"I’m constantly collecting thoughts, phrases and images; from around, from conversation, from my own writing. from my every day, to me my practice works as a journal, a kind of diary to record them and make sense of them."
Interview by writer Stephen Feather
Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Where did you study?
I was born and grew up in a very small riverside town in Colombia, when I was 16 my family moved to the the capital city, Bogota, where I lived until aged 19 when I had the opportunity to move to London, where I lived for 5 years. I learned English and got into illustration at Camberwell College of Arts, I realised very early that I was in the wrong course (around the end of the first year) so even though I didn't swap courses or drop out (since I had to stay enrolled for the visa) I stopped following the program of the course and just started painting, which I got away with thanks to Camberwell’s interdisciplinary approach to education ha. After graduating in 2015 I had to leave the UK due to the immigration policies established by Theresa May when she was home secretary in 2012. I relocated with my wife and we ended up in Berlin where I have been working and living ever since.
In your work, you often use recognizable symbols and slogans from mass media alongside more personal and observational statements. How does the relationship between image and text help you to create your own visual language?
Both writing and drawing are equally important parts of my practice, so I would say the relationship between the two is the language on it own; it’s a portrayal of my thinking process. I’m constantly collecting thoughts, phrases and images; from around, from conversation, from my own writing. from my every day, to me my practice works as a journal, a kind of diary to record them and make sense of them. I happen to think both in images and text, so this relationship occurs quite naturally, sometimes the links are evident, other times they acquire meaning in the process of making, maybe a word triggers an image or the other way around, but it’s just the way I think rather than a formula, a lot of it actually was taking shape inside the sketchbook in the younger years of my practise, before I was even able to recognise or embrace what was going on.
In what way has living in Colombia, Germany and England influences your work?
Freedom. It has definitely freed my practice. A lot of what I do revolves around the concept of identity and I think having had to move and relocate both by choice and by force plays a big role in this. Geographical location is directly related to culture, and this in time heavily informs identity. Cultural identity comes with so much cultural baggage which can be very restrictive, so drastic changes of context sort of force change, which can be great ground for developing further, re-inventing and trying new things, in other words it can be the catalyser for a sense of freedom and a wider less restrictive perspective of existence. I grew up in Colombia but London shaped me, both as a adult and an artist, then having to give it up, along with the things I identified with to move to Berlin rebooted the whole thing again and allowed me access to yet another layer of perspective, all of this reflects in the work. I feel British, I feel immigrant, i feel Latino, that complexity adds layers to one's identity and this helped me understand my own identity as a changing fluid process rather a still reality, this in time helped me get rid of a great deal of self-imposed rules that were restrictive to my work.
You’ve worked with your wife, Sophie Vallance, on joint artistic projects. Is collaboration a crucial part of your practise?
We met at university and have been together ever since, sharing experiences that have shaped our professional relationship. We have shared the studio since we came to Berlin, and although our practices are very independent, neither of us has a real separation between the practice and our life, we both make paintings that stem directly from our experiences, so there is bound to be a conversation; we talk about the work even while it’s is in process, we are constantly keeping the other one on their toes, it can be even be something as simple as one of us having mixed too much of a colour that will inform the other one, we treasure that conversation and don't hide from it, is a collaboration in life, and Sophie is one of the most impressive and influential artists I have had the privilege to meet.
Tell us a bit about how you spend your day / studio routine? What is your studio like?
For the past two years I’ve had a studio/living situation in a flat, that is mostly a living room that works as the studio, and I have learned that I thrive in this kind of arrangement. I like to live with my life surrounded by my work, there is not really much of a separation between work and life. I don’t have a daily routine, time goes between buying materials, stretching canvases, cooking dinner, priming, showering, painting, thinking, writing, un-stretching, doing research, eating, cleaning brushes, it’s just part of life, cooking dinner while the layers of primer dry, or taking a shower while ideas sink in, eventually you become so familiar with the work surrounding you that you can switch off between staring at it for hours on end to completely forgetting it is even there.
How do you go about naming your work?
I normally come up with with the titles at the same time that I come up with the idea for the paintings, although sometimes they change as the painting takes shape, it is very much in relation to how i’m feeling about the painting and what the painting is making me feel. The titles are part of the paintings just as much as the words that appear in the paintings themselves, even sometimes what you see written in the paintings was originally supposed to be a title. It’s one of my favorite parts of the process, it feels clever and cheeky because it doesn't matter how direct the phases might get sometimes, there is always a inside joke and I am the only one that knows what it means.
What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?
Recently I’ve been feeling nostalgic about the UK, so I keep finding myself being moved by all sorts of works that press this wound. (Pipe) Dreamer a painting by Thomas Langley that consists of the words “gis a show ”, an installation by a recent Camberwell graduate Bethany Ann Mellor that recreates a Peckham Street front and a tapestry made out of Portsmouth football scarves by Eugene Noble, I haven’t actually had the chance to see any of these works in the flesh, I only stumbled upon them through friends posts and social media, and yet they struck a definite nerve.
Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?
I’m currently collaborating with Athens based graphic designers Yan Petris and Anna Trympali on an artists book which will also conclude with an exhibition in Athens in the near future.
All images courtesy of the artist