By Clara Olshansky
Updated July 21, 2015
Credit: © Vanni Mangoni

Australian artist Vanni Mangoni treats spilled coffee the way Vincent Van Gogh treated his oil paints, Michelangelo treated his blocks of marble, and Dali treated his mustache. To Mangoni, a coffee stain painting is more than a novelty, a quirky trick, or a creative way to look at breakfast. The coffee spill is a beacon of artistic possibility, both the paint and the canvas, waiting to be transformed into his vision.

Of course, the connotations of the medium are still an essential element of how Mangoni views his work. Much of his inspiration comes from taking what we would traditionally consider a mistake—a coffee spill—and turning into something gorgeous. He told us his stains are about “the alchemy of bringing purpose and meaning to something that does not seem to have it.” Mangoni is also encouraged by the idea that so much in daily life is impermanent—including his art. He treats his coffee art the same way. “The stains are always washed away after a picture is taken,” he said. “metaphor for life isn’t it?”

The project started not with coffee but with chocolate on a bowl. Since, however, he has found coffee a more frequent source of inspirations. Says Mangoni, "It just happens that sometimes I forget my Italian coffee machine on the gas ring: that's the beginning of all my art pieces."

All his images have a very classic feel, but they range in subject and style. While some recall Victorian illustrations of fairy tales, others the inky hatched sketches of Rembrandt, and still others resemble early renaissance opuses of religious symbolism.

And for some serious art porn, check out this video of Mangoni's process.