How did you get started doing what you do?
Painting for me has never been something I started at some point; it has always been a part of me. I have been painting ever since I was able to hold something in my hand. During my student years, I did all the wondering and experimentation that every student does, and should do. I went through a period where I swore I would never paint figurative again, since it was only a display of talent and the true form of “reality” (if it even exists) must be something abstract to the human brain. Later I had to swallow my words when I felt that in order to study human nature I had to use the body as a reference to address the subject. So I went back to figurative, but the result of it was the very thing I had sworn to avoid- a display of talent and nothing else. Being terribly frustrated with the result, I ran a spatula through the painting to start it over, and the result was a phantasmagorical image of a human being that was there, and at the same time wasn’t. I fell in love with the idea of creating a character to later destroy it leaving behind an evidence. I became addicted to the necessity of partially erasing my characters. I feel it is the most respectful, sensible, and accurate representation of human nature.
How would you describe your creative style?
I define my work as the compilation of controlled accidents and I would say it is highly influenced by impressionism, and abstract expressionism. Although my painting is about humans, I have discovered recently that the main characters of my work are not humans, per se, but the “accident” and “time” as concepts. Regarding my style, I would not really know how to describe it. I think the definition of a style is a bit creative incarceration.
What’s your inspiration?
Inspiration, I believe, is a concept a bit overrated in the artistic community. I will not deny it for everybody, but it does not exist for me. I like better the word “motivation.” There are images, splatters on the ground, ideas, the work of other painters, music, my studio, and many other things that will get me going. Motivation can come from any source, I have even gotten the need to paint from watching a pile of garbage, but again for me it is “motivation.” Inspiration is for amateurs, professionals show up to work, as Chuck Close kindly put it.
What is art to you?
Art is what we humans create in order to describe ourselves to ourselves. Also art is the representation of individual and collective condition. This representation brings identity to a group of individuals reinforcing the functionality of a society. If we all believe the same, and act the same, it is less likely that we will compete for a resource or fight with each other. Also it is more likely that we will cooperate with each other. In short words, art brings identity and this identity makes society work better.
What does your typical day look like?
I wake up around 6:30 (most of the days), hit the gym or go for a walk or a run on the beach. Around 10 am I am heading to my studio. I attend email and social networks, and around 12 or 1 pm I start painting. I try to paint a minimum of 4-5 hours a day. However, there are some days where I have to attend other projects, or my small school of painting. Around 8 I am having dinner and later read or watch a movie. By 11 pm I am sleeping like a log.
How long does it typically take for you to finish a piece?
I paint 2 or 3 paintings at the same time. This allows me to work on a painting while the layers of the others are drying. However, since I have a highly addictive personality, if the painting is not finished within 3-4 days, it dies. I will never finish it.
How do you keep motivated?
I feel now that I am a bit stuck in my painting. I feel that I have been copying myself and producing watered down reproductions of previous successes. So specially now I attend to every show, museum, movie, book reading, comedy, conference, etc. Anything that I know “motivates” me. I feel a bit lost, but to find oneself, one has to be irrevocably in that original condition to start with.
How would you say your surroundings have influenced your work?
I do not believe creativity is this lonely action done by a genius. I think this is a legacy of the western Judaeo-christian creationism that I think does more harm to the artist than benefit. So I consider the surrounding is extremely important when it comes to “producing” (instead of creating). I believe it is highly impossible to “create” new things. I think artists migrate values from one field to another “producing” innovation. Therefore the surroundings become the food that every artist eats to later spit out in their own way. Some years ago I saw workers in the street flattening asphalt with a spatula, and that lingered in my mind until I saw an exhibition in Brussels of Nicolas de Stael which motivated me to start using them in my painting. And I have to say nowadays I am nothing without my spatulas. The colors, compositions, textures and everything in my painting comes from a motivation of the outer world, I have nothing new to say to the world other than my own perspective of things. I do not create, I produce.
What do you hope to accomplish with your work?
I have to confess that my expectations about my work have gone down with the years, I wanted my work to provide a full study of the human nature so that it would somehow impact or change society. I now feel this is futile intention. Not necessarily based on the impossibility of the action, but in the incapability of the medium. My artwork, as any other artwork, is extremely subjective. I do not think it will ever achieve the level of objectivity to address all human beings. I think art nowadays is incapable of being the tool of social change that it was for the French Revolution.
However, my expectations about myself have not changed. I hope my work will give me the recognition and the means to start foundations, projects, and actions that change, aid and impact the development of the human race.
I believe existence is absurd and purposeless, but that does not mean that while we are here we can’t make this a better world.
How have others reacted to your work?
Even though it is not my intention, some people perceive it as violent and aggressive and I understand it. Creating to destroy, or destroying to create is an “oxymoronic” action that can be aggressive to the spectator, specially if the subject is missing parts of his/her body or the eyes have been covered. We humans hate things that don’t make sense, since this nonsense removes the purpose of whatever it is in question, and we are terribly afraid of purposelessness. So for me it is understandable when people feel uneasy about my work.
What do you want others to take away from your work?
Death is the only thing that we know for sure about the future. Nevertheless, some humans spend their lives working in jobs they hate, mistreating their environment and others, worried about stuff that will not transcend, etc. I think we have done such a good job distancing ourselves from the concept of death that we are not conscious of it on a daily base. I am not saying that we should fall in despair and desolation. I am saying that we should embrace our mortality and make the best out of this finite life. A mortal being conscious of its mortality will be a better being.
What, if anything, would you tell your younger self?
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
Allow your self to fail and play…always play.
Any words of wisdom to aspiring artists who want to pursue a similar career?
Given that you have to create your own path, it is not an easy task. As an engineer or as a doctor, one can exactly follow the path laid by others and have a successful career. In any creative field it does not work like that. You have to enjoy not knowing how to do what you want to do and discovering it. You are going to have to work more, learn more, and expand your capacities and knowledge more. It is not an easy path, but it is not impossible. And trust me! I was one of the most inept persons in the world, and I am making it. If I can do it anyone can. Success and happiness are a decision.
What are your thoughts on art school?
Some people argue that experience is the best teacher. I on the other hand, think the best teacher is the experience of others and I think art school shortens the learning curve. However, any wisdom imparted should only be taken as an advice, not as a dogma. Teachers that force their students to think, act, and produce in a standardized way have an obsolete way of thinking. The objective is not to make the best students, the objective is to bring out the best of them. Every person that has changed the world has taken school as an advice, not as a dogma. If we limit ourselves to replicate what has been previously successful, we would still be painting caves.