The Italian artist chats about his own brand of pop art, and what drives him to create

Jelly Baby Family

Mauro Perucchetti is sitting across the table from us, talking a mile a minute about everything from acting to abstract art. You’d hardly believe that the 66-year-old artist is battling jetlag, having just flown in from London the night before. Perhaps it’s thanks to caffeine, but we’d like to think that the same innate energy and enthusiasm that has propelled him through life.

Having embarked on an acting career at 18 years old, Perucchetti got his first part in a movie called The Driver’s Seat, which also starred the late Elizabeth Taylor and legendary artist Andy Warhol. He would go on to work on more films, before relocating to London to pursue interior design.

Mauro Perucchetti
While Perucchetti has always dabbled in art, it wasn’t until he turned 50 that he became a serious artist. Employing a pop art sensibility, the self-taught artist strives to create art not just for aesthetic value, but also as a platform to communicate his views on various social issues.

His work has been shown internationally at galleries and art fairs, and his distinctive Jelly Baby Family was selected to be displayed at London’s Marble Arch in 2010. His latest coup will see the aforementioned family displayed in front of the Louvre in Paris from October 15 to November 7, 2012, in conjunction with the FIAC International Fair of Contemporary Art.

And here we are now, sitting in a cosy alcove at Ode to Art gallery, where some of his pieces landed. The passionate artist tells us more about his journey thus far, working with his favourite material, and what the jelly babies are really about.

On defying convention in his youth
When you’re younger, there are so many things you want to do and it’s very difficult to choose one, so I tried a bit of everything. By the time I was 18, I was already married and had a child, and I had also given up school, because I decided it wasn’t the right thing for me. Then I had a terrible car crash where I nearly died. I couldn’t do anything for a year, and during this period when I was sitting in a wheelchair, I was dreaming about another life because I didn’t like the life I had. I had a wife who I didn’t really like (and she didn’t really like me either, so it’s ok), and I had a job in Milan where I was wearing a suit and a shirt and a tie everyday. I knew there had to be something better, but I didn’t know what it was. When I started to walk again, I felt completely free to experiment with everything. I’ve always been interested in the arts, and I was always experimenting and doing things with my hands.

On one of his first artistic creations
I have a sculpture that I made when I was 17, made of resin – which is the material I use now. In those days it was a very modern material and in fact it wasn’t even considered a good material for art because they looked at it like plastic. I had this idea where I wanted to have a skull floating in a sphere of resin, and I wanted the skull to be like a ghostly figure, to be seen only from a certain angle. I still have it nowadays. It’s incredible.

On how the Jelly Babies were conceived
It basically took me until I was 50 years old to grow up [laughs]. At the time, they were talking about cloning, and the dilemma between cloning and religion and medical ethics. I was fascinated and horrified – I hated the idea, it would’ve been like one of those horror movies. I wanted to address that with a body of work, and I thought of using the jelly babies as an impersonation of cloned mankind. It took me nearly a year to find the perfect shape. There is an ambiguity in the expression – they have a smile but they can look a bit sinister as well. If you look at their profile, I made it a bit similar to the great white shark. I wanted that to be my secret.

On the concept behind the Jelly Baby Family
Two years ago, I made Jelly Baby Family. In a world where races and religions are fighting each other, I’m tired of the violence and narrow-minded people. And I love that when you walk through the streets of London, you can hear a hundred different languages at the traffic light. I decided to use the jelly babies in a much happier way [than before], to represent the unity of family. They are all different colours, like the multi-cultural aspect of society.

Power of Love 0.4

On working with resin

It’s much more expensive than working with say bronze or marble. People think you just put it in a mold and it comes out just like that. But they come out in a very rough stuff and you have to rub it and chisel it and shape it. The colours I can achieve are fantastic. You can’t get as many colours with glass, but also, I don’t like glass.

On the ideas that drive his work
Everything I do is very engineered and clinical. I’m a bit of a news junkie, and I’m very interested in what goes on in the world. I regret that life is not long enough to do all the things I want to do and go to all the places I want to go to. Most of my work talks about the actualities of life, the problems of society, and consumerism.

On his next show
My next show is going to be completely different – I am doing a totally abstract show. It was inspired by how I’ve simply been working with materials – plaster stone, marble, resin, whatever – over the decades. I wanted to explore the material first and then decide what to do with it, and by constantly experimenting, I created a lot of abstract things. It’s all about form, colour, visual effects and the sense of touch. It’s like an expression of what I can do with certain materials. We’re going to have this in January.