Arturo Mallmann was born in 1953 in Montevideo, Uruguay, but lived most of his life in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He studied sociology at the Universidad de Belgrano in Buenos Aires and spent a few years writing poetry and short stories before teaching himself to paint and draw.
“Since I was a kid I always wanted to go to places where I could look very far away, be it the mountains, the ocean or the never-ending horizon of the Argentinean Pampas. I never knew what to say when people asked me what was I looking at. I guess that what I liked was precisely that there was nothing, in particular, to look at, it was a great feeling of liberation for my frequently turbulent soul. When I start a painting my first motivation is to develop a space that presents no barriers for the eyes. That is why depth is so important to me. For many years I’ve been developing a technique that more than creating an illusion of depth, rather transforms the painting into real three-dimensional space. This technique consists of innumerable layers of translucent acrylic colors applied between several coats of clear epoxy resin. One coat of the resin equals around fifty coats of varnish, so after a few coats of resin you can build up the surface of the painting up to an inch thick or more. The interaction of all these layers of colors between the coats of clear resin not only increases the depth, it also creates a much more vibrating final effect than the one you get when the colors are applied one on top of the other, without anything in between. When I finish a painting it is difficult sometimes to tell which is the dominant color. You can say it is green or red but if you look carefully you see that whatever color you are looking at it is not just that color, but the result of multiple interactions instead. I place the human beings that appear in my paintings very far away from the viewer, usually so close to the horizon that they frequently look on the verge of disappearing. I do that not only to further increase the depth but also because I want those human beings to be surrounded by a vast, naked, and mysterious universe that presents no distractions, very different from the urban environment where most people spend their lives these days, an environment that is hopefully more conducive to approach our deepest selves.”
Arturo Mallmann’s abstract landscapes radiate a shiny gloss that makes them appear as glass canvases, but they are not in fact glass. Mallmann’s process includes a complicated approach of layering coat after coat of clear epoxy resin with acrylic colors between each layer that are translucent, allowing the colors to permeate through each layer as they build upon one another.
Mallmann’s landscapes do not afford the viewer entry into them to make you feel like you are part of the space. Rather, he depicts his subject matter from a faraway vantage point, forcing you to be a voyeur peering in on the scene taking place. The scene is typically comprised of a few people with an almost nomadic appearance walking across an uneven terrain whose destination is unclear. Perhaps this is intentional on Mallmann’s part to give the viewer the opportunity to imagine and create the subjects’ endpoints.
Mallmann does not incorporate people as subjects in all of his paintings, like A Place to Explore #1, for example. This painting illuminates the meeting point between water and the land that rests above, which blends seamlessly with the sky in which it resides. The colors are vibrant and the combination of greens and blues representing land and sky fuse together in such a way that results in an ephemeral effect.
Some of his paintings also depict tropical environments, which pay homage to his childhood in Uruguay and Argentina.
“A vast imaginary landscape with one or more figures in the distance, wondering about their existence, has been a recurrent subject matter in my work. I have now introduced new types of images that are more inspired in contemporary life instead of being inspired by deep existential matters. In those images, depth is not as relevant but it still plays a very important role.
In both the traditional work and the new work I use the same technique that I have been experimenting with for many years. This technique consists in applying innumerable coats of translucent acrylic paint between coats of varnish and epoxy resin. Sanding before applying the resin, together with the translucency of the paint, allows the layers that are underneath to show up and interact with the new ones.
In many of the pieces, the eyes of the viewer, together with the eyes of the figures, are interrupted by a thick, foggy atmosphere that prevents them to see much further. A foggy atmosphere where we wander around and are never able to trespass. In the new work, it is the characters or the shapes themselves the ones that are elusive and refuse to reveal their mysteries. To me that thick foggy atmosphere, as well as the elusive shapes and persons, represent the barrier beyond which lie the answers to those questions that we so frequently pose to ourselves and to the universe. Questions about our unknown origins and the meaning of our existence.”
Arturo Mallmann 2017
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