Building A Rocket, 98cm x 47cm
If you ever visited the flea market at Boxhagener Platz or the annual art market at Oberbaumbrücke you have probably stumbled across some of his creatures. They are green, hairy, slimy and disfigured, but still heart-warming and cute in their own morbid ways. May it be monsters, robots or funny looking animals. They all have a story to tell, drawn on wooden plates, window frames, signs and other left over surfaces of our society. Their father and creator is Californian artist and illustrator Mateo who relocated from San Francisco to Berlin in 2004 and opened his own gallery Zozoville together with Dutch art buddy Johan Potma whom he shares his passion for monsters with.
For our features series “The Makers” we’ve met Mateo and talked about Berlin, Monsters and Disney. Read on for more art, photos and the interview.
There Goes The Neighborhood, 79cm x 80cm
Why not? I had heard many good things about Berlin. I was certainly curious to check it out someday. However the real reason I came to Berlin was because I met my wife in San Francisco. She’s german and her work visa only allowed her to stay in SF for one more year after we met. The only way for us to stay together was for me to follow her over to Berlin, which sounded pretty cool anyways. So we moved to Berlin.
What is your favourite place in Berlin and why?
I am of course most often found hanging out in the Zozoville Gallery working on new paintings. However when I manage to get out of the gallery, I enjoy very much finding a nice well-lit cafe where I can sit and draw (ideally somewhere that stays open late).
My favorite cafe for this sort of activity is St. Oberholz on Rosenthaler Platz. The place is always full of people, many of whom are often working on their laptops. The cafe also has good food options, they have no-smoking areas, and they are open until midnight (all things that I look for in a good cafe).
Besides that, I like checking out events and parties that happen at the RAW Tempel. Cassiopeia is a beautiful place to spend a warm summer night, and the SoFa Varieté shows are always very entertaining.
The Morning Ritual, 40cm x 80cm; Bewildered, 38cm x 58cm
Would you like to live in another city?
I’ve certainly considered it. Although relocating to a new city is always rather disruptive and requires many months (or years) to get established.
Berlin has been good to me, I love the people here. They are mostly sincere and seem to understand what it takes to enjoy a good quality of life. That said, there are aspects of other cities that attract me as well. I would love to live near the sea. Also, having grown up surrounded by hills, I do miss the hilly terrain that some other cities offer.
How come you mainly draw little monsters?
Ever since I was a child I have been drawing monsters. I don’t know exactly why it started, however I do recall feeling that no one could ever tell me that my monster was wrongly drawn. I’ve never liked being told what is right and what is wrong. So when I drew a monster from my own imagination, I was the sole judge of whether or not it was drawn right.
Nowadays I find that my monsters act as metaphors for ideas and truths that I find to be compelling. They are my actors, playing out scenes that I hope people recognize; scenes that although familiar, are also strange enough to make people stop and think, or feel, something new.
Have you ever considered working as an illustrator for a big company like
disney or become a comic artist?
As a child, I was addicted to cartoons. When I realized that there were people who got paid to make those cartoons, I immediately began daydreaming about the prospect of making cartoons like Disney’s. My dreams were however soon to be dashed. I made a trip with my family to Disneyland. I was about 9 years old and my idea of making cartoons was something akin to magic, or at the very least, FUN. Inside Disneyland they had a building which housed an animation studio. They gave tours of this studio. Behind a large glass wall the visitors could watch the animators working on the next movie. We went on that tour. What I saw happening on the other side of the glass didn’t look like magic at all. It didn’t even look fun. It looked suspiciously like WORK! The animators didn’t seem to have much creative freedom. They seemed more like cogs in a big machine. I didn’t want to be a cog! I wanted creative freedom. It was then that I realized that I didn’t want to be an animator for Disney.
Do you feel you have gained as much popularity here in Berlin as you have
in San Francisco?
It is hard to say for sure. Measuring my popularity anywhere is an elusive task and prone to change anyways. One thing I can say for sure is that I feel very well received, very welcome, here in Berlin.
What’s the next big project on the plan?
Over at the Zozoville Gallery, Johan Potma and I have several projects in the works. First of all, we are currently working long hours to create some quality products based on our characters and paintings. We’ve designed some stuffed dolls based on our monsters which will soon be available, we also have a “box-set” portfolio of eighteen A6-sized images that we just finished, and the 2008 calendar will soon be available as well.
We are also collaborating with some animators who are helping us bring our characters to life. We’ll make a short movie or two and if the results are good, we will share it with the world. There is also the potential that you will see these short movies showcased on a well known TV station. More than that I cannot say. It’s classified!
Throughout all these projects it is my hope that I will continue to find time for painting, because if I’m not careful all of these ambitious plans and projects can start to sound like work. Painting for me is like magic. I don’t plan to let that go.
You can meet Mateo every Sunday at the flea market on Boxi. Or you can visit him in his Zozoville Gallery at Mainzer Str. 12. All the above paintings are available at the gallery. If you want to find out more about Mateo you can visit his website with lots of background infos, more paintings and news.