Marco Braun was born in the UK but spends much of his time between Scotland, France and Malta.
“The full colour arrangement of most of Marco's work shows full throated reds, blues and yellows. Matador and Snake Charmer don't look sideways at you, but glare with yellows, reds and orange that throb with a luminous DNA. His browns aren't teddy-bear furry but, as in Bamboo, they expand to suggest the entire space and beyond of a painting,” wrote Times critic Stanley Borg reviewing his work. Marco is of Maltese descent and relatively new to the art scene. His upcoming exhibition has already been launched and will be open to the public in August.
You are of Maltese descent, what are your connections with Malta, what are your memories?
Although born in the UK, my Maltese connection is through my mother. It was my Maltese grandmother who was mainly responsible for my upbringing and those days were full of fairy tale like anecdotes of a magical island. Coming here as a youngster on holiday inspired me immensely and by 15 I was sure that one day I’d settle here.
Your art is about travelling, walking and discovering things by accident, what inspires your sense of free-spiritedness?
Being brought up with traditional Maltese values I was always deeply conscious of a strong Maltese identity and did not feel I found my place in English society. One of the few things my mother told me about my childhood is that she had always known that I’d just take up a few brushes and a case and spread my wings. I see the world as a global village. By the time I came to Malta four years ago I had already been based in four different countries. One is linked to a place only by birth and one can come into this world in any given place. That doesn’t matter, but a home can be found elsewhere just by listening to one’s inner self.
Can you recount a particularly compelling experience on your travels... maybe a high point and a low point?
I make the most of every trip, compelled to dig beyond the surface and avoid tourist traps. My all time highs would have to be waking up to a glorious sunrise in the Sahara, overpowered by a sense of nothingness or being caught up in a sublime, dizzy confusion of music, perfume and colour in Marrakesh.
The power of mother earth even when one is surrounded by nothingness, like in the Sahara is something which should not be taken for granted and when we are in a position to realise this, the flush of energy which comes with this thought is overwhelming.
My all time low has to be crossing into Egypt from Gaza and being arrested on the suspicion of being a Mossad agent!!
To what extent is your art intellectual? Emotional?
Intellect is something which is great at a dinner party but I believe that art can be thought provoking yet calming and one does not have to be an intellectual to have thoughts and feelings. Let’s just take all those people whose education was interrupted during the war, just like my grandmother. Such people can still have a fantastic appreciation of art. It’s just a question of being open minded. I have spoken to many well educated, literary people during my travels yet their narrow mindedness did not impress me much! In no way do I pretend to be intellectual in my work although natural, unpretentious intellect is something I admire greatly. My inner emotions compel me to express myself on canvas and these emotions are meant to be shared as comprehension also comes through emotion, not just the visual or the mental.
Do you see yourself as an artist to entertain? Or is it mortals trying to achieve the immortal?
My intention is not that of being a mortal aiming at reaching immortality nor is it a case of simple art entertainment. My paintings are meant to be soothing and calming and hopefully thought provoking. Sometimes it takes little for us to fly off to a different place in our thoughts.
Something which would be interesting however would be to leave some kind of mark, not so much so that people in the future would rant or rave but just a little sign of recognition. For personal reasons I would like this to be particularly the case in Malta because as a ‘Malti ta’ barra’ I sometimes feel the need to prove myself even while I’m alive never mind when I pass on to the next life!
When you are not painting are there other major activities that take up your time?
Although my painting takes up a lot of my time I am also an avid reader and there are books scattered everywhere at my place, oriental mysteries and escapades, biographies and of course all the classics. Time permitting; I also love inviting friends round to taste my Middle Eastern mezze. It has been said that I am also a bit of a dab hand in the kitchen.
How would you describe your art? Is it more what you see out there or what is inside you being projected onto a canvas?
My art is not so much a representation of an outside perception but more one emanating from within, blended with my inner feelings which help me to give movement and life to my flow. Moreover, I’d say that my paintings are as simple and naive as possible. Sometimes less is more and to quote Baudelaire “I have come to seek asylum in an impeccable world of the naïve.” I am particularly fond of that quote!
One of the most touching comments I have in my visitors book is that of a 9 year old Scottish girl during my last exhibition there at Easter. She wrote that she admired what I did because she could see things through her imagination and not through her eyes. I went bananas when I read something so deep from a person so young.
Which artists do you admire or would you suggest budding artists take a look at, and what have they inspired in you?
My favourite artist and the one who provokes the most emotion for me is the French Russian artist Marc Chagall. His evolving style, his naive ideas as well as his childlike blending of colours is sublime. Seeing them in the flesh so to speak is an experience never to forget and a few years ago I spent the whole day in the Museum of Jewish art in Paris just delving into his paintings and an impressive collection of his lithographs. Even more impressive was an inexplicable experience in Zurich last year, where I had gone with a very close friend of mine. She suggested going to see the stained glass windows painted by Chagall in the Fraumunster cathedral. As we took our seats in front of the windows the sun started to shine through at that very second, bringing them all to life. It goes without saying that the effect was overpowering. Looking in particular at what has come to be known as Jacob s window where an enigmatically faced Jacob is dreaming, I was simply entranced for over half an hour. My friend and I still speak about it today and I am eternally grateful to her for taking me there.
Can you tell us something about your upcoming exhibition?
My next exhibition is to be held on the 25 August at Camilleri Paris Mode in Sliema, where my paintings are to be on display for 3 weeks until a selection of them will be moved on to Paris where I will be participating in an exhibition of contemporary Maltese art being organised by the Maltese Ambassador to France.