Farley Aguilar will be among featured artists in the Spinello Projects booth at Art Los Angeles Contemporary (ALAC) January 24 through 27 at Santa Monica Airport’s Barker Hangar. CARTWHEEL founder Cindy Schwarzstein first came across Aguilar with Spinello Projects at the 2011 Miami Art Fairs. When she saw Spinello Projects at 2012 Art Basel, she was excited to learn Aguilar would be at ALAC.
A self-taught Miami-based artist, Aguilar addresses dark, even grim, themes with unflinching honesty in a German Expressionist style. Using his preferred medium of ink on mylar, with something of a watercolor effect, the artist’s haunting images are intense, graphic works with considerable detail.
In this email interview, a preview before his work is shown locally at the ALAC, Aguilar shares some candid insight into his background, process and the significance of his recent Dogville Series:
You left Nicaragua as a young child. Do you remember living there as a little boy? To what extent, if any, did that experience influence your art?
To be honest, I don’t have many memories of myself in Nicaragua, what I remember are stories that my mother has told me and the photographs I have seen in family albums. Of course my parents and brother are Nicaraguans and they in turn influenced the person I am. In that way Nicaragua has influenced me. What was most influential in terms of my work was the fact that we were immigrants and had a sense of trepidation and uncertainty in a new place. This feeling has definitely informed the images and situations I paint.
This statement from your bio is profoundly revealing: “…like Faust, enlightenment leads to self-destruction while ignorance remains blissful.” You seem to gravitate toward dark, disturbing themes in your work. To what degree is your art a product of a search for enlightenment?
I think that enlightenment in terms of philosophy and science will always be turned into something very dangerous and destructive when mixed with the darker sides of our nature. For instance, the atomic bomb or German national socialism of the 1930’s and the way it used the tradition of German philosophy, like Nietzsche for example. Enlightenment in art is less dangerous and has to do, at least for me, with revealing the fallibility of human beings and the power structures they create. All my images are about this essential search.
As a self-taught artist, what motivated you to begin drawing and painting?
I started painting and drawing very late, I was very interested in literature and philosophy way before I thought I could make art. I don’t exactly know why I started practicing drawing at first. I was so bad that I am amazed that I kept going. I know that I really enjoy filtering all the stimulus that surrounds me into an organized statement. It’s also the only activity I have found that intrinsically fulfills me. It feels like its the only thing I can do. There is nothing I would rather do than work on images.
Who–and what–are your biggest influences?
My biggest influence is film. I am constantly watching films. I stopped reading heavily when I began making paintings because I thought that whatever I was reading altered my work too much. I was searching for a different thing to focus on and I found that films had the right effect on my work. Certain films have really resonated with me: Serpents Egg, Dogville, White Ribbon, etc. Germanic thought and art has also been very close to me, I don’t know why I am naturally attracted to it. Some of my favorite painters are Andreas Hofer, Daniel Richter, and George Baselitz.
Why have you chosen ink as your preferred medium for the Dogville Series?
Using ink and mylar came after a few years of working with oils. Even though I still work with oils, the ink can do things more effectively for certain types of images. I found it very natural to work with ink. For one thing, it dries extremely fast and doesn’t give me much time to analyze what I am doing while applying it. It also give the brush stokes a certain muscularity that I like. The mylar has a translucence to it that adds a special effect to the images.
Please explain the genesis of the Dogville Series. What does the term “Dogville” represent? How did the series come about?
Dogville is from the Lars Von Trier film by the same name. I loved the film and I also loved the name for the series I was thinking of making. It captured the mentality I was wanting to get at. The film seemed to have a great deal of truth of how community works and treats strangers. The darker aspects of groups or communities really intrigued me and the paintings are full of anxiety and violence. All my images make explicit the dichotomy between individuals and groups. For me, a group is always an institution that is dangerous to the individual and individuality.
I gather you are a fan of classical mythology. Which myths have made the biggest impression on you, or have influenced your art?
When I was younger, I tried reading lots of different mythology, but none of it made an impression on me. It was not until I came across Nordic mythology that something interested me. My show from 2010, “Ulf,” is very much influenced by Nordic myth. For some reason, this particular system of myth seemed much more accessible to me and closer to my sensibility for story telling through images. I think that they have a more irrational and playful quality to them. I love the idea of the Night elves and Loki. It really clicks with my imagination.
Lead image: Boy With Gun by Farley Aguilar (2012, ink on mylar, 32 X 32 inches)
Spinello Projects Booth
Art Los Angeles Contemporary
January 24 to 27, 2013