Q&A: Marco Luccio

From top:
Crowds and Flatiron (2013)
Etching on Velin Arches paper
24.5 x 20cm
Edition of 50
New York Mythic 7 (2016)
Drypoint on Velin Arches paper
90 x 180cm
Edition of 25
New York Mythic 6 (2016)
Drypoint on Velin Arches paper
90 x 180cm
Edition of 25
Night-time in New York (2013)
Etching on Velin Arches
20 x 24.5cm
Edition of 50

Marco Luccio unveils a suite of work at the Australian Consulate-General in New York City.

IMPRINT: How did your New York exhibition come about, and what are some of the ideas underlying your approach to both the imagery and the process you have employed for making them?

ML: I exhibited my body of work International Cities at the Australian Consulate-General in 2010. On my last visit in 2015/16 I was asked by the Consulate if I would like to be considered to exhibit the New York Mythic series.

The approach to this exhibition has been one of capturing New York as a mythic city, a city of memory and senses as much as the city we can see, walk and touch.

The process I used differed in the sense that I set myself a task, a goal if you like, of not just responding to New York the way I had previously through direct in situ work, but to have a preconceived notion of capturing a mythical aspect of Manhattan, whatever that may entail. The idea of starting out with this approach was to see what would come from it so that when I did work on the images either in situ or from sketches in the studio it allowed a greater freedom and expression. The hope was to create images that evoked a representative metropolis as much as New York City itself. Basically, even before I got on the plane to New York and before I would start any sketches in situ, I knew I would be trying to create something that would capture the city in a new way for me.

The process of sketching I used was different too, employing more of a broken line in some of the etchings and drypoint to create movement and light.

And at other times, I would be drawing with my pen constantly on the paper, moving quickly to help me to create marks that depict the city as an organic cluster of cohesive forms. This way I was playing with the idea of capturing the city as a place full of totems and canyons and something more poetic and dreamlike than the earlier more observational drypoints and drawings. The two big six foot drypoints were a way for me to capture the scale of the city and the overwhelming sense of built environs that stretches forever. New York seems to demand such a scale.

IMPRINT: What has your relationship been with New York and how do you inhabit it as compared with your usual stomping grounds in Australia?

ML: My first reason to come to New York was after seeing Metropolis by Fritz Lang when I was a student.

Lang was inspired by New York and its skyline. He filled his film with a city that paid homage to New York. I had seen it on a big screen and was totally captivated by the futuristic city he created. I then discovered he was inspired by Manhattan and I knew I wanted to come here. I have since been to New York many times and will continue to do so as it demands years of looking to truly feel confident of capturing and responding to the city in a serious, comfortable and connected way.

As an artist, when I’m in New York I feel different. I’m electrified by the place and come here to be recharged with ideas and possibilities.

Here in New York anything and everything seems possible.

First, I absorb the assault on the senses and allow the place to fill me with energy while managing that feeling that at anytime you might get swallowed up by it.

What I love about New York is the frantic, pulsating thrust of the city and its people.

I love its history written on all its architecture and filling its streets with art and culture of every kind.

It’s the myth of the city as much as the reality that I love, hence the title of this new work.

The fact that everyone in New York is out to achieve something gives it this mad, rushed, frantic essence, unlike any other place. It’s this energy and ambition that has fed into my work.

The city has everything and anything you may want as an artist, and it delivers it all in supersize amounts day or night.

In comparison, Melbourne feels peaceful and calm yet still inspiring from a cityscape point of view. I have made images of Melbourne for many years so it feels very comfortable and familiar, whereas in New York there is always so much to see that even when you return you see so much more. Your senses are truly aroused in a way that is much more intense than Melbourne.

IMPRINT: Is New York one of the toughest subjects an artist can tackle, given the abundance of imagery about it produced during its lively history?

ML: Yes and no. When I created my first body of work on New York in 2008, and of which a selection are included in New York Mythic, I definitely felt a sense of that weight and of its history. These were a response to the city that I had known well through art, music and literature. I created images that I hoped would show the iconic city in a different light. It was the first time I had questioned and doubted if I could do justice to a city I was interpreting. This city has so much built environment that for someone like me who is fascinated by cities, it gave me a sense of possible failure if I couldn’t connect and respond to what I was seeing. I wondered  if I would be able to create something of a high enough standard.

To overcome this fear I only drew for the first two weeks, not attempting any drypoints, just filling sketchbooks with countless studies every day.

Sometimes I would draw the same view over and over. I even developed my own shorthand to help me describe windows and rooftops quickly.

So yes there is that weight of expectation considering the imagery produced in and about New York  is so great and so well known, but it is just so inspiring to me that any fear of that abundant history is overridden by the potential of creating something exciting.

I guess I have always put myself in uncomfortable situations with my work knowing that is how you grow as an artist.

I know it helped a lot that I had created work about Melbourne first, then Sydney, then Florence and Paris and that these were great stepping stones to depicting New York.

I couldn’t have done it if I hadn’t have created the previous work about these other cities.

IMPRINT: What is it about urban landscapes that captivates you?

ML: Urban landscapes appeal to me as symbols of civilisation and modern totems of humanity. Nothing appeals to me more than seeing a city from afar and the roads leading to its centre. There is something very special and comforting to me about such a scene. I guess it’s what that scene represents as much as what it looks like. Our cities contain so much art, music, architectural variety, visual stimulation and so much more that for me it opens up so many possibilities for my work .

New York is the epitome of these things. I remember my first-ever view of the astonishing rows of massive and endless buildings that were strewn across the island. It really took my breath away and I remember gasping out loud.

IMPRINT: Why is printmaking a preferred method for making your art?

ML: These days I paint and draw and create assemblages as much as make prints, but the thing about printmaking that I love and in particular drypoint is that you are able to create something that no other medium is able to. It’s like drawing, but it’s more than drawing. For me it allows a kind of primitive mark making that combines the subject and the process uniting them as one. The city is full of gritty lines and history and the drypoint technique allows you to create so much of these qualities within the matrix of the plate.

I also love that you can scratch so physically into the plate and yet still scrape back to remove these marks. I love that this scraping back leaves the traces of previous marks still visible creating rich layers and ghosts of the previous marks. This allows the wonderful history of the scraping-back process visible, which in many ways is much like the cities themselves with its layers of constant change. New York is the perfect city to capture in this method.


New York Mythic is on until late May, 2017.

Visit: www.marcoluccio.com.au

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