Antonio Mañón is a Mexican painter working in the classical style. He first studied architecture and then moved on to Florence, Italy determined to pursue painting and drawing. While searching for and learning the craft of painting – he stumbled upon the work of Odd Nerdrum and claims that – after reading the book “Kitsch More than Art” (2011) – he has empirically applied the philosophical principles behind kitsch to his life and work.
We presume doctors to be skilled at their craft and therefore expect them to complete their tasks accordingly. Why not expect the same predictability from a painter?
How did the philosophy of kitsch change your paintings?
AM: There is discomfort in people that work in ways which they do not enjoy, and I was no exception. My discomfort was rooted in the belief that one ought to regularly produce “new” and “original” works in order to be an artist. I also used to believe that I had to pander to the critics’ taste and feed the art market. I consequently worked hard to get accepted and my energy was wasted.
Frustration rose quickly and lead me into a state of depression.
The situation pushed me to search for comfort in ancient philosophy and after a few years of study and analysis of the ideas and concepts of the great thinkers – I discovered with sorrow that I was ignorant. I had ignored my rightful place in life and I had obeyed the demands of others – whilst setting my own wishes aside.
Somewhere along the process of self discovery I got introduced to the philosophy of kitsch through the book “Kitsch, more than Art” – where I found a philosophy akin to my own concepts of life and painting.
I’m still ignorant of many subjects, but now I know that I´m a kitsch person. With kitsch and the study of the ancient philosophers I have fundamentally changed two of my working methods:
Firstly – my technique has improved through studies of the painting processes of the Old Masters. The way of the technique is the only way to produce quality.
Secondly – I have committed myself to the production of images that reflect nature – human and divine – through the use of allegories and drawing from nature.
Why is technique the only way to produce works of quality?
AM: I see painting as a beautiful craft and craftsmanship for a painter is the knowledge of painting technique. This rule applies to all human activity. We presume doctors – lawyers – carpenters – and plumbers – to be skilled at their craft and therefore expect them to complete their tasks accordingly. Why not expect the same predictability from a painter? We too are responsible for building and educating our culture.
Why do you think painters are afraid of the word “kitsch”?
AM: From my experience some painters are afraid of “kitsch” because they don´t want to be labeled as second-class artists. Another reason could be that people are ignorant of the initial meaning of “Kitsch.”
Perhaps some painters are afraid of “kitsch” just because they want to be accepted – and kitsch is known to be modernism´s hell!
You have mentioned “new” and “original” as a problem. What ought to be the guiding words?
AM: Words ought to be evocative and timeless. The same words or concepts that define our nature as both human beings and divine creatures – not slaves of the paradigms of our own time.
To put it like G. F. Watts: “I hope my pictures shall awaken all that is noble and best in mankind.”
AM: It´s difficult to choose from all the pieces I like! I would say that my favorites are: “The Fable of Arachne” by Velazquez – “Allegory of the Art of Painting” by Vermeer – “Self Portrait in Tree Trunk” by Nerdrum – and “Isaac and Rebeca” (The Jewish Bride) by Rembrandt. Awesome paintings!
The Kitsch Interview is a series of interviews with people working in the classical style that recognize what they do as “kitsch.” For inquiries please mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.