Interview: Nelo Vinuesa


Valencia, Spain


Hi Nelo, first of all we want to wish you a happy new year and wish you great success in 2020! Please tell us a little about yourself and your path into the world of art.

Hello, I am delighted with this interview, it is a fantastic way to start the new year, happy 2020 for you too!

Well, I was born in 1980 in Valencia, Spain, and I grew up in a town outside of the city. Since childhood I was interested in painting and drawing. I remember that my favorite encyclopedia was twelve volumes about the universal history of art and another one about wildlife. Art and nature were always present and I often did excursions to the countryside with my family or we went to visit science and art museums like the paleontological museum or Pio V gallery. Later, as a teenager I began to be interested in everything related to computer graphics and I spent many hours researching, trying to learn software and programming in the pre-internet era. Honestly, I was a complete nerd.

That is the reason why I started my art studies at the Faculty of Fine Arts of San Carlos in Valencia, I wanted to know more and I thought that it was the right place, it was not the case. The computers were primitive in those days and the professors knew nothing about graphic software. I was very disappointed but something unexpected happened to me when I started mixing colors at my painting classes, and I have been completely connected to this discipline since then. During my junior year of college I continued my studies at the Aristotle University in Thessaloniki in Greece. It was an interesting moment because I learned a lot about myself and it was a turning point in my personality. But it was when I was a senior after I got back to Spain when I met my art project professor and painter José Sanleón and everything changed to me. At that time he was preparing a great exhibition that was shown in Esslingen in Germany, and he offered me to be his assistant during the process. I accepted and it was absolutely revealing because I learned a lot from this experience about how the artist’s reality is, both
personally and professionally. I was lucky, I found in him a great friend and master.

Shortly after I had my frst solo show, I won some painting awards and started working with several Spanish galleries and participating in various exhibitions and fairs around Europe. Parallel to my pictorial research, I formed the “Bimotor” duo with my talented friend and university colleague Samuel Ortí, with whom I created interactive, sound and experimental kinetic sculptures for several years. My interest in collaborating with other artists also led me to form the duo “Zoo & Lander” with my also dear friend and painter Nico Munuera, on this occasion to explore aspects related to audiovisual, photography and painting.

I was always interested in exploring new ways of painting and in 2012 I won a prestigious grant to work in London for a year and develop an audiovisual project focused in aspects involving landscape, architecture and perception of time and space. The result was “Wild Pulse”, a series of video-paintings where surrealism, symbolism, figuration and abstraction combined to explore the poetics of the city landscape. Based on this project I made a great sculptural installation called “Treasure Island” inspired by the London Financial district. The piece has been shown in European cities such as Berlin, Prague, Warsaw, Bucharest and Paris among others. Finally, about four years ago I was awarded to work at “La Casa de Velázquez” residence in Madrid, where I could continue my pictorial research. Currently I am based in Valencia and for the past two years I have been working in my studio here.

You often use many colors, combining them in your work, we would like to know more about your practice!

I am very interested in this topic and I enjoying reading about history, perception, and the psychology of color. I find fascinating to analyze the evolution of human beings from the anthropological perspective of color and how this concept has been transformed throughout history. One of the first books I read about this issue and that influenced me the most was “Chromophobia” by artist David Batchelor, who through many references like art, literature, cinema or architecture, analyzes eloquently aspects like color meaning in western culture.

As part of my creative process, I’m currently investigating the interaction of color from a wide palette. For this purpose, I mix my own oil painting colors in different dilutions. Afterwards, I design charts to write down some basic observations such as proportions used in each color. My main objective is to visualizes different palettes and combinations that recall psychological states based on my own memories and personal experiences. I do this work as an observation exercise that functions as a visual training and it helps me to internalize chromatic patterns, that later, during the execution of the paintings appear unconsciously. Thus, my work method is based in intuitively process, without direct references or previous sketches. The canvas works as blank sheet and all decisions (color choice, brushstroke size, painting density, composition…) are taken fast, directly and automatically and thus everything that happens inside the canvas will be a new find. This kind of process is risky and usually frustrating but each mistake is a lesson, although sometimes, when I fully connected in a good flow, each painting is like an opened window.

Tell us about your new series of works, what ideas and moods are embedded in it?

In my work I try to relate to landscape poetics from an abstract approach. The color’s intensity or subtlety, the variation of pressure when I’m executing a stroke, as well as the composition, try to express primitive and universal emotions and feelings through the experience of action painting. Sometimes I picture someone reading a painting like in graphology, being able to identify the artist, describing their psychological state at the moment of creating an artwork. Therefore, honesty is the starting point because painting to me is a way of self knowledge.

From this idea, I am working on a series of oil paintings using different surfaces, mainly linen and paper, although I have begun to research with aluminum because it allows me to make more direct and smooth strokes on it. So far I have worked for the most part with small and medium size canvases. I like these scales because they are more intimate and I have more control, but at the same time I am really interested in working on large formats because in them the relationship between my body motion and the different tools used to paint are completely different, and it is necessary to understand the mechanics of movement and space in the making of the paintings. Something similar like when a climber explores a new mountain route. This idea of exploration is always present in my work and in my interest on landscape, nature and life in general. Literature, documentaries and movies inspire me, but it is climbing, alpinism or walks in the botanical garden what connects me with the wild. This way, I can reflect on philosophical issues related to our deepest feelings and emotions that I source from to paint. I do not know any other way.

Wow, climbing, it seems you didn’t tell everything about yourself in the first question 😀 In addition to loving nature, are you an extreme person?

No way! I know my limitations. Climbing is a safe sport if you follow the rules, although nature often is unpredictable. Once, climbing a mountain with my dear friend and also artist Rubén M. Riera, the weather suddenly changed and a terrible blizzard caught us off guard. The dense fog left us blind and deaf for a while; temperatures dropped and I thought my frozen ears were going to fall off. Everything around me was confusingly white, I was scared and feared for my life for the first time ever. Nature challenges our ego and fragility and teaches us many lessons about humility, respect, friendship and love. I am not sure if feeling this is extreme, but to me it is more risky to experience life comfortably only through a screen.

You have a fairly spacious studio, tell me what kind of place it is? It seems you are sharing it with Alex Marco.

Yes, I met Alex Marco about 6 years ago. At that time we had our respective studies in the center of the city, and as neighbors we visited each other frequently. We shared many ideas and a big enthusiasm for art and thus, a beautiful friendship started between us. Later on, a couple of years ago, our mutual friend and artist Alberto Beltran offered me a space in his studio, an old furniture factory located outside of Valencia. When I saw it, it was love at first sight and only the day after I started cleaning and painting the walls. It is a wonderful place, very spacious and luminous – perfect for a painter. Currently, in addition to Alex Marco and Alberto Beltran I share the studio with Jose Luis Cremades, Manu Blázquez, Antonio Gonzalez and Maria Tinaut, all they professional artists and friends whom I deeply admire and respect. However, at the beginning I was not sure if I could adapt well because to me intimacy is very important during the creative process. Over time I have grown to appreciate the advantages of sharing a space with people with similar interests and at the same time with different perspectives about life in general. This year we are preparing an Open Studio and show the painting that is being made in
Valencia, which in my opinion is at a very good momentum. You are all welcome to visit us!

It sounds great, it is very interesting to visit your event and see the work of your collective! Will it be something like a one-day show? Are there any approximate dates?

Yes, that is the idea, or maybe a couple of days during a weekend. The show will take place between the spring and the summer, probably in May.

Could you describe your daily work day in the studio. How do you start work, what kind of music accompanies you, maybe some habits.

I go to the studio almost every day. Normally I get up early in the morning and on the way to the train station I stop by the bakery to buy fresh bread as part of my daily ritual. During the 20-minute train ride to my studio I usually read; a moment I really appreciate. Sometimes I like going to the gym or the swimming pool before starting my day off. The facilities are very close to the studio and I usually go between two and three days per week. This helps me to stay fit. For me the balance body-mind is fundamental and I know that it is when I am the healthiest and strongest when I have a greater mental strength.

When I finally arrive to the studio, I make coffee and I usually start by organizing the space, cleaning and reviewing materials just produced to visualize the right direction before starting to paint. Afternoons are usually more relaxed, but this depends on the projects. Personally I prefer to paint during the morning, or late in the evening, specially in the summer. The rest of the day I do other things like take photos, prepare canvases, mailing…

Lunch time is sacred for me. I hate processed and fast food, I appreciate the pleasure of cooking as I consider eating one of the greatest pleasures in life. Moreover, I really enjoy this moment because it is also when I meet my colleagues around the table and we chat about everything, we comment on the latest news, we drink coffee… and this is something deeply rooted in our Mediterranean culture and I think it is important to preserve this type of habits that connect people.

In relation to music, the soundtrack of the studio in general is classical music stations. In my space there is more of a musical variety. I usually listen to all types of music when I am working on mechanical processes such as cleaning, preparing canvases, mixing colors… according to the level of energy and mood I choose different genres: rock, pop, heavy metal, electronic music… But when I’m painting I only do it with classical music, jazz, blues or flamenco, probably because at that precise moment I need to connect with deep psychological aspects that this type of music often evokes in me. However, sometimes, if the day is calm, without noise and activity around, I do not listen music and try to connect with silence as a form of meditation.

What inspires you the most in your work?

As I said, I like topics related to exploration, nature or science. When I was a child I thought that I wanted be a geologist or an astronomer. I was very curious about the mysteries of the universe. Years later, when I lived in Madrid I often visited the National Mineralogical Museum, an incredible place with hundreds of fossils, minerals and gems in its collection. There, I found a large geological map of the Iberian Peninsula and each area was colored in a different hues based on geological deposits. That image makes me think about the organic nature of borders and their representation. It was an incredibly abstract image and it automatically caught my attention. Since then, I search for this type of images and buy books with geological maps and images related to crystallography, which also interests me. Cartography and in particular the concept of the map have a huge symbolic load and in some way, this idea is present in my painting practice.

My paintings are made of multiple references since I do not try to imitate an existing image but to generate a new one. It is for this reason that nature as a whole inspires me above all things, specially the least visual parts that you can appreciate through other senses such as smell, hearing or touch. Nature’s power and events like storms, a blizzards, dense fogs or the feel of my freezing hands descending from a summit are very inspiring to me when I make art.

What are your goals for this year?

This year I want to focus on my work. I want to make some large format paintings and spend more time drawing and making sculptures. Also, I want to travel to Mallorca in the spring. It is such a magical island and I would like to spend a few weeks there writing between the sea and the mountains. I am also working on an artist book and have an exhibition at the end of the year.

Thoughts you would like to share with our readers.

Last year I was invited twice to give a talk at the University of Fine Arts in Valencia. Most of the students were interested in learning about professional issues like market related stuff, or “success”, without them even knowing and understanding very well what is that. But I also explained some interesting thoughts about my practice that I would like to share with your readers.
On the one hand, I talked about my opinion that contemporary art is not only about the idea, not everything works. It is essential to understand the balance between concept and form. It is for that reason that I spend a lot of time researching and improving my technique. I have learnt to flow and adapt to new situations, opened to change when self-imitation appears in order to find a fluid and organic way to express myself. To me, art is the expression of the self, it relates to emotion and feelings and its purpose is to project one’s inner universe onto the outer world, and not the other way around. On the same note, connected with the concept of change I explained why in my work there have been successive transformations, specially the last one. When I was younger I was very interested in exploring technology’s potential in relation to painting and for so long I worked using extrapictorical materials, digital tools and complex processes to make art. This initial interest in pictorial representation related to the technological was sincere, but probably have diminished considerably. On the one hand due to the over saturation of hyper-designed images in the multimedia world. On the other hand because I discovered that the working method should not be too restrictive and although the technique is important, it should not be excessively complex or mechanical not to limit our natural expression. I believe art can only exist where there is absolute freedom.

To conclude, I would like to say that shortcuts are not useful in painting. Everything needs its own time and painting is a clear example of it. I firmly believe that painting is a revolutionary act of rebellion that is opposed to the superficiality of fast consumption these days. Painting is not just a simple image, it’s alive. It has its own voice and presence. With my work I try to reach a way of making more sensitive art in a world that in my opinion needs more poetry and less vanity.

>>To view the current online show of  Nelo Vinuesa on Artsy follow the link<<

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