Mordillo – a name, which is now a trademark, a promise of good spirits and a guarantee of quality. But the brilliant career of Argentinean Guillermo Mordillo, who was born in 1932 in Buenos Aires from Spanish immigrants, is the result not just of creative flair and luck but also of will power and perseverance. It is the result of constant daily commitment and not merely of improvised bizarre ideas.
Guillermito was still a boy when he began earning a living from drawing and that typically adolescent enthusiasm with which he approached his work, the work of a lifetime, never quite disappeared. This enthusiasm also involved a constant desire to change, to try his hand at new possibilities and to create a new personal image. It is also why, over the course of his fifty-year long career, Mordillo kept changing the houses he lived in, the countries he travelled to and the languages in which he expressed himself. (But his drawings remain perpetually and decidedly silent, understandable all over in the same manner and entrusted only to the universal language of images). Over the years Mordillo lived and worked in Peru, in the United States, in France and in Spain. He has illustrated fairytale books for children, designed advertising campaigns, created cartoons, designed greeting cards and sketched humorous pictures.
Already in the early ’70s, he started to gain a name for himself throughout the world as the creator of chubby men and round women, the only black and white elements in a very colourful environment that is strictly without words. From the outset his humour has always been marked by contrasts and opposites – austere black and white stands out against brilliant colours and a remarkable emptiness is juxtaposed against incredibly crowded places. The most light-hearted laughing fits contrast with agonised ponderings on the great questions of life. Probably one of the main reasons behind the immense international success that Mordillo’s work attracts lies in this, and is true for both children and adults: his wonderful cartoons are always open to being read on two levels – they make you laugh and think.
And it is very true that the very nature of wordless cartoons enables him to instantly touch only the essential. Whether in Germany or in Japan, Mordillo’s visual creations are understood and appreciated just as they are in Italy and in South America. His natural or artificial spaces have no special geographical or national features: they could be anywhere.
People readily recognise themselves in Mordillo’s over-excited little men and sly little women: their little and their big problems are the same as those experienced by Adam and Eve, by humanity at large and probably by future generations too. We could consider the eternal antagonism between the sexes, developed without interrupting magnetic attractions and unavoidable escapes; the ambivalent attitude towards machines, our useful friends and inscrutable adversaries; the observation of the animal world, a constant source of endless lessons and wonder; the fear of the world, when it is as chaotic as a jungle or as oppressive as a labyrinth with no exit; or even the longed for relaxation offered by sports, which ultimately finds meaning only in itself as an entertaining and deserved escape from reality.
A special quality typical of Mordillo was his love of sports. He followed them all with great attention and depicted them all, though he showed an undeniable preference for two of them: football, practiced by him with great joy as a boy, and golf, cultivated with the same satisfaction as an adult. In both fields, he was second to none in finding a reason for a smile from the inside. It is obvious that he was used to personally experiencing them and we can also understand why his cartoons are a favourite with sportsmen.
Sports-lovers instantly recognize that this humorist was one of them and certainly not a moralist who judged them from the outside. Everyone unfailingly recognizes in Mordillo a kindred spirit, lost like us in the complex labyrinths of life, fatally attracted by the twists and turns of love and sex, yearning for little moments and places of rewarding relaxation in the midst of daily chaos. Yes, Guillermo was one of us, and this is why we understand him and love him. This is why his world, which is apparently so absurd, is also ours. And we are grateful to him, because he never failed to remind us how colourful and happy this world of ours is, in spite of everything. To give the world a touch of colour seemed to be his first and foremost mission. This is also borne out by a famous cartoon he designed for Amnesty International a few years ago: in an all grey city, a little man who dared to paint his house imaginatively is immediately arrested and locked up in jail. Hence the artist’s belief in the freedom of colour, thought, expression, imagination and creativity. This is at the heart of Mordillo’s world.
Interview by Ferruccio GirominiInterview by Ferruccio Giromini