Luis, we would like to hear a little about your work, and that you bring us closer to your experience as an artist
This is a great opportunity to show my experience. I was born in Caripito, Monagas, located in the East of Venezuela. When I was about 15 years old, I moved to the city of Maturín, and I went to the Escuela Eloy Palacios. At that time I was not a regular student, I was just a visitor. But then I signed up for a free course. It is in 1982 when I decide to go to Caracas to study at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas Cristóbal Rojas. I was there until 1984 working in all areas, but I was mainly directed towards painting and drawing, because I also had great masters of drawing as teachers. The 1980s was a rebirth of drawing in Latin America, and Venezuela was one of the countries that took up this discipline with great success and strength at the international level. My teachers at that time were almost all cartoonists. I venture into this discipline of drawing, mastering various techniques, pencils, inks, and different media. In 1982, I did my first individual exhibition. They were basically drawings on paper, made with ink, gouache, pens. It was the beginning of my career. 40 years ago.
When you leave the workshop, and enter to confront your work, you have to have a lot of respect for yourself as an artist and for the other person. At that time, I considered that my work could enter the art salons, and I began to participate. The first one I participated in was the Biennial of Drawing and Engraving at the Galería de Arte Nacional in Caracas. I got excited and continued to participate in the Salón Michelena, in the Salón Aragua, and then, they kept inviting me.
Simultaneously in 1984, I entered the Universidad Pedagógica Experimental Libertador, in Caracas. There I was studying the degree in education of visual arts. We had a space within the university called El Taller Herbario. It was a workshop organized by various artists who were in the department. So, we worked there and studied and at the same time, I developed my work together with other fellow artists.
Graduated from the university as a professor of visual arts. I never stopped. After I graduate from the university, I come here, to the state of Monagas, not with the idea of teaching, because at first, I wasn’t very interested in teaching. When I left the Escuela de Artes Plásticas de Caracas I wanted to dedicate myself to the workshop. But some professors advised me to pursue a degree because it is an endorsement. So I took this idea and I started working at the Escuela de Artes and I was there for about 15,16 years, teaching drawing, painting, elements of expression and experimental visual arts. That simultaneously with my workshop work, which I never stopped, until I decided to leave school and dedicate myself completely to my work.
Luis, how was this language that you have developed born? At what point did you say, “I prefer landscape, I want to express myself in this way”? And how did you decide to break with that expressionist, figurative way, with flora, fauna, with this other (abstract) language? Why did that change occur, what moved you?
The influence of teachers and the boom in drawing encouraged me towards the figurative. I begin to make a work with figurative elements: the birds, the flora, the landscape. The landscape was as a reference because the trees, the birds, the deer were perceptible; but those birds, and even the landscape itself, did not have a geographical location, they were imaginary landscapes in the composition because I was not interested in the mimetic of the landscape, but that it was more an interpretation.
I remained in figuration from 1982 to 2004, when the work began to turn more towards abstraction. So, the elements that were in the background in the figurative landscapes served me to make a synthesis of what would come later. That is why I begin to work on abstraction, but never forgetting that graphic part of the drawing. Simultaneously I began to work with the stroke, with the stain, the transparencies, and a work of an abstract nature was given, but always evoking nature. At that time, I was reviewing the work of many important artists in art history such as Piet Mondrian, Paul Klee, Vasily Kandinsky. For example, Mondrian and Kandinsky began their work from the landscape, from the trees, and made their transition.
Since 2004 I started fully with abstraction, and I have been weaving various aspects of abstraction. Because there is an element that I want to highlight: I began to consider since 2004 that the artist should not be pigeonholed into a theme -although I respect those who do not share this idea-. Because life is so short that pigeonholing myself in a theme tires me. What I did was search, and not rely on what I had achieved… search, keep searching, rehearse…. So, there is a job that goes hand in hand between intuition and reason. The coding of the elements corresponding to the landscape is a very personal thing. As Su Hyun says, “where is the landscape in this work? where is the landscape seen?”… Perhaps it is a more introspective proposal, in which there are no directional elements of rapid visual conformation, but elements of abstract coding.
I have a selection of various artworks from 2020 and 2021 that show the simultaneity of abstract elements that I have been making over time. The abstract and graphic elements are given. They are works in acrylic on paper, and others on cardboard, where the color is saturated, something like the reminiscences of the color of old houses, when the colors overlap.
It’s like a theme about the vestige, of the old layers that overlap
It is a mix between lyrical abstraction and geometry, very rich and quite particular.
That’s right. I am very interested in lyrical abstraction and now conjugated with geometric abstraction. There is a series that I call Estructuras frágiles (Fragile Structures), in which I consider geometry but in a very free way, not with the strength of the mathematics of geometric abstracts like Mondrian and Malevich. Here the color undoes the color, and the line undoes the line. The limits are not exact. That gives me the idea of a fragility, of a geometry that is more dynamic.
This work that you are showing us has a different line than the one in Arte Original.
This is a different line than the one in Arte Original, which is from 2019. This recent work, from 2021, is more geometric and freer, there is more color. Once I made the artworks for Arte Original, I started this series of Estructuras frágiles (Fragile Structures).
conception of the image.
You have a work of continuous experimentation. In a pandemic situation, together with the situation in Venezuela, how have you faced it to continue to have a fairly clear focus on what you are doing?
When the pandemic started, I was in my workshop, in La Guaira, it took me by surprise, and I stayed for a year and managed to do about 100 artworks in small format in eleven months. I worked with oil and magazines because it was what I had at hand.
In a situation of closure of the artistic circuit, how have you done so that your work continues to be seen
This situation drives away artists. The 1980s and early 1990s were very dynamic in the country, in the cultural movement of all disciplines. In the visual arts, 3 or 4 exhibitions were opened a week, the art market was interesting. There was openness, participation in salons was important. But now with the closure of museums and some galleries, everything has also been reduced, the artistic work remains in the workshop. And even there are artists who have not been able to assume that. The traditional material such as canvases, acrylics is very expensive. That is why it is important what I told some classmates that luckily, I took on the work material of an investigative, experimental nature. There was a course that was called in the Escuela de Artes Plásticas in Caracas, ‘experimental arts’, it was precisely to work, to know materials, supports, how the compatibility of one with another could be worked on, the chemical part of how they worked. I took that workshop experience into account when I was a student and I assume it today. I have worked on wood, paper, cardboard, collage, I have been working on everything, with diluted cement, drawing, even materials that are not artistic such as hardware materials, because one cannot wait for things to be as we would like them to be.
Many artists in this pandemic situation have made use of other non-pictorial materials. And these times have meant an important change in the line that artists have taken. But the fabulous thing is that the artists have not stopped and have always looked for alternative solutions in the resources they have available to undertake new proposals. What maintains everything is the solidity of the formation and that the artists have made new alternatives with creativity.
Do you have any projects for 2022?
I have been working with the same perseverance as always and I would like to exhibit, because I have completed works. I would like to show it and that you see precisely that dynamism that is seen in life. I think that life is like that, it is not static, it is dynamic. As it is dynamic, I want to present the work in this way. I believe that in this way I enter into contemporaneity… into my contemporaneity, my space, and my time. Thus, you stay alive, always with the doubt to learn, and the emotion of having achieved it. It seems to me that the artist must be more dynamic in these times. I would like to expose but the situation in Venezuela is difficult. The exhibition halls are almost nil. There is no incentive.
That’s why we’re here