Toni Marí - forging the soul

The creativity of this Jávea born artist, and with it his subconscious, was awoken by complete chance, through instilling life into cold cast iron, at the same time opening the eyes of the public at large. At the foot of the sheltering and magical Montgó, next to a road visible to passers-by, Marí's art, which stems from a deep need, was born, thanks to a chance encounter. And, through his art, the eyes of the people of Jávea have been opened, first to the most primitive feelings –through sculptures of animals, then to the personality –through iron giants, apparently moving, but empty inside; and now probing the sky and the sea, in search of the soul, which will soon be found in a far away place…, inside our own self.

Toni Marí attempted to give life to metal and wood from the age of five years, although his small hands could not catch up with his imagination. Marí remembers how once he took a mouse trap made of wire, and as he tried to free its soul, he imagined a horse –a passionate spirit with a dominant personality-, although this first attempt never quite took on the desired shape.

Years passed, and Marí's artistic expression was exercised through paper, pencils and wood. When he began to work for a blacksmith, at the age of 14, the fascination he felt for the malleability of forged cast iron allowed him to express all he had inside –and eventually, after overcoming more primitive impulses, to continue the search for his soul.

His first figures were small bulls –which symbolize creative energy trying to escape - but he kept them for himself. Then suddenly one day, about 14 years ago, in a casual conversation at the door of his workshop, the master builder Ángel Palencia asked Mari if he liked the little plaza that had just been built next door. Marí said “no, because it needs a sculpture”. It was that casual comment which would change the course of his entire life.

Afterwards, the architect Julio Sela ordered a sculpture, and Marí made a small donkey –which symbolizes patience, and also success. The animal never reached its original destination. It was not the right place or the right time. Another architect from Valencia , Jiménez de la Iglesia, saw the small donkey and wanted it for himself. Still the small equine was not for sale, so he asked Marí to make him a goat -symbol of dreams and whims.

The donkey finally ended up in the port area of Jávea, and was enjoyed by tourists who wore down his little back and ears, while it stood passively in front of the criticism of some of the neighbours. Then came the day when the headlines in the local newspapers read that a “strange object” had been removed from the streets. The public was still not ready for him, and Marí continued to forge animals in his spare time, between gateways and fences; he ccepted small orders for sculptures for private gardens. His fish figures date from this period –an allegory of all that is in our subconscious struggling to see the light.

Marí then decided to sell his part of the business, and move on his own to a workshop in a different neighbourhood, far away from public view. It is here where he began to dedicate himself almost exclusively to creative expression, as well as to making artistic gateways. It was a slow and difficult change, but not a risky one, as Marí does not believe in leaps of faith. In less than two years he moved to the workshop where he is now, right next to the road leading to the neighbouring town of Denia . An artist needs to be observed during the creative process, and an observer needs an artist to show him his soul.

It was here where he received his first public order: “Bous a la Mar” for Denia. He made a large bull with aggressive angles which throws into the sea –symbol of deep emotions- a human figure on childish lines. It was something he knew he could do, “I like controlled risks”. Finally the true artist began to emerge with force, ready to accept admiration from the general public.

Orders poured in, allowing Marí to explore different forms, different sentiments, all the ideas and dreams of his creative process. Birds appear –freedom of the soul-, and specially the eagle –the conquest of success. And yet, for Marí, parting with a sculpture is difficult, “it doesn't have the same value for me when they're far away - better when people I know can admire them”.

Toni Marí does not first draw the figure he wants to create, but imagines it on a three-dimensional canvas, and then goes directly to the piece of iron to draw the lines that he will later cut and weld. The work done on the cast iron polishes it, leaving it naked and empty, but once the figure is finished, it is galvanized and rusted with acid, and painted with a protective transparent coating. Marí forges the naked metal and later protects it without hiding its true beauty or its authentic expression.

Each animal or figure he works on is repeated an infinite amount of times until practice perfects the expression of the true characteristics of what is portrayed. Marí does not like to “play with people's imagination”, but rather prefers that, “people play with their own imagination from a given starting point”. Simple lines full of emotions: aggressive straight lines, curves full of movement, voids that induce foreseen interpretations. “Sometimes less is more”, declares the artist.

Then the first order for a human figure arrived: a golf player –game that, according to the symbolic analysis, represents those relationships that we must endure, even though they might seem superficial or not very sincere. It's still not the right time to begin to look inwards. From the figure comes a humanoid, or an android, with no emotions and a simple expression. Beautiful, but nonetheless far from the complexity of the soul, although already free from instinct. Aesthetic yet austere.

From this period came the order to create the sculpture for the roundabout at the entrance to Jávea. Finally his own neighbours recognize the artist. But the moment has still not come, and there are lessons yet to be learned. Difficult times and self imposed pressure materializes in a work of art that does not please most people–not even the artist. Lines that are too straight talk of the stiffness that holds a great emptiness, which is hidden by hundreds of flying gulls –worries and problems. The artist promises he will fix this sculpture some day –it's a wound he must heal-, but only when the moment comes…

And the time will come when he completes his search for the soul, a quest already begun. The initial robot-like figures were soon replaced by iron men with wavy extremities and twisted articulations, capable of transmitting all the strength of their movement, without allowing the imagination to hesitate. Working, dancing, playing, balancing. The true search comes when these human figures begin to lift their hands to their heads to peer into the horizon. They seek the sea, the sky and the stars, yet their torsos are still empty.

An order for a famous winery will lead him to explore the world of plants: vines, grapes, ivy, sunflowers begin to cover and intertwine through the artist's creations, surrounding him with the comfort of the natural scenery of his childhood. In this safe and rich environment he will finally obtain the necessary experience to go deeply into the soul. And with him all who see and live his work will follow, because Marí, in his humility, shows us the way to our collective consciousness.

Guiomar Ramírez-Montesinos Krogulska

© 2008 Antoni Marí Sart