Flavien de Marigny’s fascinating life story dances across continents, languages, characters and events. From family fleeing restrictive Russian powers to travelling around South America with a diplomat dad, finding a home in Paris before being tickled by Tokyo, growing up in Colombia and now working as an artist in California, he’s just about seen, done, and painted it all.
Read on to discover the life and expression behind this captivating artist’s bold, dripping works.
Hello, Flavien! Could you share a little of your family’s story?
My mother is Hungarian and my father French. My father studied Spanish in Paris and, after graduating, moved to Bogota in the 1950s. My mom fled from Budapest with my grandparents in 1948, just 24 hours before the Russians locked the country for more than 20 years. My grandfather lost everything he had and started a new life in Colombia.
My parents then met in Bogota and married there. My dad was a writer – he wrote plays in Spanish and collaborated with several Latin American writers, to adapt novels into plays or translate them into French. His work took us around South America, particularly since he also worked as a diplomat in Brazil, Ecuador and Argentina.
I myself was born in Chile but we left when I was one year old, thankfully a year before Pinochet’s coup. But my father used to describe Chile at that time as a wonderful place in the world, with fair social justice and a more equitable economy.
What was it like growing up in South America?
Growing up in 1970s South America was great, so long as the military or cartels weren’t after your family. I was too young to really know or understand what was happening at the time, so my memories are very sweet, with only sporadic recollections of bombings, families disappearing and vendetta-style street killings.
How does your hometown inform your art?
I’m a very intuitive artist, so my environment is certainly important. It’s hard to describe, but it definitely affects my mindset when I’m painting, as well as the titles I give to my artworks. I’ve moved around a lot in my life and it always takes me a while to get used to a new place.
Did you have any French or Hungarian artistic influences growing up, thanks to your parents?
Definitely! On my Hungarian side, I very much enjoyed the cultural heritage, as my grandparents used to hang out with us a lot. I don’t speak Hungarian so we used to speak Spanish together. My grandfather was an architect but also a very good painter and woodworker, so I learnt a bunch of things from him. My mom used to do book binding and calligraphy, all with a mix of Hungarian heritage and modern art. My dad, as a diplomat in cultural services for the French Embassy, also made sure we grew up with a lot of French culture around us, as he was organizing all sort of festivals, shows and events, as well as bringing movies and a film projector home to show us French cinema.
Where do you call ‘home’ now?
Los Angeles. But I also feel home in Buenos Aires, and in Paris. For some reason, I kind of feel at home in Tokyo, too. I haven’t spent too much time there, but I’ve visited several times over the past 15 years and really love it and feel comfortable there.
How has living in Los Angeles changed your artistic expression, if at all?
It’s been 7 years now and my work has definitely changed and evolved, but I can’t tell how much Los Angeles has influenced me yet. I can say that it was good for me to leave Paris, as I lived there for long enough and I don’t think routine is a good thing for an artist – at least, not for me. I prefer to take risks, roll the dice. It’s difficult but very healthy to land in a city where nobody really cares about you.
That being said, living in the US allows me to have a better understanding of American art and that is probably my favorite part. Los Angeles is home for a lot of major artists and I also love to visit NYC for some energy and inspiration. I am very passionate about minimalist, expressionist and abstract American artists and I continue to explore and grow in understanding, even as we speak!
Any must-visit art addresses you can recommend in LA?
Absolutely! There’s the Philip Martin Gallery, Blum & Poe and Honor Fraser in Culver City, Jeffrey Deitch in Hollywood, the Marciano Foundation and Sprueth Magers in Miracle Mile, The Broad and MOCA Geffen in Downtown, Hauser and Wirth and Over The Influence in Arts District and the Norton Simon Foundation and Huntington Library in Pasadena!
Can you tell us a bit about another name you use – ‘Mambo’ ?
Mambo was my graffiti name in the 80s. I create artworks under that name that have that graffiti flavor combined with modern art influences. The reason I use the two names is to avoid confusion, as the two concepts are very different – I want to make sure each series is showcased at its best.
I picked Mambo as it pretty much reflected my influences at the time, based on afro cuban music, tropical funk, jazz and such. My first paintings were very much influenced by music.
That’s all from Flavien/Mambo… we’re off to get started on that comprehensive LA checklist. You can take a loot at De Marigny’s work here!