My artistic process reflects my life experience, with the cultures of the places in which I have lived, constantly shifting and shaping it. These places include Ecuador (my native country), Paris, Barcelona, and currently New York. It developed through the study of concepts and subjects that either touched or intrigued me, such as human beings’ coexistence with nature. This is evident in my earlier series of works: Entre blanco oscuro y negros claros, Los ungulados, Griots, Silencio, Bridges and Ways, Mannequin, Nómada and, more recently, On the Map. Some address social issues, such as the grave political and economic crisis that led to the largest-ever mass emigration from Ecuador, and, in my latest series, the complexity of the origins and identity of the United States, as a product of ongoing immigration. Others explore strictly aesthetic matters, such as my study of monochromatic colors.
Through each work, I seek to provoke a reaction from the viewer, whether reflection, questioning, empathy or sensitivity, by which to form the basis of a new understanding or perspective on the topic. The media I use have been greatly influenced by my exposure to various cultures, which has widened my horizons and led to the adoption of various techniques. While I mostly use painting, drawing, etching, sculpture, art objects, and installations, I have also used digital art, 3D painting, and animation video to develop a visual language. These techniques have enabled me to express my philosophy of life.
Hi Pablo! Could you tell us how and when your relationship with art started?
I was born in Cotacachi, a small town in the Andes, in the north of Ecuador, which is known as a magical place and has been home for many artists - musicians and artisans famous for their works in leather. Although on my mother’s side there was no particular artistic tradition, on the paternal side of the family, both my grandfather and my father have been musically talented and accomplished in different ways. My grandfather has performed, composed and recorded his popular, traditional in style songs and my father who in addition to his professional career as an attorney and an educator, can play accordion quite well. As a child though, when I lived in Cotacachi with my mother’s family, I had no access to musical instruments nor a motivation to discover if there was a potential for any musical skills.
However, at the age of five I began to show some first manifestations of my visual language, which emerged while at kindergarten. I remember making a drawing of the water can for plants and the reaction of the teacher who was surprised by its high quality. I still carry that feeling of recognition and the joy of discovering on my own that indeed my drawing was good… Then, when I was 7-8 years old, at the request of my elementary school class teacher, I assumed the role of a drawing instructor for my classmates. The teacher would provide me with a photograph which I was asked to draw on the blackboard with chalk colors, so that my classmates would copy it in their notebooks, with colored pencils. At the age of 10, still in elementary school, I won a painting contest in which the teacher read a story and asked the class to describe it in drawing. By 15, my high school vocational counselor recommended that I should switch my education towards the artistic career and that is when started my five years studies at the College of Plastic Arts "Daniel Reyes” in my province Imbabura and received a diploma in painting which “officially” marked the beginning of my professional career as an artist. This opened the door to numerous exhibitions and art competitions, both locally and on the national level.
Wow! What a story of a little artist! We would like to ask…besides the extensive involvement with social areas, your work also explores colors. How do you define and use it in your art?
That usually depends on two factors: one related to the emotional situation I am experiencing at the time impacting the sensory and spiritual need which leads me to choose a type of monochrome I would use. The second factor is the conceptual choice in which color itself could be a fundamental part of the essence of that concept. In, for example, one of my earlier series of work, Between Dark Whites and Light Blacks, I made a study of the monochrome of grays, detaching color as a mere decorative resource in the works. In my series On The Map, on the other hand, I work with colors that descend from popular art. I am referring to the migratory movements which have impacted the American identity and culture. In my 3 dimensional portrait of President Obama, one can connect the blue and turquoise as a metaphor of the risky waters which immigrants had to cross to arrive in America, while sepia symbolises blood and pain experienced in that process. At the same time, while exploring the bright and intensive color palette in my other works from that series, I refer to the pop art and the contribution of the second generation immigrant and his powerful influence on the American and world culture, Andy Warhol. For an immigrant myself and a New Yorker, those dynamic colors have not only become part of my everyday “background,” but also the tools which seem to be more and more in use. However, after a longer period of working “in color,” I miss and come back to the black and white themes….
Do you have an artist who has inspired your own art practice or any artwork in particular that has influenced you?
In college, I met two teachers and artists who had nurtured and motivated certain foundations which I now consider as particularly important in my early years of development as a young artist, the ceramist Jorge Ortega and the painter Edgar Reascos. Not only they were great, knowledgable teachers and creative artists, but they offered me their friendship and encouragement which I have found motivating and help me stay focussed and disciplined. Later, when I was 24, during my first trip to Europe and while living and studying in Paris, I had the opportunity to visit countless art museums and, for the first time, seeing Pablo Picasso's work in person. After my first contact with Picasso’s art, while seeing his works at the Picasso Museum in Paris, the Pompidou Center or the Orsay Museum and a bit later at the Picasso Museum in Barcelona, I have understood why he has had such a extraordinary recognition and place in the history of art. I experienced the Artist’s magnetic power first hand, on myself. Since then I have been following all possible venues where I could see Picasso’s works - whether it was the Museum in Munster/Germany, or the MoMA in New York City, which I visit frequently, each time re-discovering Picasso’s works again, or at the numerous exhibitions, art galleries and fairs. While learning about Picasso’s art process through the books and movies documenting his life and work, I became to admire his determination of staying true to himself. He was not afraid to deny the audience what they would prefer to receive, like eg, “pretty paintings”. Being sincere in his process while facing the risks and challenges of frequently changing creative directions, is what I believe made him stronger, even if that meant financial compromises and rejections before he became famous. I find this inspiring and very motivating. Trying not to put barriers in my technical processes I stay open to explore various ideas and techniques. Also those of them which as an artist I have been growing and modifying through years and that includes painting, drawing, engraving, sculpture, object art, video art, installations or mural painting.
You mentioned that you have been adding techniques through time and places. Which one demanded more of you? And which pleased you more?
Initially, while studding art in Ecuador, I was mostly focused on drawing and painting but later, at the École National Supérieure des Beaux Arts, in Paris, I had an opportunity to learn the technique of etching. A demanding technique, but also fascinating. I have made many of those works which were then shown at a solo exhibition at the La Hune Brenner Gallery, which was located in the Saint Germain des Prés district of Paris. I feel particularly privileged that I was able to study engraving under the direction of Jean Pierre Tanguy, who is recognized as one of the leading abstract artists and who happens to be the grandson of the famous surrealist, Ives Tanguy. At the time I lived in Barcelona, I focused exclusively on developing a special way of painting on cardboard. Some of those works were presented at a solo exhibition at the Museu Molí Paperer de Capellades. Since settling down in New York City, for about 18 years now, I have incorporated different techniques such as painting on multi panels, 3D painting, object art, animated video, into my artistic process which is, I could say, “30 years old.” Searching for inspirations and experimentation with different media have always been a crucial part of my artistic journey, before arriving in front on the blank canvas and bringing shape to the concept. Sometimes the idea happens accidentally… Like when as a child I discovered the joy of drawing in the absence of musical instruments, or when at the very beginning of my move to New York City, because of limited space for making art in larger formats as I shared the apartment with other roommates, I created my multi-panel series of works which led me to variety of exhibition venues. This brings me back to Picasso and an anecdote about him being asked why he painted in blue, in reference with his “blue period.” He answered that he had no other colors available… Picasso was famous for his sharp and good humor, but it is also known that the time he created paintings in blue was one of the hardest periods of his life, both economically and psychologically and it is also known that he had an incredibly strong skill of creating excellent works with a minimum materials.
On the Map, Andy Warhol’s Portrait in 3D, Painting, acrylic on wood, 60 x 60 x 20 inches
As you said, you want to provoke a reaction from the viewer. Can you share with us some reactions that pleased you and pushed you to keep working?
Although I have examples of abstract works which came out spontaneously, as a result of experimentation with color or forms, out of conceptual and intentional context, most of my art process involves issues which I care about and want to address through my art, like the ones associated with social justice, environmental concerns, complexity of human migrations. Or, preservation of identity which was the theme of my probably most important and memorable exhibition, which took place in Quito, the capital of Ecuador, at the Museum of the City in 2000. The 70 works I showed there were inspired by Griots, the African storytellers and musicians, whose role has been the preservation of oral traditions, stories, historical events, marriages, births, deaths etc, then passing them down from generation to generation. I was fascinated by the social and cultural role Griots have played. One day, while I was walking in the Andes, I came across several old, polished by sun and time, animal bones. This inspired a thought that I could incorporate those bones into my sculptures and by doing it - I would give some sense and symbolic continuation to their beings. Although the concept, at its beginning, could be a bit shocking to some, the exhibition turned out to be a great success. The original space of the museum and the installation of candles helped me create an atmosphere of a mystical environment, authenticity and closeness which inspired conversations and questions. It has definitely motivated me to continue my journey as an artist.
Could you describe your work in one word?
Anything planned for your future? New mediums, art residencies, webinars that you would like to share with us?
In October 2021, I will have a solo show at CJ. ONE Gallery, in New York City. Then in September this year I will participate in a group exhibition at the Spectrum Art Fair in Brooklyn, New York. In November, I will be part of a show involving 38 international artists. This exhibition will be combined with a presentation of the book entitled: Pandemic Art 1.0 published by the magazine and art platform ARTICULATE, in Norway. After the encouraging experience of presenting my book On the Map, together with a documentary video at the MUNA National Art Museum in Quito - Ecuador as well as the American Center for Art & Culture in Paris - France and at the Fondazione Opera Campana dei Caduti in Trento - Italy, I plan to continue sharing that material in other venues and countries. My optimism of making this happen comes from the recent news on the lowering numbers of the Covid 19 infections and hope that life goes back to “normal”, whatever it means…
Pablo, we are so happy to hear that you have planned lots of projects! That is great!
Last but not least, please share some social media where we can follow you!