Interview by Natalie Hammond
Illustrations by Marco Rea
Make meets, multimedia, illustrator Marco Rea to discuss his subversive take on fashion imagery.
Q. Where did you grow up and can you tell me a little bit about your childhood?
A. I was born and raised in Rome. I was a sensitive child, but my childhood was always happy, quiet and filled with coloured pencils, Sharpies and paintbrushes. I’ve always loved to draw and create.
Q. How did you get into fashion illustration?
A. By chance actually. My work was noticed by Nick Knight on Instagram and from there a door opened on this amazing world. Some days before Christmas, I received an email in which he complimented me and he asked if I wanted to collaborate with SHOWstudio. That was a wonderful gift.
Q. You describe yourself as a ‘debrander’ on Instagram. Can you explain what that means?
A. To make my works, I always start from the fashion brand commercials. I delete, destroy and change them to give birth to something new and personal. I think that the word that best describe this process is “debrand”. I actually don’t remember the first brand I destroyed, but for me it’s been a great privilege to work with Liberty London and Saint Laurent, and for magazines such as Vogue, Tatler and Lampoon.
Q. When did you first pick up a spray can?
A. In the early nineties, I was fascinated by the new invasion of colour appearing on the walls of my city: graffiti. From there, finding myself with a spray can in my hand was a short step.
Q. How does living in Rome inform your work and your creativity?
A. My city is filled with commercials, from the street to buses to shop windows. I was born among them, but I’ve never wanted to be a passive spectator and so my creative path was born. It is not a critique; the point is to make those images mine. The funny thing is that now my works are there in lieu of commercials.
Q. What do you want people to see and feel when they look at your ‘portraits’?
A. Destabilised. I want them to feel the sensation of immersing in a new reality, as if they were wearing magical glasses which reveal an altered reality. Something that makes me happy and curious is that many people tell me that they see themselves in my works. That, for me, is a great pleasure.
Q. They’re all beautiful but some are also a little bit sinister. Do you feel like there’s a darkness in your work at all?
A. A lot of people often tell me that, I don’t why, it is not something I seek. I have a very spontaneous approach and am instinctual with my art. Sometimes my darker side comes out, sometimes my more serene one. I do not put a lot of time into the realisation of my works, I need to be fast to immediately impress my feelings and the emotion of the work. It’s a kind of possession but it fades as days pass. When I see a commercial, I can partially imagine how to develop my work, but not a hundred percent. I love that the instinct and the unforeseen are part of my art.
Q. What or who are your three most important creative influences?
A. Egon Schiele, Francis Bacon and Jenny Saville. Often to make a portrait of someone was for them an excuse to represent themselves and their unconscious. Just look at Schiele’s many self-portraits in which he used his paintings to investigate himself, or Bacon’s study that looks like a disturbing sculpture or portraits of Saville representing obese transsexuals or victims of accidents. Their works sometimes represent the disturbed, but they do it with a wonderful and unique artistic key.
Q. What’s inspiring you at the moment?
A. To me, everything that surrounds me is a source of inspiration. Art, music, cinema, literature, the news and everyday life.
Q. What are you listening to, reading and watching at the moment?
A. Right now, I’m on a train to Milan and I’m reading Yayoi Kusama’s memoir. I’m listening to Cigarettes After Sex. I recently watched Joker, which I thought was amazing!
Q. How important is social media to your career?
A. Very. I do a lot of exhibitions abroad and I’ve got ninety percent of my contacts through social media. I had my first work contact thanks to MySpace, then Facebook and now Instagram. Every time I’m surprised by their potential.
Q. What would you like to have achieved in five years?
A. My dream would be to have my work in the Tate Modern. It is fantastic and inside are all the artists I love. To be among them is a big dream.
Q.This issue, our theme is luxury, what does that mean to you?
A. The word ‘luxury’, to me, means nothing. It doesn’t matter to me. It’s for this reason that I can debrand without any remorse.
You can see more of Marco’s work on Instagram here