Artist gets a chance to present portrait of 'kindred spirit' Omid Djalili to the comedian in Bishop's Stortford
Artist Mario Mendoza sees in comedian Omid Djalili a "kindred spirit" and a "unifier" who, after more than a year away from live audiences, he believes is spreading a positive message.
That's why he was delighted to get the chance to present a portrait of the stand-up when he kicked off an extensive 16-month UK tour involving over 100 gigs at Bishop's Stortford's South Mill Arts centre earlier in July.
Mario, who lives in Stortford, has been following 55-year-old Djalili's comedy and acting career – his film credits include Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, The Infidel and Gladiator – since he emerged in the early 1990s and feels, as he is half Persian, a shared experience. Chelsea-born Djalili's parents are Iranian and he is fluent in Persian.
"It was nice to see him, having something in common with him," said Mario, 44. "I look at the man as a unifier."
With a socially distanced restricted audience at the South Mill Arts gig, Mario admits it was a different experience.
"It felt a bit more private and exclusive, and it was good to feel the energy from Omid. What we really live for in the arts is the beauty, the romance."
Mario, who lived in Spain and the Middle East before coming to the UK in 1995, describes his own work as impressionistic and figurative. He is working on a new series which he hopes to exhibit in the town.
Having lived in London for 15 years he says his "soul had asked for more tranquillity or peace" and Stortford was where he has found that.
"It fits the bill, it's a lovely place. People are friendly and ask you about your day," said Mario.
In common with other creative souls, he has found the isolation of the lockdown periods a positive experience.
"I call it the insulation period where you have time to reflect," he said and highlighted Djalili's Good Times tour in which the message from the comedian is more positive.
"On the whole there is more depth to the message and ultimately an optimism. As creative people we are always looking for solutions to find for problems."
With his background as a trained psychologist, Mario is acutely aware of the effect the pandemic has had on people's mental health.
"Just by talking to people you can see it has been an extremely difficult time, but everybody has been so strong. It will take time, but eventually you will see the sun come out again."
He feels he has something to offer and stresses the importance of the arts in rebuilding confidence and positivity in people after such dark times.
"I look at creative minds as a mirror of society – the creative world is almost like a front line for creating positivity."
Mario has been painting professionally full time since 2016, and has had his works exhibited and commissioned by collectors all around the world.
He is inspired by the great masters Rembrandt and Caravaggio, but also by the words of 13th-century Persian poet Rumi.
Love and romance are a major influence on his work. His website describes it as striking "an evocative balance between purity and sensuality, sophistication and decadence, innocence and danger".
It goes on to state: "The inherent emotional tension in his compositions allows us to be drawn deeply into the complexity of human emotion and the human condition."
Asked if there was a person he would most like to paint, his reply might be seen as somewhat of a surprise.
"The presence of [actor] Anthony Hopkins takes my breath away," said Mario, who suggested David Attenborough was another subject he would love to paint, with age and experience a major factor in helping with the creation of his work.
As an optimist, Mario is positive about the future for society and looking forward to sharing his work with his home town.
"I'm very happy when I see people reacting to my work and I'm very excited and hopeful for the future."