The man who listens to stones



The Ecuadorian artist has spent the past 30 years dedicating his life to turning marble into beautiful figurative sculptures.

"The stone has its life, its energy. I feel its energy. I see the figure inside the piece of marble," Marco says, looking at a collection of his work on display at Ghalya's Museum of Modern Art in Muttrah.

Each piece is an expressionistic figure or two figures combined. Some of the pale marble pieces are highly polished until they have a smooth, shiny finish, while others have rougher, textured finishes. The faces are featureless and not all the details of the figures are included, but the shapes and poses seem to give them all a spirit of their own, and the combination of shapes and textures draw the viewers in and make them want to touch them and connect to them. Marco says as soon as he sees a piece of marble, the shape of the form within reveals itself to him, and it's his job to bring it out so others can see them, too.

"The human figure has always been the oldest model for art, and I do it in my way. All my work is figurative, though somewhat abstract," Marco explains.

Though Marco studied sculpting in university in Quito, Ecuador, he didn't learn how to sculpt stones. He was only taught how to make sculptures from clay. After graduating, he taught himself how to work with stone, an art that is incredibly challenging. It requires all kind of machines and tools, like drills, sanders, hammers and knives, and a touch which is both strong and sensitive. Marble can break easily and once a sculpture has broken, it can't be remade the way clay can, so Marco has to be very patient while he's working. He says that many times he's been close to finishing a piece when he hits a hairline fracture in the stone and it cracks or crumbles. But despite how difficult the medium is, Marco is drawn to it.

"It lasts longer. It's noble and it stays for years. I learned, bit by bit, to respect the material and learn from it," he says.

The internationally recognised artist has had exhibitions in Ecuador, Colombia, England, as well as Oman, where he has been living for the past three years. Here in Oman he uses local marble that he gets from Sohar and Suwaiq. Though he says his style hasn't changed while living here, the country has inspired him. He says the landscape itself is like a work of art with all of its diverse shapes and the many colours in the stones.

"Oman is marvellous for me. I love the mountains. They have their own sculptures and they hold the materials I use. And Muscat is peaceful and quiet, which I need for my work," he says fondly.

And work he does. Marco is so passionate about his craft that he works from 8am till 5pm six days a week. He's his own boss, so he could easily work a lot less, but says he just can't stay away from the stones. As many artists know, it's difficult to make a living by selling art, and Marco admits that he doesn't sell too many pieces. But even if the pieces don't move quickly, he still feels the need to make more.

"Even if I can't sell it, I have to work. I'll keep working and see what happens. I just can't tire of it. It's like eating. I need to express myself through my sculptures," he says, running a hand over one of his treasured figures. "It's my way of feeling, a daily form of expression."

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