Valencia-based Milanese brothers Roberto and Renato Miaz have been working together for their entire careers. Their cloudy portraits are consciously ambiguous and difficult to read, requiring the viewer to work to interpret the image using their own cognitions, memories and the power of association.
Though the images look as if they are photographs encased behind steamed or frosted glass, the viewer is still able to make sense of them and, if they look closely enough, will be able to see the drips of aerosol paint running down. In more ways than one, the ‘Antimatter’ series is a reaction against a society that no longer values the narrative behind an image. Beyond this, the brothers see their work as a “visual reflect[ion]” of the human condition and man’s attempt to figure out the world. We spoke to the pair to further understand their motivations behind ‘Antimatter’ and to learn about their painting practise.
How did you two begin working together, and what is your collaborative process as a team?
It’s a playful process, it started naturally since we were kids… And now we share the same interests and philosophy. Being able to discuss in total freedom with confidence is really the best way to create and develop ideas.
What prompted your move from Milan to Valencia, and how has this city influenced your work?
We actually moved a lot: Italy, Switzerland, France, the UK, the Netherlands, and elsewhere. Our paintings reflect a life always in motion or looking for something. Experiencing and learning from different cultures and perspectives is what prompts us to move around the globe. But finally, we felt the impulse to be able to work in a peaceful spot, with less distractions than a big city. Valencia gave us a sort of tranquil feeling mostly undisturbed from the marketing attack. It was very important for us to work without any mental pollution.
What made you choose aerosol spray as your desired material for this series?
It’s easier to visualize the idea that life could be seen more as an organic process maybe? No lines, no boundaries, no preconceived limits. The dots of the spray impersonate the infinite possibilities and connections.
How has your painting practice developed over the years?
We’ve always been painting; as a creative exercise, as an interest to consider where you are in relation to the world and to yourself. The process was always interesting and developed over the years — changing, transforming, and developing slowly but constantly side by side with our commitment and experimentations. Over the years it grew into something that visually reflects our point of view about the representation of the human being. It has also come to represent the historical issues that any artist has. That is searching how to figure out his own way to describe the world and how he feels it.
What was the reason behind calling the portraits ‘Antimatter’?
We heard about it and were immediately interested. The fact that there is something hidden (and it’s very difficult to catch) and is there for the great equilibrium. It’s very inspiring spiritually and philosophically. Our intent is to promote the beautiful complexity of all and to show that everything has many layers.
To what extent do you see your work as a reaction against the levels of visibility associated with modern life such as facial recognition technology, selfies and instant image sharing.
It has a lot to do with our work. Our first reaction was to minimize the amount of input that you are subjected to every day, the unconsciousness and lack of interest in what lies behind the image. The accurateness by which anonymous people can retrieve and gather information about your private life, your movements, your tastes… We think our philosophy contains the basics of a perspective that embraces the future, good and bad of course.
What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of working with a sibling?
When there is connection, truth and faith, your progress is faster. It’s also priceless to share the highs and lows with your brother. We can’t think of any disadvantages!
You mentioned in a past interview that people who saw your work on the internet “didn’t understand” and didn’t realize that the portraits are actually done with paint as opposed to print. How do you think the internet has changed the way you paint?
It depends on the subjects that we paint and whether we add more realism, more vibration. We still meet people today who see our work for the first time and are surprised that it’s not print. Our work produces doubts at different levels and sometimes. This is something that we are passionate about. Doubt can be a good thing for it ignites our creative processes.
“Doubt can be a good thing for it ignites our creative processes.”
All images © Miaz Brothers