Marily Xaga is a Greek-Argentinian classical fine art painter, born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, that works primarily with oil on canvas. This specific medium gives Marily absolute freedom for limitless expression. Having immersed herself within an abundance of cultures and religions during her extensive travels, Marily settled in Greece where she discovered what inspires her creative process; the communion of man and movement. Marily’s work blends nostalgia and experience; where the past and the present become one. Through the combination of these themes, which surround sentimentalism with her fascination for the human body’s form and essence, Marily creates powerful compositions that are a symbolic representation of both the seen and the unseen world. Agora Gallery’s Assistant Director, Christina Zanetti, sat down with artist Marily Xaga to discuss how her art has brought purpose to her life in Tripoli, Greece.
What is your first memory surrounding art? Do you remember the moment when you made the decision that you wanted to be a full-time artist? What inspired you to follow this path?
My first memory of art? Well, I was six years old, and I remember drawing and feeling at peace with myself. At nine, my passion for art grew so fond that I had a private art teacher. Drawing and painting feel very natural to me; I genuinely believe I was meant to be an artist my whole life. As for my career as an artist, I view painting as a necessity in life. My main priority is expressing my thoughts and feelings in my art; not for money, or fame, but rather for myself. As for your question, I never decided to be an artist. I never made a conscious decision to pursue art as a profession. I became an artist at six when I picked up a paintbrush and felt a sense of purpose
You were born in Argentina but have lived in Greece since you were 21 years old. What inspired this move? How did that change affect your work/creative process?
I love Greece. I adore its culture and its history. I am fascinated by the Greeks and all the artistic images, mostly related to mythology, that they have been creating for centuries. As a younger woman, I knew I wanted to live in Greece at some point in my life, and once I did, I realized exactly why I had such a feeling. I was able to immerse myself so naturally with the locals, and I adapted quite well to the culture. Their traditions, their language, their lifestyle, all felt very natural to me. Greece is truly my home. My most significant investment and the most rewarding risk was relocating spontaneously when I was twenty-one years old, and although I have traveled the world, I have never felt so connected to a country as I do with Greece.
How is your work influenced by both Argentinian and Greek culture?
My work is most influenced by Greek culture rather than Argentinian culture. I am inspired by ancient Greek artists, and how they were able to reach a peak of artistic excellence that captured the human form in a way never seen before. Greek sculptors were concerned with proportion, poise, and the idealized perfection of the human body, which then allowed them to create figures in stone and bronze that have become some of the most recognizable pieces of art ever produced by a civilization. This perfection was achieved by following a mathematical number, PHI. I believe PHI should be used by any artist who seeks to create a harmonious piece. Greek sculptor Praxiteles utilized PHI in his creation of Hermes, one of the most beautiful sculptures ever made. I use this Greek mathematical formula in my work. I find PHI to open the door to a deeper understanding of beauty and spirituality in life. Moreover, yes, that is an incredible role for a single number to play, but then again, this one number has played an incredible role in human history, in my personal life, and most importantly in my artwork.
Who is/are your biggest influence(s) both in the art world and overall?
I am a lover of Dali. I was not influenced by surrealism, or his ideas behind his work, but rather from the perfection he was able to achieve in all of his paintings. Another artist who influenced my work was Rembrandt. His usage of lightness and darkness in his pieces is fascinating. In my life, my family influenced me the most. As a woman and a mother, it was difficult to balance my work life with my home life, especially having three daughters. I made many sacrifices in order to pursue a successful art career, and I am so beyond thankful for all of my daughters who have supported me since the beginning.
What is the most integral part of your creative process?
The most integral part of my creative process is reaching perfection in terms of light and shadow in the shapes of the bodies I paint. In every human figure I paint, I use different ranges of lights and darks. That way, the viewer can feel all types of emotions through my ever-changing expressions. I photograph models before I start painting, and I draw inspiration from their figures. Since light is always changing, I cannot paint while directly viewing the model. I need to create a specific ambiance, photograph it, and then paint it. The human body fascinates me in its structure and essence. The interplay of light and shadow in each muscle gives movement or inertia. The face is not only the window to the inner soul but also reflects its stream of feelings; an open book waiting to be read. My artwork is created with oil on canvas because I find that medium allows for greater freedom of unlimited expression.
What does your art aim to say? Are there any socio-political messages conveyed? What do you wish to communicate?
Through my art, I wish to communicate the different expressions of the human body and the movement and elasticity that are found in every figure. In my last five paintings, I incorporated the Seven Skies, the Seven Days of Genesis, the Seven Colors of the Rainbow, the Seven Musical Notes, and the Seven Archangels, to demonstrate the relevance of the number seven in the universe with a contemporary approach. By intermixing Judeo and Christian traditions, I want to portray contemporaneous representations of both the seen and the unseen world.
Among several distinctions throughout the years, your work received awards twice. What do those accomplishments mean to you?
Those accomplishments mean nothing to me. I do not find any value in a piece of paper awarded to me. I find value in knowing that individuals who view my work are enthralled with it and understand the meaning and message behind it. I want my work to reach people beyond the canvas, and push them to rethink and reimagine their emotions, their ideas, and their morals.
Your contributions to your community have not been limited to art. Being the Nomarch’s Counselor and Secretary of the Tripoli’s Cultural Center, what have you gained through these experiences as an artist?
I have not gained anything for myself. I belong to those organizations so I can help my community. I want to bring important people and relevant artwork to my city, Tripoli. Tripoli is a beautiful place, right in the middle of the Peloponnese. I want this city, who deserves to be admired worldly for its culture and art, to be recognized globally with the help of these organizations and my assistance. In Tripoli, I was commissioned to paint all of the mayors’ portraits. Thus, I feel responsible, as an artist myself, to be an active and helpful member of my community. Additionally, I am highly connected with the Greek government, since the last two presidents purchased some of my paintings in the past.
How has your creative practice changed over time? How is your first body of work different than your current body of work? What inspired your latest work?
My current work is much more mature than my earlier work. At this point in my life, painting is like walking for me. It comes naturally, and I do not overthink it. Similarly to walking, my first step into art was difficult, but over time, painting has become a part of life, simple, needed, and fulfilling. My technical abilities advanced, my ability to express my thoughts and feelings advanced, my emotional maturity advanced, my conceptions and ideas advanced, all through my continuous journey in painting. Although I always followed the same theme throughout my art career, my focused lied on perfecting the smallest of details in my figures. I aim to give my figures meaning. For example, I expressed various environmental issues through human depiction. Through the faces and bodies of my figures, I expressed my concern for droughts, deforestation, disease, poverty, and all that our world is experiencing.
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What is the greatest piece of advice you have received and do you have any advice for young aspiring artists?
My biggest advice to young aspiring artists is to never give up on their dreams and to always follow a goal. Having a goal in mind will always direct an individual on the right path.
Marily Xaga’s works will be on view at Agora Gallery from June 27 through July 17, 2019. You can view more of her works on ARTmine.