Mystery, restlessness and tension. Incomprehensible creatures, formless pictures and strange presences occupy the stage expressing hidden impulses. Within a surreal atmosphere surrounded by anxiety, pictorial gesture breaks the silence with a purely material force. Everything becomes real and tangible as those tough and solid colors remind us. Joseba Eskubi is the author of these amazing visions, being one of the main protagonists of the contemporary art scene thanks to a gestural painting that finds its essential traits in the unconscious and instinct.
Born in 1967 in Bilbao, since 1987 the Spanish artist took part in many group exhibitions in his own country but also in Portugal, Italy, Germany, USA and Denmark. Since ’92 for Mr. Eskubi were also mounted some solo exhibition all around Europe. Always on the verge between immobility and movement, light and darkness, his works grow from a background contradiction: the creation of palpable and material images but also the ability of deleting every concrete reading in favor of sensorial reactions. The result is an ambiguous painting, summoning unusual universes with a great suggestion: these are hypnotic pictures directly born on the canvas which tickle the imagination and the touch, where Aristotle’s horror vacui gives room, like a revenge, to a sense of emptiness. Devoted to a constant experimentation and to the practice of different materials and techniques, Joseba Eskubi is successful at finding, with surprising results, possibility to new ways of perceiving the not so remote irrationality reign. Finally, he creates it across a creative process that now he describe to us.
I began drawing a lot. A paper and a pen were sufficient tools for this desire of creating images. Many of those early drawings had a lot of my current work’s characteristics. Later, painting has been occupying most of my activity. The whole experience of meeting other painters has been very enriching too.
Your works appear to be always on the verge between figure drawing and oniric images. Movement, inquietude and abstract world are always mixed up. If you could, how would you describe your art?
I try to create an evocation of a metamorphosis where different elements of the representation seem to be expanded and contracted in a continuous movement of their qualities. It’s a combination of gestures with some compositional order to allow greater intensity in certain areas of the image. Each work has a particular atmosphere, a tone. There are some aspects outside of my analysis but this unconsciousness is perhaps the force that pushes me to keep creating.
You often use classical references as a starting point, manipulating them during the creative process. How would you describe your relationship with these masterpieces?
I am fascinated by the small details of Baroque painting; a gleam, a fold…fragments that generate sensations which are not necessarily linked into a narrative way. On many occasions, my painting process starts from a boost of the old paint, a certain evocative element that generates the desire to rebuild that feeling in a new image. I usually paint above the sheets of classic painting catalogues, manipulating the figures to bring them into a certain degree of abstraction.
Putting in context is not always necessary, especially in contemporary art. How come that you are able to mix up surrealist elements with vaguely baroque details?
From surrealism I am interested in certain aspects such as the creation of an imaginary stage of the representation and the ambiguity of the forms, opening them to multiple meanings. From Baroque painting I am also fascinated by this feeling of excess, its paroxysm where it seems that the image will be collapsed. The dark gloomy funds, from which figures emerge, it produces an interesting tension between the flesh and the surrounding vacuum.
Mixed techniques and different process emphasize your quality as an artist but also the value of your chosen materials. On which grounds your creative process is moving?
Although painting is the main technique of my artistic practice, there are some ramifications, certain techniques that open the work drifts to new perspectives. This is not something planned but it arises during the process as a possibility. Sometimes technical excess leads to sensationalism. It´s necessary a degree of uncertainty, an opening to the accident and the failure.
I feel great affinity with contemporary artists work such as Cristine Guinamand, Luis Candaudap and Damien Meade, just to name some of them. There are also certain painters who are always a reference: Francisco de Goya, Philip Guston..
I could easily think about some names of self referential artists. In your production though, it looks like that one of the maximum expressions of vanity (self portrait) is missing. Is it random or deliberate?
The self portrait genre doesn´t attract me too much. Anytime I’ve tried to do it I find it artificial and forced. Still life presents a compositional axis with a great tradition; a land line, a central figure full of qualities and an atmospheric and silent background. It seems an imaginary figure portrait. Everything is real but at the same time is not subject to a specific referent. The forms have volume and project their shadows. They are profiled but at the same they are also abstract elements that emphasize those aspects of the materiality of the painting process.
What would you answer to those in the contemporary art field who think that painting is anachronistic or just a repetition of something already seen?
It´s true that the painting perception has changed in these recent years…internet has increased the image value compared to the real object. On the other hand, the experience of painting creates a direct encounter with materials and provides us also a launch of all our senses. This “anachronism” is still revealing us new experiences…
How do you see the actual Spanish art system?
I think that the crisis has greatly affected the whole cultural structure and artists have been also resented by this asphyxiating ambient . I hope that this situation will change soon.
Do you think that growing up in a region with such independence claims have in some ways influenced your art? How so?
Inevitably all context influences, although I couldn’t specify details. I would need some distance from this reality to do so.
Your painting is undoubtedly impetuous. Colors appear to be bold, as they were lead by an invisible but delirious and uncontrollable symphony. What is the role of music in your creative process?
Music always accompanies me in the studio as an essential part of process. I like to repeat the same song over and over again until the atmosphere becomes intense and enveloping.
Patience, perseverance…and emotion.
You participated in group exhibitions in the USA and all around Europe, including the last one, “Hipnosia”, in Madrid. Where will we see you next?
The editorial Belleza Infinita is going to publish a book with many of my collages and next April I will make an exhibition in the gallery Artdocks of Bremen with André Schmucki.
Thank you very much for your time and your patience Mr. Eskubi. I really hope to see you soon here in Italy.
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