Have you ever discovered a piece of work that jolted you into a visceral awareness? Not simply a feeling of truly being present at the moment with that work; but seeing and breathing the illustration and markings of your person within this work? That experience has presented itself only a few times thus far in life. The first was when one discovered the words of William Shakespeare. Those words, “Age I do abhor thee; youth, I do adore thee”, awakened ones consciousness so deeply at the time, that it spurred in me a will to live my life to the very fullest, with optimism, enthusiasm, and a sense of unbridled joy.
Those words emblazoned in me an act of courage that anything was possible if one truly worked hard at it. It also rewarded one with the knowledge that in youth, one is privileged enough to cultivate the very stepping stones and relationships that, if lucky, will stand any test when harvested and nurtured. It was a feeling of knowing that nothing in this life can ever be done on one’s own; that we, as natural beings, cannot survive by means of sheer will alone. Our life cycle itself is a collaborative experience; it is a giving and a taking. A working together to make all components of that cycle function fully and to the very best.
The other experience was the first time I heard the magnificent and commanding instrument of the great singer Jessye Norman. The power, the playfulness, the richness and strength, and the colors; oh the colors that superhuman goddess could conjure up just with the use of her single voice – it was life-changing, life-affirming, and an absolute masterclass in claiming one’s space; always being present, and recognizing that power lies deeply in the enclaves of the soul and spirit. Not by exertion or force; but in absolute stillness.
On discovering the paintings of the Colombian artist Vianey recently, I found myself again permeated with a similar, although this time much more contemplative reaction. Regarded as one of the most influential Colombian artists of our time, Vianey has been living and playing with colors on canvas for over twenty years. His extensive catalog of works, which includes painting and sculpture, have been recognized for their contributions to the development of modern art, and have come to signify distinctive, playful caricatures, use of bold, vibrant coloring, and originality in technique and composition. “I have always found bold colors to be powerful to the senses, so they are very important in my work,” said the artist. “I want people to feel something deeper when they view my work; that they too are a part of the painting and the story.”
The colors come together from all sides to form a perfectly original and unique center, revealing the crux of the piece: the protagonist, or lead character. A flamboyant creation, or caricature, spawned from the artists own imagination, these central figures – made fluid by the artists use of streaming broad strokes – are statuesque, pointed and concentrated in expression; and although at first deceptively simple or ordinary in their structure and detail, draw nearer and one finds an earnestness and yearning, an offering of sorts, in each of them. Whether it is Vianey’s Scaramouche-like character “The Gardener”(which appears in many of the artist’s catalog of works) or the almost downtrodden lady “Liberty” protruding off the canvas as if glaring at the world and ruminating on how the very meaning of what she stands for may be swaying, the paintings always carry some hidden message. Perhaps this is why the artist’s works and technique have come to be known in Latin America as the “Vianey Technique.”
It is also perhaps no coincidence that when one first views a piece by Vianey, the word that usually pops out is “cool.” In fact, much like Warhol’s “Pop Art,” the artist is the founder of a movement of art known as “Cool Art.” “Everyone who used to see my work would always say it was cool, and then it sort of grew to become a thing, especially in Latin America. So I guess it happened organically.”
His artwork is so ‘cool’ that he has not only been involved in collaborations with the likes of fashion designers, shoe brands, interiors, and more, he has also been commissioned to create special pieces for notable commemorative events. In 2011, Vianey’s acclaimed painting “Liberty” was the only work by a Latin artist (of works from over 20 influential artists – including filmmakers Oliver Stone and Michael Moore, singer Jon Bon Jovi, and actor Nicholas Cage, amongst others,) to be exhibited at the opening of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum in NYC. “That was a great honor to be in such great company, and for a great cause.”
Vianey’s works have been exhibited in over 13 international exhibits and shows worldwide at some of the most prestigious galleries, museums, and venues including The Chelsea Art Museum, London’s South Bank, The National Museum of Colombia, Leonard Tourne Gallery, The Consulate Of Colombia, The American Gallery in New York, and the Antara Gallery in Mexico City. His works can also be found in numerous private collections internationally. “A lot of my work is in private collections,” says Vianey. “Over the years, my collectors have been devoted to my work, so I sell a lot of my work privately.”
The artist is now hard at work on a new series of works to be exhibited in Europe, Asia, Oceania in 2020/2021. We will no doubt see the introduction of yet another exciting new character in his paintings join the ranks of his already mainstay caricatures. And if we are lucky, we may learn a little bit more about ourselves through them; and always with a rainbow of bold colors to make us seem a little more interesting.
Three different experiences; three different art forms; yet all equally uncompromising in their power to elicit from its spectator a will and a charge to plow on in all ones glory. With all of one’s colors (for we are of many grains and colors), all of one’s imagination, and yes, one’s undying need for our voice to be heard without restraint.
all images // courtesy of the artist