Albinea, Italy-based artist Marco Grassi paints incredibly hyperrealistic portraits that venture into the realm of the surreal with unconventional twists on beauty. While his subjects are primarily young women in traditional studio settings, each portrait strays from the familiar thanks to unusual embellishments that cause a double-take.
Until recently Marco’s style was defined by decisive brushstrokes used to outline each form and bring stability to the composition, but he is now exploring the ideas of uncertainty, blurring the boundaries and allowing the figures to integrate themselves fully with the complex weave of colour and shape. His distinctive figures are delicate but they have a determination and energy to them which is partly due to his bold and distinctive palette. Every face he paints has a bright and inquiring look which reflects his own curiosity about the world. He captivates observers by both complying with the model and departing from it, deconstructing the face into a mass of different colours which appear abstract until we walk away and find ourselves meeting its gaze.
During the summer of 2013, Marco visited Russia to study methods and symbols relating to figurative works and devotional icons from the Byzantine tradition. Since then he has become more concerned with using the background as a tool to reflect his subject’s mesmerising facial expressions and their intense silence, and making the viewer feel a sense of complicity with the observer. One outstanding feature of Russian icons is their recurring use of gold leaf for halos and backgrounds which gives a distinctive warmth, colour and atmosphere to each piece. In Marco’s work the women may have baseball caps rather than halos of course, but he was captivated by the effect of the gold leaf and began to incorporate it into his backgrounds to stunning effect. It has now become a key element in the character of each piece.
Born in Milan in 1966 Marco now lives and works in Lugano, Switzerland. His works have been exhibited in many solo shows including at Stella Mccartney Space - Milano/New York, Gallery Vavilon - Samara, Russia, and many other galleries in cities as varied as LA, Rome, London and Perth (Australia). He was honoured to be selected to be at the opening of the Italian Pavilion, at the Venice Biennale in 2011.