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Unleashing the Unconscious Mind - Interview with Marco Riha

With a creative journey spanning nearly three decades, Marco Riha has discovered his artistic home in Surrealist Automatism. From art therapy to surrealism, Riha's creative process has evolved, pouring colors onto surfaces, revealing a surprising evolution.

2023-06-27

Joana Alarcão

Artist Statement


After almost three decades of creating art instinctively, I finally realized, my method has a long tradition. I found my home in art history: Surrealist Automatism, the art of suppressing ones reason and let the unconscious speak. It has led me on a long creative journey from art therapy to surrealism. The simple act of pouring color on a surface and see what wants to be created. It is my favorite technique, because I get to be surprised about my own work and evolution.


Over the years, I witnessed my work evolve into an inspirational socio-political commentary. Reminding me of the type of artists, I always admired - provocative and fun trail blazers,

uncompromising and wild with ‘an untamed need for liberation.


Vicious circle by Marco Riha. Image courtesy of Marco Riha.

In this interview, we spoke with Marco Riha, an artist who has spent nearly three decades immersed in the world of art, guided by their instinctual creative process. Through this journey, Riha discovered a profound connection to art history, specifically Surrealist Automatism—an approach that involves suppressing reason and allowing the unconscious to speak.


Their chosen technique, pouring color onto a surface and observing what emerges, has become a beloved method that consistently surprises with its unpredictable outcomes and the capacity for personal growth. What began as an instinctive exploration transformed over time into an inspiring form of socio-political commentary.


Riha's work embodies the spirit of the provocative and trailblazing artists that he has always admired—uncompromising, wild, and driven by an untamed need for expression.

In the interview, we delve deeper into his artistic journey, influences, and the powerful socio-political narratives that shape his work.


How has your journey from Austria to Sri Lanka and ultimately finding your creative home base in Mexico influenced your artistic development and style?

It was traveling that awakened the dormant artist in the first place. I was in my twenties when I had the chance of living in fascinating countries for long periods of time. As an impressionable young man, these experiences shaped me deeply and opened me up to my creative side. There is something to be said about your environment. The fact that I have lived the majority of my life in some of the most beautiful places on earth influenced my artistic and human development in a very positive way.


Could you share more about your automatic painting technique and how accessing material from the unconscious mind shapes your creative process?

Only recently did I find out that what I was doing had a long tradition. For years, I created art instinctively, pouring paint and seeing what I would find. I learned this method was called art therapy, which was later adopted by the surrealists and action painters. To me, it is my favorite way to create art - put all reason aside, explode onto the canvas and discover what wants to be created. 


Encounters by Marco Riha. Image Courtesy of Marco Riha.

Your experimentation with various mediums led to a fascination with oils on canvas. How did this period of using oils as a symbolic means of therapeutic release and expression impact your artistic journey?

The symbolic period was a very important part of my creative journey. The impact was almost measurable since all releases ultimately make you feel lighter as if I had shed some extra baggage during that time.


Your Vitruvian-Man-Video-Installation signifies a connection to the Renaissance. How does this period in art history inspire and influence your current artistic vision and direction?

As far as I can remember, I have loved the Renaissance and Italy. As a child with Italian roots, I enjoyed trips with my mom, admiring their art, architecture and culture. The optimistic spirit of the Renaissance fascinated me already at a young age. After the Dark Ages, it was such an important, refreshing and life-affirming period in art history. 

But besides being a tribute to Leonardo da Vinci, my video installation shows how I feel about presenting my art - naked.

As far as the current vision and direction goes, I want to quote the title of that same video installation: ‘Ready for a Renaissance!’


Melting smiley by Marco Riha. Image Courtesy of Marco Riha.

Can you delve deeper into the Québécois artistic dissidents movement known as 'Les Automatistes' and how their approach to art and the ideas expressed in the 'Total Refusal' manifesto resonate with you?

Another important movement that dispelled a dark age and helped shape modern French-Canadian society. I got introduced to this group by the father of my partner, who had translated ‘Les Automatistes’ into English and won an award for it. I resonated with some of their provocative catchphrases like ‘an untamed need for liberation’ or ‘resplendent anarchy’ but mainly I was intrigued by their unacademic approach to art. 


How do you find a balance between embracing automatic painting and incorporating socio-political themes in your artwork?

No balancing act is necessary, since automatic painting is my usual modus operandi, it includes the socio-political pieces. In general, one can say, my work has become more of a social commentary over the years.


Crocodile on fire by Marco Riha. Image Courtesy of Marco Riha.

In what ways do you believe art can serve as a vehicle for expressing ideas of liberty, tolerance, and unity in today's socio-political climate?

These highest ideals are very dear to me and have sparked beautiful movements already in art history.

In today’s climate, the challenge is, high thoughts are in danger of being drowned out by too much incoming information. But as long as life-affirming voices are being heard by someone at all, it is a good start with potential to grow.  


How do you navigate the intersection between the personal and the collective in your art, particularly when addressing socio-political issues?

It has been a fluid progression, at first my art seemed personal, but later collective. 

But over the years the differences became blurry. Throughout my creative journey, it felt like I was exploring the realm, C.G. Jung called the ‘collective subconscious’. What might have felt very personal in the beginning, turned out to have a collective side and vice versa. Maybe the personal and the collective are interchangeable in that realm. 


In the eye of the beholder by Marco Riha. Image Courtesy of Marco Riha.

Could you share any specific projects or artworks that exemplify the fusion of your automatic painting technique, socio-political themes, and inspiration from art history?

Wow, beautiful question. I do have one piece that comes to mind that unites all three qualities. ‘Hope’ from 2022, created automatically, has the Renaissance ‘spirit of optimism’ and transmits a soothing socio-political theme. After a two-year mini-dark age, a welcome relief.  


Lastly, what message would you like to leave our readers?

You are what you think! 

Thinking of a perfect world where kindness rules supremely. 


Know more about the artist here.


Cover image:

Otherworlds II by Marco Riha. Image Courtesy of Marco Riha.

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EDUCATION

1984 – 1989           Handelsakademie I, Graz, AT                                    

1989 – 1992           Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, AT                          

1992                       Intl. Tour Guide Training, Touropa Austria

1995 - present        Surrealist Automatism – autodidact


EXHIBITIONS

2023/05     TRACCE DEL TEMPO by Primopiano LivinGallery, Lecce. IT

2021/11     Dubai Art Expo, UAE

2021/10     Tokyo International Art Fair, Roppongi, JP

2021/09     Fold Gallery, “colour of emotion” London, UK

2021/08     Saatchi Gallery, “colour of life”, London, UK

2021/06     Atelier Richelieu, “share your identity”, Paris, FR

2019          ArtboxProjects, Miami, US

2019          Jardín Botánico, “artistas por la paz”, Puerto Morelos, MX

2018          Olympus Tours Gallery, collective expo “alas” Cancun, MX

2017          ArtboxProjects Basel, CH

2015          Las Galerías, “exposición de arte”, Puerto Morelos, MX

2013          Hotel Asiana, „behind the surface“, Dubai, UAE

2011          Galerie am Schillerplatz, “wanderjahre”, Wien, AT


PUBLICATIONS & AWARDS

2023       Smart Artist Hub, London, UK

2022       ARTMAGAZINEUM, Istanbul, TR, Cover Issue07

2021       Artist of the Month, ARTJOBS.COM

2021       Winner of Special Prize, Mellow Art Award, Japan

2021       ArteVisualMexico, MX, Issue 01 & 04

2020       Arthabens Contemporary Art Review, London, UK, Issue09

2020       AlTiba9 Contemporary Art, Algiers, DZ, Issue04

2019       WOTISART? London, UK, Issue12

2018       La Verdad Noticias, Cancun, MX,  Issue01

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