#TBT – FAIR LOVE
#TBT – FAIR LOVE.
Re-discover our favourite stories once again, each week will bring you a new episode.
Charming and ageless – those words describe both the Argentinian artist Grillo Demo and his enchanting domain tucked away in one of Ibiza’s unusually secluded corners. Demo’s coveted artwork seems to flower from his romantically colorful garden and home. Objects he finds in local flea markets are enhanced with his brushstrokes in the same way a rose might grace a trellis. Take, for instance, Demo’s “Falling Jasmine,” series, owned by the likes of Carine Roitfeld and Madonna, in which the artist’s painterly flowers are layered above both religious and Hollywood iconography.
There is an appreciation of the feminine that pervades Demo’s work. Romantic, somewhat sentimental, and with an appreciation of craft, his paintings do not shy away from traits traditionally associated with the work of women artists. Powerful women are a fixation of both Demo’s life and work – from his friendships with Elle McPherson and Princess Gloria Von Thurn und Taxis to the Virgin Mary’s in his paintings.
Having moved from Argentina to Ibiza on a whim in 1978, Demo travelled though society as the partner of Fulgencio Batista Junior (the son of Cuba’s ex-president). He and Batista lived in Palm Beach in the 1980s, meeting the likes of George Condo, Schnabel, Gilbert and George, and Mario Testino, which led Demo to create his own work inspired by his charmed life. An enchanted existence means that it seems as if Demo looks at the world through a veil of flowers, and paints what accordingly.
Both a local treasure and an international art star, Grillo Demo is part of the fabric of vibrant Ibiza whilst having his work sold at the likes of global art powerhouse Phillips de Pury. Whereas Kate Moss collects his art, he enjoys that of his friend Julian Schnabel, whose broken-plate portrait of Demo hangs above his bed. When I interview Demo, he points out a quotation by Picasso he feels describes him best, showing the symbiosis between his life and work: “I treat painting just as I treat everything else. I paint a window in the same way I look out of the window…With painting one must behave as one does in life: directly.” What brought you to Ibiza? I did not choose to live in Ibiza. It just happened as time went by and I consider myself very lucky to have ended up here. I was at university in Argentina in the late seventies, feeling that was not enough, dreaming of more – even though I didn’t know exactly what! I then met some friends and I came to Ibiza with them, with just the hope of opening up my world. Do you consider your work particularly Hispanic? I don’t consider my work Hispanic, but Mediterranean if anything. I have spent most of my life in the countryside in Ibiza, taking care of my garden (which has inspired me a lot). But there has also been all of that commuting between New York, London, India, South America, etc. I am very much influenced by all the experiences and the great people that I’ve met during that journey. Do you make any distinction between the art you paint on canvases and the items and spaces you decorate (such as your home)? Is your creative process for each of these different? My work, my house and my garden are all part of the same process. I never decorate. I live and work in the same space. One could say my life is an accumulation of things I love and by osmosis they become part of a work in progress that goes on non-stop. Who are your artistic influences? My artistic influences are everything from seventeenth century painting to modern art. These include, obviously, Picasso, Matisse and Dali – just to name a few. But on a more personal note, there’s all the time I have spent with Julian Schnabel and Mario Testino. That is always like a major master class and a lot of fun. Your work has been described as very romantic. Do you consider yourself a romantic person? Romance is very much part of my life. I cannot live without love and romance; everything I do is to conquer. For me, romantic means craving to create beautiful atmospheres all the time – with music, candlelight, the scent of the garden, for the
people I love. Yes, I am a major romantic person, and I try to communicate that through my work.There are often religious symbols and characters in your work. Why do you employ these devices and what part does Christianity play in your life? The pure chance of finding something is what gives rise to my work. The religious images came to me, like everything else, through my desire to find beauty (that suits my budget) at the flea market. After years of accumulation I started to pass a layer of paint over absolutely everything I collected, like I was giving a new skin to this world. Then I moved on to the very sophisticated portraits of movie stars, bullfighters, princesses and shadus from the 1930s and 40s. All that then took me to contemporary icons and friends like Kate, Elle, Daphne, Naomi, Carine, la la la! It all came about from a desire to find. Would you consider your work nostalgic? Since I never stop moving and travelling, nostalgia is very much part of my present. It’s a way to rescue the time gone by and give a new patina to those souvenirs with the ideas and colors of today. What projects are you now most looking forward to? At this moment I’m working a lot on keeping my garden in full blossom. I’m enjoying summer with friends that are having their holidays in Ibiza, and painting for a show in Madrid next autumn. The island of Ibiza is often considered a sensual island of partying and decadence – do you feel these qualities are reflected in your life and work on the island? I could never enjoy the decadence of life in the island without my creative spirit. I have partied a lot all over the world and enjoyed every second of it, but the main reason I’m still here is because of the very secluded place I’ve found. I’m surrounded by amazing nature, with the feeling of being far away from stress. At the same time, my life is very international and very close [to what I’d need] if there’s any urge of going wild! Your life and work is often connected with celebrity. Mario Testino is a fan, as is Madonna. How did you meet Madonna and what is your connection with her? The people and friends who like my work are celebrities because of their own talent and hard work. Of course I had more exposure on that level because of that, but that’s the closest I got to celeb life. I never had the pleasure to meet Madonna, she just came into the gallery in London where I was having a show and she became the first person to acquire three paintings of my “Bambino with Falling Jasmine”.
INTERVIEWED BY BENJAMIN SEIDLER