Interview by Javier Melian for www.thepalettepages.com
PASSION AND TRUTH by Javier Melian
Santiago Alcon was born in the Andalusian town of Jerez de la Frontera, next to its bull ring. As a child he trained in classical drawing and sculpture; very technical disciplines but an excellent foundation for future work. Especially in this part of Spain, traditions are very important and art depictions are classical and religious, with most local artists adhering to these canons.
As a young artist on a journey of self discovery and creative freedom, he left his very supportive family in shock when he decided to move to Scotland to study at the Edinburgh College of Arts. No surprise that shortly after arrival he developed Seasonal Affective Disorder aka. ‘Winter blues’, resorting to using intense colours that would give him the warmth he craved. He brought the colours and light from Andalucía, as well as the stark contrasts between bright light and shades you see on Spanish streets and alleyways, as in the north of Europe light blends in a different way in urban landscapes.
He started painting on glass as the colours remain more vivid, liking the versatility of this media as it can be used in combination with architecture to create unique environments. Santiago is fond of the special relationship between glass and light, especially natural light. On the downside, the final effect could be almost uncontrollable if the piece is displayed in a space where artificial lighting is either too light or too dark.
When he paints on glass, he works in a horizontal position, on up to four pieces at the same time. This is because, when working on only one piece, there is too much of a tendency to ‘overcook’ it, and there is no Undo button afterwards. It also requires the mental effort to paint the reverse image of what the viewer sees, as that is what this technique demands.
Once colours were his allies, he then focused also on movement, spending time at dance schools doing live drawing of dancers in motion. It was tricky to capture the actions at such speed but curious Santiago learnt a lot about human expression.
Mood and state of mind are always present in Santiago’s visceral art, although not always for the right reasons. Art has contributed to alleviate certain dark episodes in Santiago’s life, specially a dreaded night out in his last year of University in Edinburgh. At the early hours on a weekend he was leaving a bar with four friends when a group of ‘men’, to call them something, got out of the car with crow bars, and without warning or provocation, beat them to the ground. They had been “gay bashed”, that’s the unfortunate expression. He regained consciousness in hospital. One of his friends had critical skull injuries that could thankfully be reconstructed with surgeries.
Santiago made this pillar sculpture in painted glass, of his four blood headed friends after the attack. The collector who bought it flattened to fit a space, and loved it thinking the subject was frenetic dancers. There is certainly a lot of tension and movement in the piece after all!. How much an image can change when you know the story behind it, as the ultra violence I now see makes my stomach turn despite its beauty. Instead, for Santiago, that was a catharsis that helped him get rid of the trauma of the situation.
Another much milder example of Santiago’s symbiosis of art with his own emotions was a period of friction in his relationship. He was clearly angry at a situation that lasted for over a month and ended in reconciliation. Over this period, he painted this stunning “war and peace” where you can contemplate the scene with the two heads finally meeting.
Human relationships have always inspired Santiago, and he is now working on ‘double portraiture’ as he calls them. These are portraits of two people, not necessary couples. He is also
working on specially commissioned pieces for www.Chrom-Art.org opening show next April in London, versed on the instinct aspects on human psyche. I absolutely love Santiago’s work, not only
because his unique vibrant colour palette, movement and emotion, but for the rawness and unavoidable truth in his art.
Self taught or art school?
Classically trained in my hometown of Jerez de la Frontera in Andalucia, I studied drawing Ancient Greek and Renaissance sculpture. I moved to Scotland in 1999 to attain a Degree in Drawing & Painting at Edinburgh College of Art.
If you could own one work of art what would it be?
I don’t feel compelled to own any one work of art. I am happy to enjoy works of art exhibited in publically accessible spaces where anyone who wishes, has access to it. If you were to metaphorically ‘twist my left arm’ (I am left-handed) any work of art by Peter Doig would be exciting.
How would you describe your style?
People say my style of art possesses a unique relationship with light and produces an atmospheric interpretation of reality…I like to think it’s just ‘my style’. I do enjoy exploring the effects of light, the blurred boundaries of perception and for me, the intimate connection between both image and word.
Process is as important to me as my final piece of art. I intentionally ensure traces of initial drawing in charcoal and pencil remain visible in order to add an
extra dimension to my work. In doing so, I merge the various layers of my technique together to create the finished painting on either glass or canvas.
My style is influenced by my experience of everyday surroundings, events and associated emotions, which I document using different mark-making materials to create a visual diary. My paintings
feature figures held in ambivalent spaces that are simultaneously recognisable and abstract. My body of work revolves around how I interpret my environment and capture human energy. I would like
observers to think of a world that it is beyond classic form and proportion.
Where are your favourite places to view art?
The best art in London is found in both the internationally renowned galleries and museums as well as in east London’s smaller independent galleries (which can often provide amazing surprises).
Who are your favourite artists and why?
Peter Doig, George Condo or Chantal Joffe are for me amazing artists… all capable of portraying a very intimate version of reality.
What or who inspires your art?
London in its best and worst moments that range from a great night out, to tedious morning commuting.
Where’s your studio and what’s it like?
I have recently moved to the Bermondsey Project (part of Bow Arts) in South London and it has been the best decision. I have already produced work I’m really happy with and met some really cool artists that have already agreed to explore the potential of collaboration.
Do you have any studio rituals?
I tend to work better later at night after a good cup of coffee. Before painting anything I tend to stare and spend some time working with sketches, images, postcards etc.
What are you working on currently?
I’m working on a series of dancers as couples. I’m defining ‘couple’ in the broadest sense e.g. girl friends, old mates , just met, family, society created couples, etc.
Where can we buy your art?
The next time my art will be exhibited will be as part of the annual Art For Youth charity event held at the Royal College of Art. For any enquiries or commissions please contact me at www.santiagoalcon.com