Sculpture: An interview with Marcelo Martin Burgos

22 October 2021

Tiger by Marcelo Martin Burgos, bronze sculpture, 130 cm × 150 cm × 30 cm

 

Marcelo Martin Burgos is an Argentinian artist sculptor and director whose golden bronze sculpture are anchored in the childhood universe he is fascinated about. Robots, monsters, and other creatures populating childish imagination are the main subjects of his sculpture activity, also fed by the cinematic production he practices in parallel. Bronze, that he appreciates for its versatility and golden finish, allows him to create sculptures mirror-like sculptures that reflect the childhood images and memories of those who look at them. Marcelo Martin Burgos accepted to give us an interview and answered our questions. We are glad to welcome him at Artistics.

 

You work as a sculptor and a filmmaker. How do you combine both activities? Do they feed or complement each other?

They are totally complementary, since the essence of the first is stillness while filmmaking is purely about movement. As a sculptor, my tools are my hands while the main tool of a director is the word. Somehow, I’ve come to need both activities. After weeks of working with a film crew I desperately need the solitude of the studio, and viceversa.

 

Did this activity influence your sculpture activity? If so, how?

I believe it is the other way around, sculpture influenced my activity as a filmmaker. Because it taught me to enjoy the process of making a film in the same way that I enjoy making a sculpture. When you finish it, you can be more or less satisfied with the result, even proud sometimes, but the fun is gone, you need to start a new piece. And being filmmaking a collaborative creative process, I try my best to make all the people involved can feel the joy the process too.

 

When did you start your sculpture activity and what led you to this? 

Ever since I can remember, I had a pencil in my hand. I had what you can call a very  “analogic” childhood. I used to make my own toys out of cardboard and wood. Later I got admitted in a wonderful, very small, fine arts public school in Argentina. In that school, half the class were musicians, the other half were visual artists. We would study all the normal things like math and literature in the morning, and afternoons were dedicated to making art, all the different possibilities, drawing, painting, printmaking… In my twenties I started to do sculpture with Gustavo Ibarra, a passionate sculptor and maestro.

 

 

Luzar by Marcelo Martin Burgos, Bronze sculpture, 100 x 86 x 20 cm

 

About the material of your sculpture, why did you choose to work with bronze? 

My early sculptures where all about gesture, very textured and figurative. Bronze is the ideal material to reproduce that. I do like to carve wood and stone from time to time, but bronze is such an amazing, versatile, and noble material, and the process of casting it, the melting metal, the foundry… There is no other material that can provide the mirror-like, polished surface of my sculptures.

 

All your sculptures are polished and golden. What attracts you in this finishing?

There are many layers of meaning in gold. Spirituality and all that is sacred (as sacred and pure as children creative power and innocence) has been associated with gold. My work is deeply connected to childhood and gold is a way to exalting children creativity. Childhood memories are golden. Way before glass was invented, the Etruscans made bronze mirrors. Is a way to include the viewer in the sculpture, to make her go back to her own childhood universe of creativity and joy. The reflection is distorted by the form of the sculpture, like the curved mirrors they used to have in carnivals and fairs, where people would laugh at their own distorted reflections.

 

Can you explain the different phases of your creation process?

Every artist has his rituals, in my case, I need to empty my head, so I usually sweep the floor and put some order in my studio. I do not know what I am going to draw, if there is an idea lingering in my head, it would be as simple as “a tiger”, or “a dragon”. Then comes the drawing, quick sketches, as simple as possible and then, I abandon them. They lay around in the studio for some time until one day (after sweeping the floor) I maybe pick one, and start to work. The technique can be modelling in clay, carve it in foam, construct it out of wood and wire. Lately, as I travel a lot, I started modelling them in 3D and have them 3D printed by Matias, who assist me in my Buenos Aires studio.

 

Policephalous by Marcelo Martin Burgos, Bronze sculpture, 56 cm × 97 cm × 40 cm

 

Where does your fascination for childhood come from?

Perhaps it has to do with my own childhood. I spent the first years of my life living in an orphanage of which my father was the director. Those kids were our, my brother and I, childhood friends. The place was on a hill, surrounded by trees but far from idyllic, it was eternally overcast by a heavy atmosphere of sadness. I’ve always remembered those kids with admiration. The way they would seek refuge in fantasy. The same way I found solace in art when just a few years later I lost my own father. Those children were the most resilient and brave of all the people I have met in my life. And not only them, all children I find fascinating. The way their imagination works, helping them making sense of an enormous, mysterious and overwhelming world they are thrown into.

 

Picasso said ““It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” Is it something you can relate to? What specific qualities do you associate with childhood, or the way children look at the world/restitute their relation to the world in their art?

Absolutely, it takes years to “unlearn” an education in the Fine Arts. The hand and the eyes are trained in a certain tradition, we are taught art history, we learn to imitate. Even worse, we are taught art is a struggle, that to be a good artist means to cut an ear or drink oneself to death. I spent years trying to be a “serious” artist, I grew tired and bored. Until one day I stumbled upon some chalk drawings a kid had made on the floor of a park, and it struck me. Like a Proust’ Madelaine moment, I went back to the years I would draw just because, to amuse myself or to escape a reality that was too difficult to comprehend for a child. I had a voice, but for years I was trained to ignore it, to dismiss it. Picasso didn’t learn to paint “like” a child, Picasso became a child.

 

Your monsters don’t look frightening, they look more like child drawing put in 3D. Can you explain that choice? What kind of emotion do you want to provoke? 

Far from frightening, for me they are a protective, comforting presence. I imagine them as powerful and innocent beings, like children. It is arrogant to think these sculptures can take you back to childhood, but sincerely, my aim is to conjure images and feelings that can remind us the most creative, amazing and frightening years of our lives. Just a smile is fine with me too.

 

Menschenfesser by Marcelo Martin Burgos, Bronze sculpture, 53 cm × 62 cm × 22 cm

 

We could also notice references to anime or manga. Do your monsters draw more from an intimate imagination or from contemporary pop culture? Does it seem acceptable to you to define your universe as “pop”?

In a way, yes, there are references to anime characters, cartoons and pop culture but also African sculptures I saw somewhere, giant Tolteca heads, dreams, dinosaurs… all mixed up in the soup of half remembered memories that is my head.

 

You are Argentinian and you live between Madrid and Buenos Aires; would you say that there is a specific influence of Latin American Art in your sculptural work?

Latin American art is very heroic, I believe. It has a spirit of protest and fight. It deals with major issues like race, oppression, poverty and justice. Mine is a much modest art, it won’t inspire a revolution. From that point of view, I wouldn’t dare to try to inscribe myself in that tradition. I cannot, and would not, escape from where I was born and what I have lived, and all that is an influence, in art as in life.

 

Is there some kind of message or narrative that you want to tell the public through your art?

You know, when confronted with contemporary art, it is very common people would say “a kid could have done that”. Well, I would like them to know that that is absolutely the most amazing thing they can say to an artist.