A plague is upon us.
It punctures, penetrates; smothers, suffocates; a curse induced by the 'viral' invasions of 21st century life. The ability to visualise and see with our own eyes is refracted by the chaotic distractions of modern existence and the relentless infestation of new social media, all topped off by the hateful irony (go on, call it hypocrisy) that I vent these words from my Blogger blog - words which shall later be spread via the contagions of Facebook, Twit...I feel sick.
Milan-based artist Marco Mazzoni has himself seen his exquisite glowing coloured pencil drawings spread like a pandemic thanks to the indomitable power of Tumblr, and whilst many other articles have chosen to simply regurgitate Mazzoni's respectable manifesto that his art "weaves a world based on Italian folklore, focusing on the female figures who, according to Sardinian beliefs, seduce, enchant, curse, and heal", Mazzoni's images are so saturated with intelligent metaphors to tell a story that to limit his work to such lazy and predictable responses ("Oh, it's all about nature, and like...repressed women?") is frankly an insult.
Yes - I see cycles of Nature, medicinal plants and pollinator birds drinking nectar, but I also see a Hitchcockian nightmare of humanity at the mercy of Mother Nature; I see the phallic stems reminiscent from the Edenic jungle of artist Carne Griffiths - yet here they are employed in a much more disturbing and pressing context: when a faceless figure appears to be submitted to an act of aggressive floral deep-throating, we may position that figure as potential 'victim'. Equally, there is the almost crawly sense of parasitic infiltration here - the human laid host to the blooming of some foreign organism at the expense of its own life.
There is a deceptive, violent sexuality to these pieces which is so perfectly balanced by Mazzoni's magical, fantastical colour palette and the sensuousness of his overall compositions that it is hard to ascertain whether these impossible creatures offer protection and decorative embellishment or a diabolical, pathogenic hi-jacking of the human body. Indeed, there is the horrifying sense of mankind utterly enslaved to the monstrous forces of the physical world here: either blinded by feathers or eyeless entirely, Mazzoni's figures are deprived of identity, as we are left desperately seeking a soul within an infinite void of what is either white-hot or death-black.
With his seductive female figures - perhaps femme fatales - laced with floral imagery and mythic creatures, it is easy to concentrate on the 'traditional' qualities of Mazzoni's work. But for me, there is something peculiarly modern and updated - dare I say 'fashionable' - about his aesthetic which inspires me to interpret his work in the symbolic context of more modern issues. For me, Mazzoni's hallucinatory scenes conjure a very real and present world plagued by paranoia, excess and violence; a world where relentless consumption has led to the consumption of the self and humanity is turned inside out in this peacock display of grotesque and sadistic absurdism. Nothing of the self is left but a blank white canvas patch where sight once existed.