibition. Last year Postcard No 5B was a finalist in the 2010 Dobell Prize.
Integral to Luccio’s work is the idea of pentimenti, which means ‘change of heart’ and refers to the alterations an artist makes to the composition of a painting. He explores this concept through his technique of scraping back, revealing layers and reworking the materials. This multilayered approach also resonates in the way civilisations grow and change over time, as old structures are torn down and new ones emerge.
Marco Luccio, Postcard No 25. Image courtesy Metropolis Gallery.
Marco Luccio, Profile de Chirico. Image courtesy Metropolis Gallery.
Luccio says he has always felt a desire to keep pushing his work into new directions. “It is a wonderful challenge to transform subjects such as statues, postcards and photographs into pieces which have meaning not only to me personally but hopefully, they take on a meaning that will translate universally.”
New York Found 2 is on until 3 September at Metropolis Gallery, 64 Ryrie St, Geelong. Ph: 5221 6505 www.metropolisgallery.com.au. More information about Marco Luccio’s work can be found on his website www.marcoluccio.com.