Out With – Alexander Mignot
Last week, we sat down with artist Alexander Mignot to discuss his latest exhibition, “Surfer: El Regresso al Mar”, presented at Artroom in Lisbon, what was the motivation behind it, and get a glimpse of who’s the man behind the paintings.
FN: When did you start painting and why?
AM: I started painting by accident. I was working in construction and ended up in New York building a restaurant. I was given a budget and whatever I could save would be for me. So, instead of getting new tables I just repainted the old ones – very simple and straightforward things. Suddenly, an important collector from New York saw my work on the tables, called me and told me to become a painter. I didn’t have a job at the time so it was an easy decision
FN: Can you tell us about your new art show in Lisbon? What inspired you to create it?
AM: I’ve been painting for 5 years and this is my 8th solo show. I had done Miami, Paris, New York, Madrid, Greece, and actually Lisbon is where I started painting. I had an apartment in Almada that I turned into a studio – got everything out and left a table and a mattress. A lot of friends know me from that time when I started painting and was exploring and experimenting a lot. My work was a bit all over the place but I feel it all came together here with the Surfer series.
FN: What’s the meaning behind surfer?
AM: Everything I have done in my life has been related to surfing. I’ve been addicted to it since I was 3 years old. I grew up on an Island – Margarita, situated in the Caribbean in Venezuela. There, you could either play frisbee or surf, so I picked surfing.
When I started painting I realized the meaning that surf had in my life. When you paint, you reflect on your life, the things you know the most, and what surrounds you. I’ve been surfing non-stop forever, all the friends I know, all the cultures I’ve encountered, the travels, how I behave and think, all have to do with the Ocean.
There is an artist I love called Mungo Thomson and one of his work is a mirror with the silhouette of Time magazine. I thought that was a very powerful concept, that empowers the viewer. One day, I started thinking about Surfer magazine and how I liked it so much and I miss it. While I was growing up when somebody caught a wave at Pipe or Teahupo’o, you would have to wait 2 months for it to be featured in the magazine. I’ve always felt there was a romantic side to the idea of magazine publishing, so I decided to do a cover and it felt just right.
FN: What’s the meaning of the repetition “Pg. 77” in every painting?
AM: In the sailboat where I lived, the sails had the number 77 for “regattas”. When the sails were in the right position, I would see the number perfectly. For me, it represents traveling and the connection to the ocean.
FN: Want to elaborate on your time living on a boat?
AM: Living on a boat can be a unique experience because it disconnects you from the usual aspects of everyday life. Everything from cooking to water management is different. I recall one particular morning when I went out on my dinghy with my dog to enjoy my coffee and croissant. As I made my way into the port, parallel to a busy street, I saw everyone in their cars and it was a sharp contrast. It feels like you’re living in a completely different world, one that revolves around your boat, your home, your food, your light, and your mode of transportation. It’s undoubtedly beautiful, but it’s also a challenging job. People often imagine it as an idyllic experience with crystal-clear waters and palm trees, but in reality, being in the middle of the ocean with no one to call can be emotionally draining. I started living on a boat when I was 22, and over the years, it has taught me a lot and helped me grow as a person.
Interestingly enough, I quit university because I wanted to surf and ended up in Puerto Escondido for two months. Edwin Morales took a picture of me surfing in a barrel, and it landed in Surfer magazine. The photo caught the attention of my French family, the Mignot’s, whom I had never met. One of my cousins saw the picture in California and was astonished to discover that the surfer in the photo was our cousin. Thanks to the photo, I got in touch with the rest of my family, met my grandad, and started surfing with them. When I told my grandad that I was looking for a sailboat, he called me a week later with a job offer to help me save money to buy a boat. A week later, when I arrived, he had a sailboat for me. Unfortunately, the boat sank after seven years, but that time taught me a lot about perseverance and self-reliance.
FN: You’re also a pretty decent surfer. Did wave quality play a role when deciding where to show your work (laughs)?
AM: Yes, absolutely. I have childhood friends here who have been surfing with me my entire life. The quality of the waves is exceptional, especially during winter. Interestingly, I’ve been spending a lot of time in Greece because of my fiancé, and the waves can get excellent there during the summer – but they are wind-driven, so they go unnoticed by many surfers. The first time I went surfing in Greece, I brought my boards and came across three-meter waves. I was pleasantly surprised. There is actually a surfing community spread out among these six thousand islands. In Mykonos, there is a breathtaking wave that only works about ten times per year, but when it does, you can catch around fifty waves per day. I never thought I’d be surfing in Greece, but it’s been a delightful surprise.
FN: When checking your exhibition I picked up a lot of visual references. From surf to Pop-art, etc. What themes or subjects do you typically explore in your artwork, and why are they important to you?
AM: Art history, surfing, and my life experience. I try to find references between the three of them and mix them in a way that makes sense. A perfect example of that is the pink banana. The banana of Warhol but with Thompson influence – the Thompson board revolutionized surfing. Painters all have some part of themselves in their paintings. Their life is mirrored through their paintings, you’ll see a lot of self-portraits in their work because your life is what gives content to your art.
FN Where do you see yourself in the future?
AM: Hopefully in big galleries. I work every day and that’s what I’ve been thinking about.
FN: In a boat again?
AM: I’ve thought about it, but I think now I need some time in the land. I want to have kids. I’m already 38, I think… haha I’m not old but I’m in a different phase. So right now little by little, step by step, concentrate on my work and do my things every day. I already found that stamp in my work. Now it’s more about perfection rather than search or exploration. The big concept is already built so now concentrate on little details, how to make it elegant, and do new things with the same idea.
FN: Any suggestions on upcoming artists or trends?
AM: My advice would be: not to listen to any advice. Stick to your decisions and whatever happens, is on you. The more mistakes you do the more you grow
Interview by João Duarte
Photos by João Berberan
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