Armando Mariño’s paintings are characterised by his distinctive and highly saturated colour palette – bright pinks, oranges, greens and yellows that are offset by deep, dark shadows. Influenced by periods of time living in the varied landscapes of Cuba, the Netherlands, France and New York’s Hudson Valley, the artist’s large-scale works in New Paintings explore relationships between the figure and the natural environment. These new works focus particularly on palm trees, pine forests, mountain ranges and open areas of water.
The places in Mariño’s paintings seem to be visions of a lush and tranquil holiday paradise. While the places depicted are painted in great detail, they are difficult to geographically pinpoint, being constructed composites rather than taken directly from real sites. These environments are open to a range of narrative possibilities that might shaped by the experiences of the viewer. The artist’s use of reflections on seas and lakes, tiny droplets of water, sparkles of light and figures that are most frequently depicted alone, give works such as The Wanderer and The Sea Walker (both 2016) an appearance reminiscent of a half-remembered memory or a dream.
The places and people embedded within the works, however, are suffused with social and political significance. Using imagery taken from his own photographs as well as those gleaned from the internet, the artist’s works connect to some of the global news stories that have filled our screens in recent months. The body of work shown in New Paintings is rooted within some of the stories of migration that many people have undertaken in search of a new life – enormous and dangerous journeys made across land and sea. The image of the traveller or wanderer that can be found within the paintings make reference, then, not only to these individuals but to Mariño’s own movements as he has re-settled in a number of countries with very different landscapes, climates, cultures and populations.
Each of Mariño’s finished canvases begins with a number of paintings on paper. Made in oil paint and watercolour, these studies are the places where the artist’s ideas first come to life – where formal aspects of the work such as the composition, colour and surface details are worked out and eventually fixed down. The works on paper are a crucial part of Mariño’s research process as well as being important parts of his wider practice in their own right.
Mariño builds up each of his paintings with multiple layers of oil paint. Each begin with a foundation of cadmium yellow or orange, painstakingly layered until a vibrancy is achieved. Though oil paint has a long history within art practice, Mariño likens the colours he works with to those that can be found in films, video games and advertising – super-saturated digital colours that fizz and pop and very much connect to our contemporary way of viewing the world. Colour is essential to the work. Indeed, Mariño has described painting as an idea that uses colour in order to think.
Armando Mariño was born in Cuba and now lives and works in New York. He studied art in Havana and Santiago de Cuba in the 1980s and 1990s, and at Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten in Amsterdam between 2004 and 2005. He has since exhibited his paintings all over the world including solo and group exhibitions in Paris, Ontario, Copenhagen, Madrid and Miami among other cities. Mariño has won numerous awards for his paintings and his work is held in such notable collections as that of Deutsche Bank, De Nederlandsche Bank, The Coca Cola Foundation and other significant public and private collections in Europe, Central America and the USA. (Words by Anneka French)