Jorge Contreras is a Venezuelan artist born in Caracas, the city where he studied civil engineering at the Universidad Central de Venezuela, from where he graduated in 1982. Meanwhile, he did several art workshops; then he traveled through Europe and the United States with the purpose of visiting museums, meeting artists and exchanging ideas with them, an experience that contributed to enriching his knowledge and orientation as an artist, inclination, or gift, that he began to manifest from an early age in the drawing or painting contests organized at the Colegio Francisco Pimentel de Caracas, where he studied, a building that was designed by Carlos Raúl Villanueva, the highest representative of modern architecture in Venezuela. In its entrance there was a sculpture by Francisco Narváez and at its inside a painting by Tito Salas, structure and works for which the Contreras schoolboy, since then, felt attraction, which would soon become his passion and vocation.

Jorge Contreras
We notice that before studying Civil Engineering, Contreras liked art, therefore, the first thing that occurs to one to ask is why he didn’t choose Architecture, one of the 7 artistic manifestations recognized with great aesthetic value? But after talking with him we understand that for this artist civil engineering, although it is a profession related to the exact sciences, is also linked to art, since the civil engineer must be, in addition to calculating, sensitive, imaginative and creative, attributes that allow him to imprint aesthetics on his designs and infrastructures, to whom feasibility and sustainability calculations are applied at once, elements that Contreras considered very well to choose this career, who along with his profession as a civil engineer performs his profession as a painter; Even in many of his works, structures of the city can be seen, which means that he has always contemplated the urban in his painting, that although they are captured on a flat support, he gives them perspective, spatiality. Another element of his profession that the artist says he applies to his work as a painter is research and calculation; procedures prior to the realization of the work that don’t allow chance, improvisation, although his brushstrokes and graphic lines are gestural, as products of an expressionist spontaneity.

Being an artist who is in constant search and review of his visual production, he is not satisfied with staying long on a subject until exhausting it because art and reality for him are extremely broad and changing, which is why in his career we see that He has worked on several series, he has gone from one stage to another, whose themes have been the urban landscape, animals, bicycles and his most recent series known as Icons of Pop. The titles of his series are very explicit, they are related to an urban problem in relation to the social and environmental: Civitas animalis, Urbis coloris silvestris, Urbis-CCS, Urbis-constructor, Urbis-Bicy-07, Movilis urbanus, Bicicletas urbanas.

Jorge Contreras. Pasaje Urbano
As civil engineering has a great social and environmental responsibility that consists of carrying out adequate urban planning to satisfy the ways of life of human beings in the city and reduce the negative environmental impacts produced by the execution of civil works, we infer that this is one of the reasons why in several paintings by Contreras there is a social and ecological concern, due to the relationship between city and nature. In a statement he made in the Revista Feriado at El Nacional, in 1998, in relation to his exhibition Urbis coloris silvestris, he makes it clear, with a critical sense, that:
«My work deliberately concentrates on the urban landscape, transporting different animals to it and freely using a wide range of warm colors, those that show the polychromy of tropical forests, gradually simplifying them until reaching gray and whitish tones, representing this way the voracity of concrete, in a city designed without respecting the love for nature».
Jorge Contreras. Serie Bicicletas Urbanas
These compositions are characterized by the representation of spaces inhabited by the city installed in nature, on whose stage only buildings, cars and animals are seen, since the human being is absent, only traces of his creation and daily existence remain. Contreras establishes in these works a game between absence and presence, and, through the exile of human from that area, leads us to think of them as a factor in social and environmental problems, a victim of his own actions due to lack of awareness and sensitivity.
Another series that takes place in urban and natural environments, respectively, is the one whose theme is the bicycle, which has become the central motif of Contreras' painting since 2007, compositions in which this vehicle appears in a desolate environment, with nobody that lead or sustain it, without descriptive or narrative references, they only symbolize or allude to the memories and playful nostalgia of the artist's childhood and youth; but we can also interpret this image as a suggestive ecological proposal, since the bicycle turns out to be a favorable means of transportation for the environment and people's health.
Jorge Contreras. Serie Íconos del Pop. The Joker
As of 2017, Contreras incorporates into his visual discourse a theme inspired by the comic industry, animated superheroes, among other figures of pop culture, symbols of the imaginary of childhood and youth, in which he preserves his link with the urban, but in this case close to some characteristics of Pop art, an artistic movement that emerged in the mid-twentieth century in England and the United States, which focused on using images of popular culture taken from the mass media, printed and audiovisual, and of everyday reality.
In this phase, Contreras considers that pop allows him to be more critical, free, experimental, fun, and challenging. As he expresses: «In my work, the childish, humorous and ironic are played with, to provoke a smile in the spectator». In addition, his idea is that the viewer travels to the world of their childhood or youth, laugh, have fun, enjoy aesthetically, and reflect about the explicit and implicit messages in these pop content paintings.

Written by José Gregorio Noroño,

 Arte Original.

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