Marian Machismo is a Melbourne-based artist and screenprinter who has captured the heart and essence of our collective youth, 90s pop songs and the beautiful struggles we all face as we try to make our own paths in this world. Her art is a reflection of both herself and of the world around us and, like the artist herself, Marian’s work is honest, nostalgic, skilled and stunning.
Looking back can you define the one exhibition, project or moment that gave you and your art the exposure you have today?
In 2013 I was invited by Just Another Agency to have a solo show at their project space in Prahran. My life was a total shambles and at the time my creativity was at an all time low. I’d graduated from the Masters program at RMIT and moved to New York City chasing “the dream”. Things in NY had been progressing with great intensity, and as an international fine artist doors were being opened for me left and right. Unfortunately, life had other plans, and I was thrown a massive curve ball. My father passed away and I returned home to Melbourne. I felt lost and despondent. I felt like the small community I’d built throughout my studies had moved on without me and I felt incredibly isolated. Broken and without direction I began volunteering with Just Another and through this experience I was introduced to a vibrant creative community. Here I found both the support and drive that I was lacking in my life.
Toby (Just Another) pushed me to draw in my darkest hours and reminded me of how hard I had worked, who I was and why I was in this field to begin with. When she offered me the space to exhibit I was, in hindsight, rather cocky. With a wealth of experience bolstering me I approached this show like I would any other. But things were different now, I was different now and the tricks I had come to rely on started to feel empty. I was empty. Two weeks away from opening night I had nothing. Panic had well and truly set in. It’s in those hours (the ones that find you between 1 and 6 am) that I began to draw my obstacles. I drew my fear and my grief, I drew my anger and loss and before I knew it, it was time to install. I can’t describe to you how vulnerable I felt whilst framing these snapshots into my loneliness. This would be the first time in my career that I had exhibited a drawing, nothing was going to allow me to hide. I was raw and exposed. Standing there in an empty space, shadowed by the stark white walls Toby suggested that I push myself even further; off the page and onto the gallery itself. Again I wanted to run. I wanted to hide. I wanted to laugh in her face and walk right out of there and into another profession. But I thought, ‘Hey, Fuck it. If I’m going to fail I’ll at least fail majestically’, and so I did.
That last 24 hours before opening night of my aptly titled show Survival Guide I cried, I screamed, I sat on the bathroom floor rocking back and forth but in the end I didn’t fail. It wasn’t the best show anyone had ever seen, but it wasn’t the worst. It would never light the creative world on fire but it lit something inside of me. Within the first 20 minutes I was offered a coveted spot on the next Dirty Playground residency, my show sold out in the first week and I had been reborn as an illustrator of sorts. Once I climbed on board the ride had truly begun. I attribute a lot to Just Another for believing in me, Not just the sleepless nights, my first grey hair or an extra 5 kilos that have decided to set up shop upon my mid section but for a future, one that I had never before dreamed of and a dream I hope that I never wake up from.
What motivates you to keep creating?
My fall back answer to this question has always been a fear of failure. I think that’s as true today as it’s ever been. I’ve devoted my entire life up to this point chasing an impossible idea and to walk away now would be to lose everything I’ve worked towards. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job but at least once a day I stop and imagine how easy it could have been if I had stopped, gotten a real job and grown up. To stop creating would be to stop existing and frankly that’s not an option for me. I feel like as an artist you are afforded an intense amount of narcissism and self-reflection, but furthermore you are gifted with an ability to express the world around you. What an amazing thing this is to truly interact with your environment, your emotions and yourself. It’s almost electric. In no other profession are you so truly celebrated for independent thought and discovery. Why would anyone ever quit that?
“Sure, a steady income would be nice, some certainty in my future is a novel idea but in this economy does anyone really have that?”
Further than this all consuming fear I think that environment is a massive motivation. I’m lucky enough to live in an incredibly vibrant and artistic city (Melbourne) and in the 12 years that I’ve been here there has not been one day that I can remember ever feeling bored or uninspired. I admit to sneaking into the back row of lecture halls to listen illegally, or spending hours in the school library sitting cross-legged behind mountains of books that I can’t borrow for one reason or another. Mostly because it’s not my school or I’ve lost my library card for the millionth time and I’m too embarrassed to admit it to the library staff that I can see glaring across at me disapprovingly. I admit to sneaking into the museum when I’ve had zero dollars to my name and spending entire days wandering through galleries. I’ve spent weeks at a time holed up in the corner of a friends studio watching them work and volunteered at different galleries purely for the free WIFI and proximity to art that I couldn’t at that stage afford for myself. And when all that fails a long walk through the city opens up the most eclectic and honest of galleries housing a mixed collection of architecture and street art, angles and colours that can inspire and motivate even the most jaded creative.
What do you find are the most effective ways of promoting and selling your work?
Last year Jacqui Vidal offered to stock my artist prints in Signed and Numbered (Limited Edition Print Store), which has been a total dream. Ironically as a screenprinter by trade this isn’t something that I’d ever put much thought into but I’d always admired Jacqui and the community that she has created around such a simple and honest idea; to give artists a platform to sell limited edition prints, to promote their practice and provide access to affordable art. She took a massive chance on me and to be honest she’s taken a few more since. I think my first edition in the store sold maybe 1 print. But I’ve since re-stocked and things are going much better. Not only has Jacqui continuously promoted both my print work and the rest of my practice but she has created another avenue to express myself and given me opportunities to connect with people that would have previously never seen my work.
What do you do when you’re not drawing or printing?
My “To Do” list is the number one thing that keeps me awake at night so there is never a time that I shouldn’t be drawing… that being said there are moments when you just can’t. This is when I roll around feeling guilty that I’m not working, making lists and trying to work out how to fit another 6 hours into each day. My illustrations take a crazy long time to reach the finishing point and I feel like there is an endless amount of things I’m trying to convey, so at any one time I’ll have 30-40 things waiting to be drawn and up to ten massive projects in the works. In my down time I’m researching and planning the best ways to bring these out of my journal and into reality.
What have been your favourite or most influential collaborations?
I’ve just recently decided that 2015 will be a year of collaborations for me. Last year with the help of Eddie Zammit (T-World) I was fortunate enough to be asked to work with massive brands such as Converse, Patagonia, Lifelounge and the TAC and there are definitely a few more things in the works there. Eddie has been a total powerhouse for creating hype around the Camp Machismo Studio. I’ve just recently collaborated with Just Another Artist Dirty Bandits on a 4 metre wall as part of the Paterson Project and I’m overjoyed to announce that this will not be the last time you will see us pair up this year. DB was a pure joy to work along side and our mutual love for 90s HIP HOP has created an alliance that I cannot wait to explore further. The rest? Let’s keep those a secret for now. But let me just say I’m very excited for 2015.
Photo credit: here