By gabrielfineart, Sep 20 2016 09:25PM
Tony Pro is a Californian romantic figure painter dividing his time between portraits, still-lives, landscapes and teaching at the Coppini Academy of Art in San Antonio, Texas, where he is an Executive Director. His recent series, Sarcasm, deftly taps into the grotesquery that is American celebrity culture and the US presidential elections, blending cynicism with touches of surprising grace. We spoke recently on of his latest piece depicting Trump and Clinton as smoking Renaissance jesters, and what lies behind some of his work.
What is it about these larger than life figures that draws your eye?
My Sarcasm series is my reaction to popular culture and politics. In this culture of Facebook and where everyone has their own little soapbox to complain or grandstand using words, I choose to do it through my art. Whether its commentary about politics with Trump and Clinton or my sadness about Robin Williams death or my annoyance with the Kardashian culture...
In Sarcasm, your subjects are all in some way performers...
The performers are the ones we see on our screens everyday. A politician is a performer as well as the actor.
Can you tell me a bit about the Clinton and Trump paintings? What is the meaning behind it?
The cigarette is a symbol that means they go through their lives not really caring about who is around them or how they affect people. The choices we were given as who would run our country were slim at best. This was my reaction to it.
There’s something about the fool, the jester - is it the archetype? The costume? The laughter, or tears?
The world is a stage and these performers, sometimes fools, are the characters.
Why have you chosen figurative painting, what seems to be quite a delicate, poised realism, to work in?
I was raised in a family that collected art, primarily American Western Art. Being very illustrative and finely crafted, it was a major influence in what I did in art school.
There’s something extremely graceful about some of the poses in the portraits which combine with the light and shading. How do you find a pose?
Simply by seeing something that takes my breath away.
What are you trying to paint, or catch?
A moment in time, a thought, an experience that can’t be captured by a camera.
Could you tell me something about your influences?
I was heavily influenced by John Singer Sargent and Rembrandt. Their works spoke to me at a young age. As I get older, I see many artists doing some good work but it’s usually the old masters who inspire me more. Vincent Van Gogh also was a big inspiration to me in High School. His want to make people ‘feel’ through his painting was something I found intriguing.
You’ve mentioned your father’s importance to your work….
My father was a huge influence on my work as well as my older brother, Greg, who is an illustrator. My father was a collector of art and as a child, he took me around to all the art shows and museums which really inspired me to draw and be an artist.
The Old West series seems to me laced with elegy: the colours, the light, the quietness of the figures in the landscape. Do you think your work is elegiac?
The Old West paintings are done in memory of my late father. He was a collector and painter of the Old West and after he passed away, I wanted to create a body of work dedicated to him. It is elegiac for that very reason. The Old West was a lonely rough place for the cowboy. It was man against man, whether it was conflict with the Native Americans or conflict between Americans. That’s a lonely place and one we like to remember and some may try and romanticize.
A selection of Tony’s work is on show from 9th September - 1st October at ‘Intersection’, Gabriel Fine Art’s inaugural exhibition in Canary Wharf, 15 Skylines Village, Limeharbour.