Some people say that Ernesto Artillo is a way to go back to the concept in art, to understand that the final result is just a mental process. I’d rather say your works look more like the final step in a long training path.
I totally agree. In reality, I’ve realized the way I work while I was giving interviews; when people asked me to do something, I did what I felt like doing, and this happened just as much when I used to work for Tendencias as now. Only later I can see the explanation, and it might be true that I try to put in some things from Greek sculpture, the Renaissance, dance, and other passionate elements, but the process is natural. For the most part, it’s a process charged with influences; memories from when I was young and I gave painting classes, my sister, who is a bailaora, my father’s collages, my mother’s decorations, and my friends.
Fashion. Has it been just a place you got to by chance? I mean: is fashion just a catalyser of what you’re capable of, another element in the collage, as important as the others, but not your final idea?
That’s it. Fashion is a circumstance. It doesn’t mean I’d like to go out of this world, because I like the way I look at it. I like the aesthetic part, the creativity, and most of all I like being able to transform it into something that has nothing to do with it: in feelings, in places. I suppose in my works I don’t talk as much about fashion directly, I deal with other themes, too. Anyways, in order to make something innovative in the fashion world right now, you’ve really got to go astray from the pure concept of “fashion”.
What would you like to get across from your point of view on fashion?
(He thinks for a moment). I think I’d like fashion to be seen from a point of view that is more similar to art; to understand fashion as a tool for developing and expressing one’s self both personally and artistically. Think of fashion as something somewhat distant from consumerism and stereotypes. There are a lot of people humming a commonplace that kills me: that thanks to Zara, now people dress a lot better. I don’t believe so. I think people wear more impersonal clothes. That’s not natural; fashion is something very powerful from an aesthetic point of view, we have to see it as something more emotional.
Almost in every interview you end up mentioning your father and his passion for collage, alongside with the artisanal approach you have. Your work feels really human. Are you trying to escape from the digital?
Not at all, in reality I’ve never thought seriously about collage before moving to Madrid! I think it came out of the concept of breaking fashion, physically, to make something different. I really like the artisanal part of it: painting with fine and broad brushes; but working in fashion means also working to the smallest detail, and in order to do so, you have to resort to digital technologies if you don’t want to lose in terms of definition. Still, it’s true: I’m getting more and more keen on staining my hands and cutting things.
Mixing disciplines: is it a pro for the opportunities it opens up or a con for the overwhelming thoughts about all the possibilities?
I love being able to always try new things, keeping on learning, getting into things that have nothing to do, new collaborations… I think my mother and my father gave me the best possible education, and that I was very lucky because, since I was a child, they’ve made me believe that I could get to do whatever I wanted. Saying it with all humility, I’m not afraid. At least I try, even though I still have a lot to learn. I’ve studied photography by taking photos; I suppose this attitude must be related to the restlessness we all have inside.
You were saying that you had a tendency to keep things in order, and that collage was a way to break with this habit. Renaissance painting is also one of your references, and symmetry and proportions played an important role in it. The collages you make, is that a way to challenge your own eyes?
It totally is. I love challenges, on the professional and on the personal side. My friend Pedro always keeps telling me I should relax, I should forgive myself; right now I’m looking for this chance to get mistaken, I’m looking for a disaster, for spontaneity. I’m very happy at the moment because I’m doing an exhibition with other photographers in Valencia and it’s about the new ways or concepts to see fashion. They are going to show some photos of mine were models look really ugly; ideal girls, with a perfect make up, but with strange faces and gestures. In my opinion, this is much more authentic, it’s much more meaningful! In ugliness, in treacherous gestures, an enormous beauty is hidden.
You also mention Picasso and Matisse. Is it possible to find classical beauty, the taste for these proportions, in a more chaotic space?
The fact is that references are difficult to be seen, but hey! They still are right there. I love Matisse’s colours, Picasso’s cubism, but I’m surprised people could find it!
I’m not meaning to trivialize or to get a more light-hearted approach, but you’re a cool guy, very approachable.
Well, I don’t know, I do feel lucky because people treat me so kindly. I’m really thankful for the respect they tribute me, and I suppose it’s because I work so hard, or at least I suppose so. Maybe… I don’t know, I can only be thankful.
I wonder, since I was really bad at this kind of things at school… How do you know where you have to cut? What makes you decide where you should start making your cuts?
You can sorely fail, but that’s what’s cool about it. Once you’ve cut, there’s no way back; this thing that you cannot have the original once again, that you don’t have any room for choosing again after you’ve made the cut, forces you to keep going. I suppose collage is more about what you quit than what you leave be.
How many times can you change the disposition of a collage?
A lot of times. I’m a super perfectionist, and I really think about it, even though I don’t do any preparatory sketches. I start working, but calmly and carefully, placing cuts again and again. I’m very meticulous.
How many times have you heard the word collage, and what is the weirdest form of pronouncing it you’ve heard?
Surprisingly, nowadays the pronunciation is more or less under control. People get more mistaken when they think about how they should call me: collageador, collagero, collagista… (possible ways to call someone who makes collages in Spanish, NoT). It’s like when they ask you, “what are you?” Frankly I don’t know, flamenquito, fusion, something like that… I have no idea! People often use the word “artist” to define me, and I thank them for that, but I think I still have to work harder and be more honest with what I do to deserve being called that way. I think that if you’re working on assignment, with a brand behind you, with briefings… The word “artist” sounds a bit too pretentious. Maybe collagist could be better. The word Art sounds so big to me, something mystical. I feel a lot of respect for it.
Málaga. What did Málaga teach you?
Málaga is the basis; it’s my parents, the beach, the light, folklore, education, Andalusia wildness, childhood fears, the path to maturity, and my first love stories… Possibly they were the most important years, because later everything gets much more serious. Madrid put some order in all this apprenticeship; it gave me chances to develop all that I had learned during those years, a stable relationship, opportunities, and most of all, a city with a character of its own. Madrid is like Penelope Cruz in “Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona”, a woman who is half crazy, that sometimes you would like to send to outer space, but that captures and fascinates you deeply.
What’s going to happen now in Ernesto Artillo’s life?
I want to enjoy, more and more, because before everything was much more stressful. I’m going to do more collaborations with designers, I’m going to exhibit –I have planned an exhibition in Málaga which I’m really looking forward to– and keep on learning. And take advantage and care for the relationships I’m building with designers, because they really give you strong responsibilities.
I’ve read you saying in an interview: “I wish the people loved me madly, and that I loved more and more each and every one of my defects. And I wish I could perfect the recipe for my tortilla de patata”. How’s it going with the recipe?
My tortilla de patata is one of a kind, mind you! I’ve discovered my biggest, hidden talent. I really enjoy it; here in Madrid, in La Dominga, they have a pincho that shares my secret, caramelized onion. That’s gorgeous.
We ask this question at the end of every interview here at La Monda. We give you the first part of a sentence and then it’s up to you to complete it. So, “Artistic expression as a way of defending…”
Interview: Ane Guerra
Web: Ernesto Artillo