The Italian-born and London-based artist duo, Luisa Mè, engages with themes of human existence and psychology in their work, concentrating on the dark side of the human condition, as seen through their own subjective experiences. Despite the visual seduction, their evocative body of work copes with debased and wretched human qualities, aiming to divulge potent emotions and heartfelt psychological fears.
Words: Yannis Kostarias
Painterly, an extensive sense of deformation and displacement on canvas signifies their work indicating an alternative approach to experience unfamiliar and offbeat pictorial narratives. Luisa Mè’s artworks introduce expressive suggestions of figurative or anthropomorphic forms in the context of abstraction that dominate the painting; rarely with the biggest parts of the canvas left unfinished or empty. Although visually polychromatic and vivid, their surfaces disclose concealed, cynical and grotesque elements, involving ideas of the seen and unseen as well as subjective and impartial aspects of the human idiosyncrasy.
Rostral and edgy compositions fiercely executed and almost threatening for the viewer’s eyes construct the duo’s identical set of motifs underlying the artists’ skillful techniques. Their art practice also encompasses a series of sculptural variety; particularly, skeleton creations provide a three-dimensional point of view enhancing the dark qualities of their imagery. Dynamic insect-like arrangements with sharp and pointed endings command their canvases. “We are interested in motifs of sex and enticement, however the symbols we chose also have to act as host to a more painful or evil side. For example the purple of a hematoma, a high heel, spread legs or the beak of a beautiful bird”, the painters characteristically mention themselves.
This iconic purple of hematoma and its variations seems to overtop the figures’ main corpus colouration furthering the bloody simulation of a stain. Their palette contains vibrant colours as well as earthy tones and hues; striking pairings of greens, light yellows and imposing oranges appear in a creative interplay of colour, form and paint. What is remarkable is the face depictions that present similar attributes within their work and strongly allude the mastery of the Italian Renaissance. In addition, albeit the abstract visualisations, the overwhelming combination of colours and motifs underscore a hidden beauty in their work, which successfully elevates the final painting result.
Dark, malformed and dirty abstracted facial features are surrounded by a bright yellow circle, like a halo around the head referencing holiness or glory. The contradiction is evident showcasing the intellectual interaction or even the conflict between light and dark forces, as seen in the classic iconography of Christianity, but through the contemporary art terms of the Italian duo. The visual vocabulary employs a chaotic environment where beauty unfolds into a new state dismissing to a polychromatic imbalance.
For example, in paintings such as the Mosh pit with guitar, 2017, Crocifisso (Crucifix), 2017, or Just because you sleep next to me doesn’t mean you’re safe, 2018, the artistic syntax eloquently suggests a tentatively optical struggle summing up the hysterical condition of bodies and the inhabited physiological fear that takes over the final impression of the view. In Look at me (Sunset), 2017, the viewers’ eyes join the dramatic composition, adding an unorthodox touch to an already creepy depiction and suggesting Luisa Mè’s emphasis on fear and pain.
Additionally, in Look at me!, 2017, the artists encompass their figures in a crucified position; the twisted bodies, which the Italian emerging artists remarkably employ on canvas, evince a brutalist mixture of torture, sympathy and constrain. A contemporary interpretation of a martyrdom allures the spectator’s eyes while concentrating the attention to the ectoplasmic faces aggressively depicted on canvases. Although optically abstracted, the artist duo presents an ability to converge such intense arrangements and convert them into discernible images whose dual identity beholds either a shocking effect or a dazzling experience.
Luca and Francesco, aka Luisa Mè, were born in Italy, and live and work in London. In their interview with Art Verge, the Italian artists talk about their approach to the arts and other creative issues, while also offering some very interesting insights about their daily life.
Art Vegre: Can you tell us about the process of making your work?
Luisa Mè: Drawing! drawing for us, is the starting point for our messy and chaotic process where we configure and communicate our two distinctive sensibilities within an image. We collaboratively create a meeting point, a foundation for our work where both of us can individually visualise our ideas.
AV: How would you define your work in few words (ideally in 3 words)?
LM: Innocent, dirty, nervous.
AV: How do two painters/artists work together for creating an artwork? Does the painting process end up being collaborative or do you work separately?
LM: When one of us is working on the canvas the other directs from behind. In the act of painting the other is constantly questioning whatever is happening, with a clearer and less involved perspective. We perform for each other as both the artist and the spectator.
AV: Can you name any artists you, lately or generally, take inspiration from?
LM: Piero della Francesca and Francis Bacon.
AV: Anthropomorphic silhouettes with sharply pointed body parts (nose or feet) seem to dominate your recent work. Is it a significant motif or pattern you wish to keep on dealing with your imagery?
LM: We are interested in motifs of sex and enticement, however the symbols we chose also have to act as host to a more painful or evil side. For example the purple of a hematoma, a high heel, spread legs or the beak of a beautiful bird. Repetition of these symbols is fundamental to us. We need them in order to weave and submerge our images with what really torments us.
AV: How do you know when an artwork is finished?
LM: We like to think that ending an artwork is almost like solving a math problem. Once we find the solution we know the work is finished and we can celebrate for 5 minutes.
AV: What about the place where you work? What’s your studio space like, and how does this affect your process?
LM: Our studio is plunged in concrete grey. we are at the centre of the brutalism of south London, surrounded by crows and seagulls who peck on the roof and fight for some left over Morley’s chicken. Mechanical sounds of hoists, tracks unloading scraps, screams and religious songs from African churches contribute to the soundtrack of our days in the studio.
AV: Which exhibition did you visit last?
LM: All too human, Tate Britain.
AV: What do you hope audiences will take from your work?
LM: Pleasure and perversion.
AV: What does your mum think about your art?
LM: Tonina: that our paintings look all the same, she would want us to make every painting different.
Marisa: that we should use more colours.
AV: Are you a morning person or a night owl?
LM: We prefer working in the morning although sometimes we may end up working late in the night if we don’t feel satisfied.
AV: Is the glass half empty or half full?
LM: Luca’s is half full, Francesco’s is half empty.
AV: Which are your plans for the near future?
LM: We are looking forward for our two next solo shows in London and a nice dip in the sea in Calabria where we’re doing a residency this summer.
©All images courtesy of the artists