Gio Mariani: Artist, ghost, queer and pixel genius that shows us slices of other worlds.

TWS –Hi Gio, glad to have you here! I’ve read that you define yourself as “artist, designer, queer, occasional human, eventual ghost”. Are these elements in the right order of importance? Can you re-order them if not? Also, can you explain to us when you mutate from human to ghost?

GM –Thank you for inviting me. I’d say the order of the factors does not alter the product. There are days I am an occasional artist, ghost designer, eventual queer and human.

It took me quite some time to accept myself as an artist. I had this weird perception that being a designer was more important and held more value (cough, cough capitalism). Today I feel that my designer side is dormant.

I process a lot of my emotions through art and accepting myself as queer/non-binary has taken a lot of space on my mind recently. I like to use art as a tool to understand who I am**.**

I have to remind myself to be present – that’s the way I found to not be trapped by my anxious thoughts. Being a human involves feeling the things that are happening right now, in my body and around me. I also like to remind myself to see a little magic in ordinary things, it keeps me interested in life. Being a ghost is this reminder that I can be a formless entity and travel to every dimension to see what’s in there. I guess it’s the way I found to keep me grounded and curious.

Gio Mariani, Fresh air
Gio Mariani, New Layers

TWS –I see that your work spans across design, illustration and art. And, as at TWS we’re particularly interested in collage-related practices, I’d like to focus particularly on your artwork. How would you define your style? And which are the main influences that you feel that inform your artistic identity?

GM –I like to imagine some other dimension, take some slice of their life and imagine how it is, for example, what’s a medium way of communication they use? I like to think I register tiny pieces of other worlds in tiny canvases. I always feel like I’m not creating something out of thin air, but rather uncovering something hidden, bit by bit. Pixel art became my main medium because I feel so at peace while making it. These fantastic beings reflect my emotional realities and help me understand my own feelings. I’m constantly reminding myself to add a little bit of magic above the layer of pure reality so I can continue to be interested in life.

Granted, I’m very influenced by Hayao Miyazaki’s work – the little spirits I put in my pieces are inspired by the sootballs working in the boiler room of Spirited Away, for example. I love surreal art, especially Johfra Bosschart and Magritte. I’m fascinated by the work of Olivier Menanteau. I also keep some books from my childhood and they inspire me very much.

Gio Mariani, The roots embrace

TWS –There’s a unique exuberance in your work. Do you feel that there’s something of Brazil’s culture and history on that side of your work? How do you feel your cultural background has got into your art?

GM –Unique exuberance, I like how that sounds. I tried to be minimal once because I thought that was the way to be, but It didn’t last long. I like colors, I like texture, I like to see a lot going on at the same time. In my art, at least.

I think there might not be a way to escape the influence of Brazilian culture and I can see some elements of it in what I do. I didn’t have a strong catholic upbringing – I can count on the fingers of my hand the times I went to Church – but I’ve always been fascinated by Catholic imagery, the statues, the rituals, the saints, everything. I love the syncretism in the people’s beliefs. Nature is also really present in my art, mostly out of nostalgia, since I grew up in a small city being surrounded by nature and a lot of my playtime involved walking in the woods and talking to imaginary beings.

Gio Mariani, The wandering brother

TWS –Do you feel that your work is related to collage in any way? Is collage something you have in mind when creating your artworks?

GM –Absolutely. I usually include pictures and videos that I took myself or from the public domain/CC and redraw them into pixel art. My pieces tend to be compositions with many elements that sometimes don’t have a direct correlation. I select them and then start thinking of how they will be composed. The creation of these compositions is an interesting – and usually therapeutic – process for me. Most of these stories are about things that I’m going through and, sometimes, some elements make their way into a composition with no obvious relation with the rest of the components. Only when the piece is finished that I make sense of the whole thing and it gives me answers (or more questions) about the subject I’m immersing myself on.

Gio Mariani, Contingent

TWS –Can you share something on the process of creating one of your animated loops?

GM –I love to include some kind of little spirits in all my pieces mostly because I love to make them. As they are hand-drawn frame-by-frame, I get to feel really intimate with the story and this is almost mandatory for me to feel that the piece is worth releasing to the world. I usually make them in a small number of frames (10 or 20 frames) and make their way three or more times this loop, so they exist simultaneously, being only one and also many. Being able to create this small piece of temporal loop fascinates me. Also, having to close the cycle for every element of the piece is a kind of puzzle I enjoy solving.

Gio Mariani, Windeye I
Gio Mariani, Windeye II

TWS –Which is your favourite piece? Why?

GM –I’m very fond of “pocket dimensions”, it was the first piece I made that explored this composition with many parallel worlds happening at the same time, that ended up being the thing I like to use in all my compositions. I don’t really like to have only one story going on, even if there is one focus, I like to include other details or supporting stories. I often think it might have something to do with my own anxiety, as there are many stories going on inside my mind constantly.

Gio Mariani, Pocket Dimensions

TWS –Your images seem to be a snapshot of a surreal video game. Have you ever thought of creating longer pieces that allow you to develop more complex narratives?

GM –I sure have thought of this. The longer narrative I’ve told so far was the piece with Phosphor. It included a lot of research and development of the story. The first ideas we had included a much longer story but my skills at that moment didn’t reach that far. Still, I immersed myself into it for weeks and it felt really rewarding. Also, I’d love to tell stories in a more immersive way someday – mostly because I would like to experience in some other way –, it could be through a videogame on a screen, VR or maybe projections in a physical space.

Gio Mariani, Phosphor

TWS –Your work is mostly digital and sold as NFT on different marketplaces. Can you tell us your experience on the NFT community? How you got in there? How do you feel this new way of selling art has changed your practice?

GM –I felt so heartwarmingly welcome by the community since day one. It has been one of the most incredible things, meeting so many amazing artists and collectors from all over the world, with many ideas and stories to tell. The Tezos community – where I sell most of my pieces – is so inspiring, tight-knit and inventive.

I’ve been making illustrations in my free time since I started my graphic design graduation in 2013. I started making things with pixel art at the end of 2020 and a friend who used to work with me told me I should look into NFTs. He helped me set up my account on Hic et Nunc and I started minting there. I’ve sometimes imagined myself being able to make a living from creating art, but always thought it would be something for 20 years ahead. Here I am now.

Something that has changed is that I only started animating my drawings after I started selling them as tokens and it’s something I’ve always been too afraid to try. Today, the animation part is what takes most of my time when making the pieces and one of the first things I think about when planning a composition.

Gio Mariani, EℳRAME ⁑ spell n.1

TWS –What can you say to all the artists who hadn’t entered the NFT world yet? Any tips, ideas or things you’d like to share?

GM –Come on in, we have tea and cake. Reply to people’s “good morning” and “good night” and make art. If it becomes overwhelming, take a step back and breathe, it can be a lot sometimes, everything is constantly changing.

TWS –How do you envision the NFTs will evolve in the near future? Do you see it as a fad? Or is it much more than that?

GM –I think this is just the beginning. The feeling of being able to make a living making art and meeting other artists that are doing the same is fantastic and there’s no going back. The shape of it will obviously evolve quickly, but this is the start of something big.

TWS –What’s the next challenge that you’d like to face?

GM –I want to go deeper and tell more complex and immersive stories, in whatever shape it takes. I want to see more clearly the magic universe I’m discovering, it’s a little foggy at the moment and some parts don’t seem to connect to each other. I also really want to make more collaborative work, the value of exchanging ideas is immeasurable and the NFT community is such a fertile ground for that.

TWS –Which is your own definition of collage?

GM –It is a tool for unveiling mysteries of our own mind, the world around us and the worlds beyond this one.

Find out more of Gio Mariani
on Instagram, Hic et Nunc, Foundation, Rariable and elsewhere.

Gio Mariani, Twin monument
Gio Mariani, Windeye I
Gio Mariani, Sights of the Sun