The creation process is for me, the result of a need to understand the world, to reinterpret it. The artistic fact should raise questions; shake up consciences, awaken emotions in the receiver. Every work, in this sense has to be a vehicle to communicate not only a mere aesthetic or technical exercise.
In seeking a message, my painting style is embedded with strong narrative and symbolic elements. Over many years, I balanced my working time in a university with an avid passion for literature, writing a lot of short stories, until one day I just decided to go a step further. I resumed the drawing that I left by my teen years, to express with images as well, what my words expressed. Every project I carried out is born from this dual nature, the combination of two disciplines; painting and literature.
One good example of this way of working is “Wake up from reality” (photo 1). The concept behind this painting is a short story which I wrote several years ago about the real meaning of success and failure, set in the street art scene of downtown Barcelona and its youngsters.
However, I probably use brief poems as an inspiration more often. It is almost impossible to reduce a whole narration into a single canvas, but you can reflect more precisely what a few words wanted to say in a single scene: “The Great Unknown” (photo 2) is based on a Walt Whitman’s precious poem. Another examples could be “Girl on a Café” (photo 3), about a text of Spanish poet Raúl García Fernández; “Returning home” (photo 4) and William Ernest Henley; and “The map of happiness” (photo 5) about the wrong choices we make in the constant search for joy, a poem that I wrote in 2013.
I like to introduce some Symbolist details into my paintings. I think that they will go unnoticed for a lot of viewers, but I am sure that a few of them will understand what these elements seek to represent. You can see a painting, or read a book, with different layers of understanding and they all complement each other. What matters most is to convey a message or an emotion to spectators.
Continuing with Symbolism, in an early work, “For those who God forgets” (photo 6), I wanted to reflect the disasters of war. Some of the figures are associated with the tragic effect of destruction over civilian populations: the broken dish is a metaphor of the lack of food, the torn lyre connects with the destruction of culture, for example. Men and women have different skin tones. It is not by coincidence. War is something that all societies had suffered in the past and maybe would suffer in the future. Irrationality knows no boundaries.
Another case could be “On the wings of the words” (photo 7), about the extraordinary strength of literature, as a secret door to whatever you can imagine. The lamps in the darkness represent the fight between wisdom and ignorance, but also between magic and conventions. On the cover of the book there are only two letters: A and Z. They are the beginning and the end of our alphabet, because with a scarce amount of characters we can write anything. Our imagination is the sole limit.
In the visual concept, drawing is the architecture of the whole work; it is what holds the image from the ground. I don’t start any project on the ultimate paper or canvas until the outline and palette are firmly established. In terms of technique, I like the versatility and strength of acrylics to achieve any effect, as well as its quick performance. However, I find greater expression in mixing materials. Recently I have incorporated collage, watercolor pencil and ink over the acrylic base.
I like thinking of the idea that an author is just an interpreter of concepts and characters floating around us, to transfer their stories and feelings to a piece of art. The loneliness, the comradeship, the infinite power of imagination or the social report are some of my recurring subjects. However, we are not always aware of the risk of focusing too much on our own world, drowning in ego. The siren’s call of an author’s comfort zone can become his own downfall. Thus, losing new paradigms and throwing away influences that make you evolve, may impoverish your art in the long term. For this reason, I try to collaborate with other illustrators and poets in some projects that are being carried out or are already done.
The gaze of the painter should be receptive of whatever is around. I am fascinated by the synthesis of the street painting of Banksy and Morley, the neo-expressionism flourished in the 80’s and with some abstract art, but they are not my main guides. I recognise my heartfelt debt to the great American masters, from Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper or Norman Rockwell, to N.C. Wyeth and his son, Andrew. I admire the colour of the Post Impressionists Gauguin and Derain, but also the contemporary figures like Miquel Barceló and David Hockney.
Words and Art: Oscar Santasusagna
Categories: Art Diaries