Interview: Márcio Pontes Supplementing Digital Art Prints with Philosophy
The minimalism of Márcio Pontes’s work invokes his strong philosophical foundations, inspired by his travels, perspectives on life and people, and his childhood. In Márcio’s art, you’ll always find more than meets the eye.
Looking at his range of media, I’m challenged in my understanding of the world, how objects come together, and the interactions between positive and negative space. A Brazilian artist, Pontes plays with optical illusions, geometry, and visual harmony, and his website gives samples of the different approaches he incorporates. With each collection including up to 150 pieces, there’s something in Pontes’s art for everyone.
Vareesha: You mentioned that you quit your job as an Art Director to focus on your art. How was that process like? Did you have any fears of pursuing your passion?
Marcio: After I finished my education in Communication and Advertising, I wasn’t working in a creative field, but rather in Account Management in Brazil. Realizing I was unhappy, I decided to move to London, UK to study English, as well as to jump into the unknown. There, I started taking illustration, graphic design and typography classes at Central Saint Martins College and City Lit, where I found art to be my passion. Over the next years, I took summer courses, and used any extra money to explore graphic design. I went back to London three more times, and then to New York, where I met amazing artists like Milton Glaser (SVA), Stefan Sagmeister, and the TOMATO Group – designers who believe art can be done from a computer screen. Afterwards, I interned as an Art Director and worked for the editorial magazines of Capricho and MTV Brasil. On the side, I continued my illustrations and personal projects. One day, I did a lightning and lamp design that some shops in São Paulo quite liked, which led to the posters and art frame projects I do now. Eventually, I decided to quit my job, which was scary, and at first seemed like a huge mistake. In a few months, however, I knew I made the right choice, and just focused on improving my craft.
In what ways are you trying to grow as an artist right now?
I am trying every day to learn or do something different or better. I am very organized and committed with myself about my work, ideas and schedule to deliver it to the others. I try to see a lot of things on internet and always as possible at galleries and museums. Travelling is also my greatest source of inspiration, so I try to travel as much as I can in Brazil, or in Europe and the United States. The last three years I have been collaborating with ARTIMAGE, an art company in São Paulo, where I design around 300 different art pieces yearly, with two collections in February and August to present and reproduce for shops, architects, and design stores. I also work with UrbanArts.com.br and Society6.com to create contemporary, pop-style typographic posters.
Tell us more about yourself! What do you enjoy outside of art?
I love movies, music, books, and travel. I am incredibly inspired by music, and I am always listening to something while working. I enjoy music festivals and concerts, such as the Sonar Festival in Barcelona, which mixes music with visuals really well. Though my art is all digital, I want to start painting a few pieces using canvas and paint, and I hope that helps me even more to free my mind in my digital work.
Your work has a lot of philosophical discussion attached. What drives this choice to include those ideas?
I believe it is important to observe life and nature – what is going around me, in my city, in the people around me. How we consume and add to life. In our technological age, we forget to observe ourselves, to really look into someone’s eyes, and to really care. We are losing perception, which means we also stop observing how things are born, develop, and change. The more we move from the real to the virtual, the more we lose emotions and become superficial. All the options available to use is too much for our brains to process, with how fast things are happening.
You’ve been to a few places around the world to do art. Any favorite locations? What stood out to you the most about those cities?
London was the first country I have been to outside of Brazil. London was and still is an amazing city – modern but classical, with diverse cultures, giving it its extraordinary atmosphere. I’ve been to Berlin a few times, and I love it – it is hard and rough sometimes, but with a retro-feeling of being back in time with smalls coffee shops and restaurants carefully full of old and recycled objects, where people go to for a break, coffee, or beer. You see people driving their bikes to the parks without a sense of urgency. There is street art everywhere and impressive art galleries and museums. Paris, Amsterdam, Madrid and Barcelona always bring me a lot of inspiration in modern design and architecture. Brazil’s beaches and natural elements reconnect me to the earth and give me fresh energy. I have been to New York and Miami in the States, but I would love to go to Chicago, San Francisco, and perhaps even camp in the Grand Canyon. Next on my list, however, is an Asia trip.
In your art, you use a lot of minimalism along with geometry. How do you know when enough is enough? How do you envision the meaning behind these more abstract pieces? Or is there a meaning at all?
I believe that there is a lot of design, organization, structures and geometry all around us, and that sometimes we just don’t take notice of it. It can be the pavement along a square we are walking on it. Or the connections between buildings on the same block, or even just how the light and shadows acts on the surface of a window glass. But it is in nature where we can see the most perfect geometry – from the lines in a spider’s web to the way cells organize and multiply to give all kind of life in the sea, earth and air. I like being inspired by the minimalism in life, through simple admiration of the colors of sand, water, and the sky, and how light changes on the horizon. Deciding when enough is enough is just a gut feeling, without a technical explanation. It is not an easy balance, just a personal choice, but I think each artist intuitively knows when and where to stop moving.
What was your life growing up like?
I was born in the countryside of a small city five hours from São Paulo. As a kid, I was shy and reserved, which is still true today. Before computers and the Internet, I played outside on my bike, or watched cartoons, which inspired my own ‘robots’ and ‘computers’ out of ink and boxes. My dad was a construction engineer, who designed our home, and gave it a modern feel, with a long wall painted with special automotive paint to create geometric lines in different hues of green and a thin intense orange line, which I used as a road for my toy cars to drive on. My mom was a painter and art teacher, so my sisters and I helped her prepare and mix ceramics. The combination of engineering and art heavily influenced my approach and techniques in geometry, minimalism, and color.
I was quite intrigued by the ‘Subtitles’ project of yours. When did you start that? What drew you to subtitles and captions as a concept to explore?
I always used to keep a small visual diary from my travels, even before digital cameras exist. I remember after a trip to New York, I had over 200 printed photos, which would be expensive to develop in film all at once. In my visual diary, I glued postcards, flyers, souvenirs, mixing it with photos, ink and handmade annotations from the places I visited. SUBTITLES came from a small book I did for a bookbinding course at Central Saint Martins. I was always enraptured by sentences and phrases when watching movies or TV. I like the idea of a small sentence being taken from the original context of the story and how, most of the time, it creates a stronger meaning removed from the content. It is like telling a new story just out of a sentence. So, sometimes, when watching a movie, it takes much longer to finish it, as I pause from time to time just to take pictures of the TV screen.
Have you collaborated in any of your projects? Why or why not? Any examples?
I still have not collaborated with other artists yet. The closest I have gotten, where the design courses I did with the advice of other people. The guys from the TOMATO Group inspired me a lot, as well as my professors from Central Saint Martins, especially from my illustration courses. I do hope on collaborating on some large-scale projects in the future.
Which piece or project of yours put you out of your comfort zone? In what ways?
I have experimented with some optical illusion pieces, playing with perception. I like the idea that a piece of art can be appreciated in new ways just by arranging or crossing lines in a frame. It was a new way of thinking to design such pieces. I used layers of graphics printed on paper on glass, or glass on glass with methacrylate. One new method I tried was combining a few pieces into one large artwork that can be hung in different ways and played around with.
How much time do you spend on average on each piece? What’s the process like in developing your work?
My ideas usually come right when I wake up, when I am the most focused and fresh. I wake up early, as I am a morning person, and work from 6 or 7AM to early night. I look through books, old designs, modern music, street art, or random sentences to inspire me. Once I am on my computer, I develop different paths pretty quickly, testing out different cropping and color options. At the end of the day, I might have only two or three good ones, or a full 20-piece series almost ready to go. A new collection, however I do 100-150 designs, which takes about two months, half in brainstorming, half in developing.
Favorite way to spend a lazy day?
With friends for sure and always. I like being with my longtime friends and joining all together for a nice lunch at home with good music, drinks and conversation. São Paulo is a big city, with only a few green areas and parks, but I like going out for a walk sometimes. Netflix is stealing a great part of my free time too, causing my binge-watching addiction. At the beach, I enjoy relaxing, by swimming, or simply doing nothing.
Any favorite pieces of yours? What about that piece makes it special to you?
I really enjoy the AERIAL collection and the black and white CUBE series from my geometric work. These optical pieces challenged me a lot and pushed my developing process. I had to be very precise with the materials, to create the right scale of reference, for sharp optical impressions. As a result of these projects, I became a better artist, more able to impact people’s perceptions of my work.