The Bricoleur of Luxembourg | An Interview with Marcel Terrani
Some people spend their lives doing one thing. They do one thing for so long and become so good at it they can no longer imagine doing anything else. These people study math in university, then go on to be mathematicians, or they study business, then go on to be businessmen.
And then there are artists. Unlike others, who rely on the security of routine, artists rely on change. They thrive on flux. Artists will dodge the comfort and stability of a safe job with a salary in order to continually keep themselves on their toes. Artists will purposefully put themselves in new and difficult situations just to see what it’s like. They’ll do this because they know that the only way to learn is to entertain new experiences; Stay hungry, stay foolish.
Marcel Terrani is an artist. At different points in his twenty-year-long career in animation and graphic arts, he has had the opportunity to settle on one thing. At age twenty, he was showing his visual art in galleries; at nearly thirty, Terrani scored an animation position at Disney, and recently, in his forties, he landed a position designing record covers for Sony, Universal, and Columbia. But the man won’t settle on one thing. Throughout his life, Terrani has gravitated towards new mediums, continually trying his hand at new creative pursuits.
His current pet project: photography. While Terrani originally contacted CONTRA in hopes of having his photography showcased, we were struck by his collage work:
Bricolage, from the french verb bricoler, meaning “to fiddle; to tinker,” is a form of artistic expression that, like the term collage, refers to the construction of a work from a diverse range of things which happen to be available. Terrani’s bricolage best demonstrates the versatility of his artistic skills, which combine his love for painting, photography, collage, and graphic design. The finished works are multi-layered, multi-medium reimaginings of popular culture, demonstrating the artists’ capability of fusing his skills into one blended and vivid product.
It’s no surprise that Terrani sites Andy Warhol and Gustav Klimt as influences. Looking at a Terrani piece, you can notice a preoccupation with popular culture (like Warhol) and a concern for details and trimmings (à la. Klimpt). His work has been exhibited alongside top German artists, like Rosemarie Trockel, and Georg Jiri Dokoupil. He’s even exhibited in Britain with big names like Banksy, D*Face, and Rourke Van Dal.
We caught up with Terrani to chat about his inspiration, his creative process, and his views on art.
CONTRA: Hi Marcel, it’s nice to meet you. As I mentioned earlier, CONTRA is very interested in your collage art. Would you consider your art bricolage? Dada-inspired?
Daddaism is very near to me – especially in my earlier works. The process of my work is like bricolage in the sense that it combines a variety of materials. I start with canvas and textile fabrics and layer in newspapers, transfer papers, magazines, acrylic paint, oil paint, goldleaves and silverleaves, and my own photographs.
CONTRA: You say on your website that you “take photos and transform them into pop-art style.” What does “pop-art style” mean to you, and how does one “transform” and object to “make it” pop art?
My art only looks like pop art. I use this look to carry my ideas, like a Trojan horse, so my work is more along the lines of “fake pop art,” although I don’t really have a name for my style of art.
CONTRA: Logistically walk us through your creation process, from the inception of an idea to its manifestation on canvas.
I typically start with a décollage on a 20×30 cm paper, where I glue different layers over each other. Afterwards, they’re digitalized, meaning that the photoshop elements are put to work. Then, I project this model onto canvas, and add acrylic and oil paint. For some works, the data from the computer is printed on canvas and paint over it. Next comes the gold or silverleaf, which I cover with shellack, a lack traditionally used in churches to cover angels or religious sculptures. Essentially, I’m mixing very old technologies with modern ones like Photoshop.
CONTRA: You use lots of pictures from women’s magazines. Talk about that.
A lot of my work is a reaction to the beauty industry. You might see one of my pieces from afar and recognize the Elle or Vogue lettering, but the viewer must read the text layered into the piece to find a deeper, hidden message. For instance, you may see an Elle cover, but below, the text reads DO NOT READ BEAUTY MAGAZINES – THEY ONLY MAKE YOU FEEL UGLY [a quote from Baz Lurhman’s Sunscreen song.] The point is that no real woman can look like the women you see in the papers and magazines, because the female figures are digitally retouched. Or, take for example the work with Madonna: the text says LANCASTER (referring to the cosmetics company) but people need to look closer, and read the text that follows: “LANCASTER does not help after a certain age.” This exposes the lies of the beauty industry, which promises youth and beauty forever. This isn’t to disrespect Madonna or anything—I think she’s fabulous, but there’s this stupid idol killer called Time, and I wanted my work to capture this.
Nowadays, I’m photographing more and more celebrities, like German top actresses Alexandra Kamp and Eva Hbermann. I combine the images from women’s magazines with lines of text I find on the internet. There’s a lot of interesting sentences of Facebook, and I find them and use them as starting points or inspiration.
CONTRA: What’s the most important thing you know about art?
The most important thing for an artist to understand is that an idea alone isn’t successful. You have to work a lot, and keep your eyes and ears open to the world around you. You also have to be able to fend off critics, and to trust your own style. The same people who used to tell me my work was “too decorative” now pay top dollar for my pieces. There is a time for everything; the same art that isn’t being publicly accepted now might be loved a few years later. Just trust your own style!