If you attended the recent Market Street Art Festival, you may have noticed a brand-new artist in town exhibiting a striking collection of abstract paintings.
Nathianiel Votano paints under the pseudonym “Mr. Nonsense”, a nom de plume which was recommended for him as his x-box gaming name at age 10. The name, however, was incredibly well assigned as it now expresses his observations on his art practice, an oxymoron where of course, everything isn’t nonsense, but full of very well considered perceptions, this art is such that it makes us stop, think and think some more. Our first impressions of the bright, vibrant abstracts may give the impression that they are playful and fun, but behind lies a much deeper awareness and message in his work, which is steeped in symbolism and illusion. If you are fortunate enough to talk art with the artist, you will discover his passion and drive, his perfectionism and enthusiasm for what he creates.
Initial inspirations to paint include New York pop artist Keith Haring, other influences include artificial realist painter George Condo and Pablo Picasso. These influences are apparent in the work of Mr. Nonsense, with the addition of his dynamic individual approach. Favoring acrylic, oil and spray paint, this self-taught artist is producing powerful work where cubism meets pop art. Experimenting with creating a substrate using a poured paint technique which he manipulates with a homemade brush, made from paint stirrers, several smaller brushes and Velcro, this self-invented brush is ideal for creating subtle gradients and ombre finishes which are used as backgrounds. Clean hard edges and intentional bold lines work together with faded gradients in modern day neons and vibrant solid colors, resulting in compelling portraits, figurative works and noteworthy abstract pieces.
With a background in nursing, Votano is a natural “people person”, and is instinctively empathic to the personalities of others, this is portrayed in his fragmented portraits which represent our innermost thoughts compared to the way we are potentially perceived by others. “Looks are important but overrated”.
“Have you ever looked in a mirror and not thought something?” He asks. Seeing ourselves as others see us can be complicated and near impossible, most of us tend to shape shift to the adaptations of different situations and social groups, so we’re not always the same person on the outside.
His new work explores this concept of psychological cubism, where emotions are presented in the painting “Inside Outside”. Named after the Disney movie, “Inside Out”, this painting depicts the reflection of his subject looking in a mirror, their innermost thoughts and feelings on one side, and their multiple personas on the other, one side is smiling and the other is distraught. The bold colors reflect this contrast, cool and calm blues and greens on the “outside” and red, fragmented shapes on the “inside”, where multiple eyes stare and judge as harshly as one can only judge oneself.
“Déjà Vu”, a black and white piece is a companion work for “Sonder”, being negatives of each other, representing the inside and outside personas. In “Déjà vu”, the composition focuses on a split mirror image, bold, black painted lines on a white background, strong, precise, lost and found lines in varying thicknesses create depth, shapes and shadows, the disconnected crowd, lost in their own beings. Included in the same oeuvre is “Sonder”, the title inspired by the “Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows” by John Koenig, defined as – “Sonder: The profound feeling of realizing that everyone, including strangers passing in the street, has a life as complex as one's own, which they are constantly living despite one's personal lack of awareness of it.”. “Sonder” is painted with white on black, loose lines, connecting with each other, overlapping with a friendlier, softer feel. Perhaps one depicts our personalities during the day compared to nighttime? Perhaps they represent our innermost and outermost selves? Perhaps they are attributed to the left and right sides of the brain?
Votano is available for commissioned work, he interviews his subjects in person in order to familiarize himself with their personality, he then assigns suitable colors, shapes and techniques to create a personal abstract portrait representing their individual characteristics, inside and outside.
More information about Nathaniel and Mr. Nonsense including his involvement in “conscious lyricism” songwriting, can be accessed via instagram -
This art is such that it makes us stop, think and think some more.