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Based in Santa Catarina, Brazil, collage artist Marcelo Monreal’s work is going viral for his different take on inner beauty. His latest works digitally cut open the portraits of celebrities, super models and other faces of pop culture that are otherwise stagnant, to reveal beautiful blooms underneath. While his subjects are uniquely contemporary, Monreal shares the same sense of bizarre humor that combines the morbid with abstracted glamour.

1 - Please tell us about yourself. How did you start as an artist? What is your background?

I cannot say for sure when I became an artist. I think it was a process that happened over time. I did not go to university to study arts but this is something that has always interested me. So I studied the topics that were of interest to me. It is as if I hacked my studies and whenever I feel that there is something I need to know or want to know, I look for the information.

2 - Can you briefly describe the process to create your artworks and its evolution?

I start by looking at some spots where the cutout in the photos is possible. Over time I have learned that each face is unique and that when this is combined with the angle of the photo, the cutouts can be good or bad. At the beginning of the project I spent hours until I understood the lines of faces and where the cutouts should exist.

Today, after 4 years, it is something more natural for me and I often have to hold myself so I do not make too many cuts to the point of disfiguring the face of the person in the photo. Nowadays I work exclusively with collaborations and I think it is very important that the person still appears in the photo, even with the clippings.

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3 - Typically, how long does it take you to finish one of your collages? 

This depends a lot on my state of mind. I believe I need to be well to be able to do something good. But I generally take two days.

4 - Have your collages evolved since your first one?

Yes. The evolution is clear. My early work was tentative and timid. Today I feel much more confident.

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5 - In your collages you mostly use natural elements such as flowers. You create an atmosphere of unusual beauty by adding these beautiful elements to your main subjects. Why flowers?

To answer this question, I need to go back in time.

This project was born when my mother died. When this happened and I went to her funeral, I went to visit the house where we lived in São Paulo and noticed that the garden that was taken care of by my mother did not exist anymore. I remembered that when I was a child, my brothers and I always played in this garden while my mother took care of him. Then, I remembered how I was a troubled child and something my mother said to me: “Son, do not run so fast.” And when I remembered this, I also remembered that one day I asked her after she told me not to run: “Mother, what are people made of?” “Flowers, son!” and she gently placed a flower behind my ear.

When I returned to my hometown, this memory stayed in my head and I began to experiment with ways of expressing that memory. That was how the project was born.

I miss my mother so much, her smile and her way of seeing the world. And whenever I go to do this work I remember it and I confess that sometimes it is painful.

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6 - In a previous interview you said that “people don’t often show who they really are. Instead, they keep parts of their real selves hidden”. Is this is the message that you want to transmit with your works? 

Yes it is! I believe that this was the message that my mother wanted to tell me when she said that people are made of flowers. She always told me that people were good even when they did not seem so and that when they were bad, it was because they were afraid of being hurt first. Something like a shield, an armor. And this is why in this work I “open people” leaving them vulnerable and showing that there is beauty and courage in them.

7 - We admire the level of detail in your works. What has been your most successful collage? Why?

The most liked collage is @nellie_blue. I felt very comfortable with this collaboration because Nellie made me very comfortable to create and I think this is perceptible in the eyes of the viewer.

In this work I did not constraint myself and let things flow more naturally and calmly.

8 - In your opinion, where are the best collage scenes happening right now?

I see a lot of cool things happening in Berlin with Pierre Schmidt aka @Dromsjel, in Russia with @mailart_collage and in Argentina with @rndrmartinez. But, I'm not objective when I say this because I'm their fan. 

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9 - What has been the greatest satisfaction in your creative journey?

I have met many interesting people since I started doing digital collages and this enriches my work. But what motivates me to continue is to meet many people who are inspired by my work and follow its growth. The collage showed me a world that I did not know and I hope to continue discovering it.

10 - What do you hope to do with your collage in the future? Do you have any exciting project that you want to share with us?

I still do not know where this will lead me. I just want to keep doing this as long as I like it.

11 - What is next for Marcelo Monreal?

I think a lot about this but I think things happen at the right time. I like to experiment but I still do not want to make it an obligation. I want this to be light and fun. So I'm experimenting until I find something that motivates me.

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Issue #38 | Digital Format

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Issue #38 | Digital Format

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