chico mazzoni: interview and exhibition at the nautical museum

Escrito por Thiago Pinheiro

ArqBahia team of authors.

Who is Chico Mazzoni?

portrait of chico mazzoni

Chico Mazzoni was born in Salvador, Brazil, in 1954, and began exhibiting his oil paintings at the age of 13 in a group show at the Portuguese Reading Office of Salvador. While studying architecture, he continued working in fine arts and focused on designing and creating sets for the theater. Over time, he switched from oil to drawing with various techniques, preferring oil pastels.

In 1978, he won a scholarship to study Restoration of Monuments at the University of Naples in Italy. During his postgraduate studies, he participated in a group exhibition in Florence and an art biennale in Naples, where he lived and studied for two years. He took the opportunity to visit important museums and art exhibitions in Europe and perfect his drawing technique.

In the 1980s, he worked in various areas of creative production, prioritizing drawing and set design. He designed the set for the opera "La Traviata" at TCA and participated in carnival contests. He also worked as an architect, restorer and designer.

During his career, he held several solo and group exhibitions, exploring different techniques and themes. Currently, the artist focuses mainly on acrylic painting on canvases of small and medium sizes.

More than just showing you a little of the exhibition and talking about it, we have prepared an interview with Chico Mazzoni to learn more about him and understand the journey of this artist, his technical preferences, his favorite artists and his opinion on the national and Bahian art scene.

"O patricio", Chico Mazzoni, acrylic on canvas

I like to mix everything and I have no preferred color in the painting, the color is a matter of moment. Any theme, for me, is just a pretext to affirm my pictorial language, the preference is momentary, then I move on to another...

— Chico Mazzoni

arqBahia: Good afternoon, Chico! OK? Starting at the beginning, tell us how you got involved with the practice of art. What were your early inspirations and what motivated you to pursue this career?

Chico Mazzoni: In my remote memories I always find myself, as with all children, drawing on colored bread-wrapping paper. My family encouraged me by giving me watercolor cases to paint. The family Christmas cards were made by me. With so much stimulation, what child wouldn't feel like an artist from an early age? Then it was just moving on. At the time of college I opted for Architecture because I needed to have a profession that would sustain me. After the post-graduation in Restoration, I professionalized myself as an artist, doing a solo exhibition, every 2 years or so, and participating in the collective exhibitions, when invited. Inspiration to make art never lacked me!

arqBahia: Talking about your painting style, how would you describe it? Is there any color, technique or theme that is recurrent in your works? And in relation to other artists, is there anyone you admire who has been a great inspiration to you?

Chico Mazzoni: I have always been trying to affirm a certain brand, in art, which always tends towards a contemporary figuration. I am always "inventing" a new project where this feature can be evident. I like the technique of painting on canvas, which started with oil paint, then with acrylic paint, using brushes, then I discovered dimensional acrylic paint that produces a low-relief effect. Today I work with acrylic, brushstrokes, and with the dimensional that is used by squeezing a tube. I have also recently added recycled disposable metallic materials to the screens. I like to mix everything and I have no preferred color in the painting, the color is a matter of moment. Any theme, for me, is just a pretext to affirm my pictorial language, the preference is momentary, then I move on to another... Of the masters of art history, I prefer Caravaggio, of the moderns, I love Matisse, Gauguin, Egon Schiele, of the abstract I love Rothko and of the contemporaries I do not dispense Lucien Freud, Francis Bacon and Damien Hirst. But there are many others that inspire me.

arqBahia: Exploring your career a little more, have you had the opportunity to exhibit your work in other countries? If so, what was that experience like and how did it affect your art?

Chico Mazzoni: Yes, I have already exhibited my work, outside Brazil, in some group shows in Naples, Florence, Vienna and, more recently, in London. Most of them, made with Brazilian artists. At a very young age, in Florence, I came into contact with students of art criticism who found my work very classical. This made me break with this “classicism”. But what really affects my art are the trips I take, regardless of exhibitions. My virtual exhibition, for example, EXCELSOS EXCESSOS – Reciclagem do Baroque, from 2021, was entirely inspired by the Church of São Roque, in Bairro Alto de Lisbon, a trip that took place in 2017.

arqBahia: And speaking of significant moments, what was the most defining moment in your career as an artist? Any special projects or recognitions that have made a difference for you?

Chico Mazzoni: I find it exciting when my art touches simple, uneducated or very young people. These people are true to liking what they are seeing. This morning (03/05), for example, I received the visit, in my exhibition RETRATO FALADO, from a group of students, very small, from the NOVA Municipal School of Bairro da Paz. The enthusiasm of the children with the exhibition and the curiosity to know me, made me very happy. I once donated a picture to a needy community. It was auctioned off and with the money they were able to buy bags of cement to build a school. That left me very touched! Art has the power to literally transform reality!

arqBahia: Now, going back to Brazil, I wanted to know more about your vision of Bahia Are there any cultural events that you think everyone should know? Any celebrations that delight and inspire you?

Chico Mazzoni: The mythical Bahia, the magical Bahia, is an inspiration in itself, in its totality. The real Bahia is already full of problems. I've always preferred to stick with the mythical and magical that is full of "places" to meet. These contemporary musical events do not interest me, but Bahia already had an Art Biennial, in the sixties, of the greatest importance, which they tried to resurrect not so long ago, without much success. There are the festivals of the orixás in Candomblé, there is the procession and washing of Bonfim, there is the party of Yemanjá and, of course, there are some traces of the free, street, spontaneous carnival, which are still worth it.

arqBahia: And in relation to inspiring places, is there any place in Bahia that is particularly striking to you? Any landscapes or atmospheres that you have portrayed in your works or that you intend to portray?

Chico Mazzoni: The frontispiece of the city, that all-encompassing image that you see when you arrive in Salvador by sea, is the most striking thing for me. It gives me an idea that I can embrace my city all at once. I have already made several artistic representations of this frontispiece. Another tour that I like to take, for pure pleasure, is to take a walk around the Itapagipe peninsula and enjoy every corner of this magical route. It smells like that magical and mythical Bahia I mentioned earlier.

arqBahia: Talking about the future of art in Bahia, how do you see it? What are the challenges and opportunities for local artists?

Chico Mazzoni: As usual they are immense, it is an eternal "save yourself who can", despite the meager public and private initiatives to promote art in Bahia. They are scattered, unsystematic, and sometimes driven by interests far removed from art. Each artist needs to put his elbow and go opening the way or get into some little clique that protects him... ha ha ha ha ha

arqBahia: What is your opinion about the representation of Bahia in the national art scene?

Chico Mazzoni: Much smaller than it was in the 60s/70s, when the rector Edgar Santos founded the Federal University of Bahia and sent for the best he had, outside Bahia, to teach at the university. The artists here, as a rule, stay right here, eventually and episodically manage to do something outside and then return to their Bahian lives. Eventually we even managed to sell something to an outsider, but the movement and the art market of the southeast axis does not open its borders to us. Even national art edicts are hard to get off the axis...

arqBahia: Are there any emerging Bahian artists that you think we should keep an eye on?

Chico Mazzoni: I actually like the work of José Ignacio who is exhibiting ORI DE TUPINAMBÁ, with paintings and sculptures in Caixa Cultural. He has a career span but his work, strong and vigorous, always has an aroma of freshness and novelty, for me.

the exhibition at the nautical museum of bahia

On April 18th, Chico Mazzoni opened his 20th individual exhibition entitled “Retrato Falado” at the Nautical Museum from Bahia. The show features 18 paintings, 12 of which are unpublished, which tell a narrative of faces, forms, souls and affections. Although the theme is portraits, the project goes beyond painting people, exploring different layers of meaning and emotions. The exhibition is in place until the 21st of May, every day, including Saturday and Sunday, from 9 am to 6 pm with free entrance.

The people portrayed are part of the artist's life: they are friends, students of the college where he teaches, colleagues and animals. Chico makes a portrait in a realistic way, but at the same time fanciful, in that he assigns an archetype to each, such as "Dancer of Pavana", "Egyptian Princess" or "Gypsy".

dream of dora chico mazzoni
"Dora's Dream"Chico Mazzoni, acrylic on canvas

"I was less concerned with physical verisimilitude and more concerned with a climate, an atmosphere, a characteristic, a desire of my subjects. The project posed a challenge to me at first: to find a character for each chosen one, believing that he would identify with this character, or at least, try to convince him of this potentiality. In a kind of fantastic realism, I painted each one as if he were his own alter ego."

Chico Mazzoni in an interview for the magazine “Muita Informação”

The exposed work of Chico Mazzoni draws attention not only for the quality of the image: the artist develops a special texture in each painting that is part of the whole work. Each of the paintings below has a texture that makes it special, especially, for me, the painting "The Dream of Dora", which is at the beginning of this chapter. Its relief, when viewed from a distance, seemed to me a kind of veil or detail in plaster.

Other canvases, no doubt, draw attention in a more direct way, such as "A gypsy who read my hand", cover of the article. But make no mistake, even in it there are different techniques that make the picture jump to more than two dimensions.

a gypsy who read my hand chico mazzoni
“A Gypsy who read my hand”Chico Mazzoni, acrylic on canvas

The painting that gained prominence for me, however, was the title "AI SE EU PUDESSE!", which was made in acrylic and acrylic in bas-relief. From a distance, the screen already draws attention for differentiating itself from the others by having a kind of impressionistic style. The theme of the screen, the Myth of Narcissus, which is taken with good humor through the title, becomes clear right off the bat. But it is when we approach the picture that we are impressed.

oh if i could picture chico mazzoni
“WELL IF I COULD!”Chico Mazzoni, acrylic on canvas

The painting is done in a series of beautiful and laborious layers of painting, which alternate to form the impressionistic effects of light and shadow. With a symmetry of color, the reflection in the water has a composition contrary to the superior: green prevails with yellow dots, while in the other yellow prevails over green. This painting is one of those that make us think about how the artist thought of this idea and how he did to visualize it before to achieve the desired result.

detail 2 of the painting chico mazzoni oh if i could
Detail of the painting "Ai se eu pudesse!" by Chico Mazzoni (Photograph: arqBahia)
detail of the painting oh if i could chico mazzoni
Detail of the painting "Ai se eu pudesse!" by Chico Mazzoni (Photograph: arqBahia)

In general, the exhibition definitely makes us want to see more works by the artist and learn more, no wonder I went looking for him to write this article. Chico's work, I remember, is not completely seen only by images: one must be close to see the textures of his paintings. Then don't miss the chance to see the exhibition at the Nautical Museum.

Are you interested?
The exhibition only runs until May 21st!

If you want to take a closer look at Chico's works virtually, we recommend accessing his website and following him on social networks, where you can follow and see his recent works and those of other times.

His website address is Chico Mazoni ( and his instagram is Chico Mazzoni (@chico_mazzoni) .

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