Italian artist Cristiano Menchini relies on a combination of his memory and imagination and observation to recreate nature in his work. Working in acrylic and watercolor or pen on paper, the artist creates highly stylistic interpretations of overgrown vegetation where small animals like birds and beetles make their home. Elements like blades of grass criss-cross into natural, messy patterns appearing almost abstract, set against dark shadows that lift them from the page. They are not quite reality. “I see my work as immersed in a timeless dimension, unreal state, crystallized. There is a detachment from reality in what I represent,” he says.
Menchini’s style has roots in classical Japanese landscape painting where artists would memorize their subjects then interpret scenes back in the studio. He has cited artists like the mid-Edo period Japanese painter Ito Jakuchu as inspiration, whose otherwise traditional works displayed a great degree of experimentation with perspective. Though a number of his paintings depict imaginative imagery, it is evident from the detail and life-like appearance of his paintings of birds and foliage that he also based his work on actual observation.
Rather than present nature as vividly illustrated, Menchini emphasizes mood through light, colors, and gestures- he wants you to be able to see and smell nature in his illustrations. His images are characterized by organic elements, where he studies natural processes like corrosion and proliferation. He shares: “Is a continuous playback of an element such as a palm leaf just pure repetition? Among the leaves dark areas, I introduced touches of light and fluorescent glows that refer to something that is beyond. It is like when, at the edge of a forest, you cannot find the way and only light indicates where to go.”