Guido Nosari is a Milan-based artist who also goes by the name, “Madre.”  He paints and assembles materials for large, mixed-media concoctions that make a big impression.  What inspires him?  Here’s our cool chat …

MICHAEL: Hello Madre, First of all, Madre isn't your real name.  How did you come up with Madre?  What does it mean?  Do you think this name will make people see you differently as an artist?

MADRE: Yes, my real name is Guido, but I do not use Madre to cover it. I mean them as perfectly interchangeable. “Madre” in Italian means “mother.” So, if you want, call me just “mother.”

MICHAEL: What started all of this?

MADRE: It all started a few years ago. I was lost. My art was sold very well. I was a “descendant of the Beasts of Leipzig, belonging to the thread that runs from Giacometti to Baselitz” or so I was called by an important critic.
But I did not understand what was the meaning to do that kind of art. I was fucked up (can I say this? because is the right word). So I stopped everything and I throw myself into the mystical and in anthropological studies. I became invisible to all. I come out after two years with the fixed idea that the figure of the artist is parallel to that of the shaman. The shaman is subject of a force and requires a definition of self-awareness, a new name in order to be used.

I looked in the mirror and saw an utter futility of my life outside of the production of poetry. As the Germans would say, the mother is what identifies herself in the fruit of her love and being. Her life loses meaning outside of this projection. Or so I've always felt, perhaps thanks to a grandmother and a mother who taught me this. It has been automatically given me that name.

Without my poetry I am useless. As a mother without children. Awareness of this situation often causes me pain, then, to answer the last question, what others perceive as a result of my name is something that has ceased to be interesting in a long time.

I'm Guido and Madre and mother.

MICHAEL: I love your large, canvas works. A lot of them seem to be mixed media.  Why do you like working with mixed-media so much?  Do you use found objects?

MADRE: The way I see it, the real question should be “Why should not I use mixed media?”

I love the bitumen for example. That’s because the bitumen is dead material, scrap, and so it speaks to me about this idea. I also like that it is often used to coat the exterior, such as the roofs of the houses, so that gives the idea of something exterior, the outside of a world, of limitations.
Often the basis for large works are the sheets that I use for years to sleep. In short, I use only materials which refer to my mind a meaning. If that material is a found object, then that's great. At the Neue Synagoge Museum in Berlin, I did an installation of only found fabrics.

MICHAEL: Also, most of your paintings that I see are abstracts.  What is it about abstraction that you like so much?  

MADRE: There is no abstraction in art. An artist describes to the best of his ability what he sees. And if others do not see the same things, it doesn't mean that those things do not exist or should be called “abstraction.” I have to describe what exists, nothing more or less.

MICHAEL: You live in Berlin?  Are you from Berlin?  Why do you live there?  What's the art scene like there for you?

MADRE: I currently live in Milan. I was in Berlin for four months for an artist residency that I won and now I go back and forth from Italy to Germany. The art scene in Berlin is always in motion. Large galleries host amazing exhibitions and the hundreds of good galleries do a great job of exposure. But you realize the potential of the city only if you go over … if you frequent the unauthorized show, buildings occupied, if you get carried away by the independent scene. Every night there are shows that don't move the general public that go on for only one night, but they carry with them a great desire to create something new. All this is very sexy. You feel excitement in the air. I feel a certain dislike for all of the art mediators that stubbornly attempt to institutionalize this situation. It would like embalming a dangerous animal.

MICHAEL: And so, what's the art scene in Milan like?  How does it compare to Berlin?

MADRE: In Milan, there's not this kind of pulsing underground. Truly I cannot describe very well the art scene in Milan. I see less enthusiasm, a kind of surrender. The mediators of art to which I mentioned earlier have more importance.  They have more space in Italy than in Germany. I would say that they are the real protagonists in Milan and I would say that they really like to be. 

About the artists, I see a certain sophistication in general, in a calm tone, just enough not to offend anyone.  A little, I must say, I find them boring. But I do not want to say that in Milan everything is wrong while Berlin is a paradise.  It is not. In general, I see that the artists that grow in Milan stand out much more easily abroad. This is because, paradoxically, the less chance sharpens the artist's weapons and makes him stronger, while in Berlin often they are satisfied with a bad work done by covering it with the label “Made in Berlin.”

MICHAEL: I understand. Are you a full-time artist? Are people in Milan buying contemporary art?  How are you making a living?  Do you have another job?

MADRE: From two years is my only job. I hope will be forever, but I cannot be sure. In Milan, contemporary art sells not so much. Every year, someone turns up who says that a new upper class is rediscovering the values of patronage, and since a year, this sentence repeats identical. On the other hand, I do not know if I would buy contemporary art today. I produce it because I feel the need, but I do not know what words to use to convince someone of the opportunity to buy.

You ask me how I live. Sometimes my feet are cold, but I'm lucky, this is my decision.

MICHAEL: The life of an artist is hard. You're still young. You can do something else. Why not seek a new career? 

MADRE: Is love a logical choice?

MICHAEL: Haha! I understand.  When you are painting, what is that process like?  What are you thinking while you're painting?  Is the process emotional, mental or spiritual?

MADRE: What I try to do is look and be as honest as possible. Of course, I look at the reality and often the eyes lie. This is why I love working with fabrics, filling them of holes, which are things that are not seen, which go beyond reality. I do not know how exactly is the process. If I answered you in any of three ways that you suggest, it is why I would ... be mental.

Let's say that I'm a bladder blood bumps into a surface (excuse the ‘poetic license,’ but I just saw a film by Tarantino). Then when you get used to it, you can see everything a little more connected to the rest of reality. So you too are a bit “more connected.” While I paint or sew, I redefine reality, give more focus to my eyes. Only belonging to it, I can create something that is a part of reality.

MICHAEL: What do you sew?  Materials?  Do you sew on a sewing machine?  Some people might say that sewing is a craft, but not art.  What do you think about this? 

MADRE: I sew both on sewing machine and by hands. My grandmother used to sew and I have her hands. I sew any fabric that sends me the right sensations. I also sew the canvas, often along with the painting I interlock embroidery.

Sewing is critical. The needle goes forward and back of surface, and the wire creates paths that disappear to reality only to reappear in a completely different part of the work, in another time and space, however, without being interrupted. Isn't familiar? The sewing machine, instead, creates a rhythm into reality, like a pulsation, and this lilt resists the mess we have under our feet. The thread passes the reality that is portrayed making it an object, but at the same time poses the question that reality itself is nothing more than an object.

About the difference between art and craft, I have enough specific ideas. Leave these categories to those watching the art. The observer has the right to categorize the observed, especially when it does not understand. The artist cannot do this! When the artist sees a limit, he has to face it to overtake it. Any artist would see in a category his limits and would be dead, and dead artists we already have enough.

MICHAEL: When did you first realize that you were an artist?  Do you come from a family of artists?

MADRE: You know, I state that the word “artist.” I hated for so long that term. Now a little, I have made peace with it. I can also use it in the answers that concern me. However, I realized I was an artist in my first car, while I was watching a tree. At that time, I was studying to become a lawyer. And no, my family is good people, but no artists at all.

MICHAEL: What do you think about the art world/art market today and how they function?  Living artists are struggling while famous, dead artists are still making a lot of money!

MADRE: Let's be clear.  The art market today is perhaps already dead, and if not, it is sick. I speak of Europe. I had some experiences in New York and in Asia, Korea, and while it sounds better there, but I can't speak about them.

We're coming from a season that saw rising prices of artworks in proportion to their lack of communication. We have seen in recent years a return to painting, but not because of a new infatuation, but I think more for a need to present an understandable language. And, since we are talking of art and not of sandwiches, following the tastes of the customer is always a mistake, and in fact, the result can be a disappointment.

Really I do not know what should be done to help the market. I think it wouldn’t help even to lower prices (even for beginners) without feeling that the quality in this way is less. About struggling artists, it would be hypocritical to say they were not warned, and about the dead ones, I am very sorry. If they felt the stupidities that are said about them today, they probably would return to break everything.

MICHAEL: Finally Madre, most people do not care about art.  They won't ever visit an art gallery or meet an artist. So who cares?  Why should we care so much about art?

MADRE: We don't have to confuse art and art market. They are two different things. It is the same mistake that confuse art gallery visitor with art lover. I read a few days ago an interview of Solov'èv, in which he said that art doesn't support the improvement of the world, but the need to maintain this improvement possible.

I do not know why people should care about art or why they should do it more. Maybe it's like Solov'èv says, maybe even without a traditional idea of art, there'll be something else with another name. I can only say that I feel the necessity of art and that to me makes art real, even if people do not notice it.

MICHAEL: Thanks Madre.  I enjoyed our chat.  I hope that you will be well.

MADRE: Thanks Michael.

Check out Guido Nosari, also known as “Madre,” at