ART IN TIMES OF CRISIS
Art by Vanessa Vilchis Garciá
Photo: Valeria Di Guardo
An interview at the Grace Denker Show with the Germany-based Mexican artist Vanessa Vilchis about her latest work "Art in Times of Crisis", which will be auctioned on 05/21/2022 to support the charity DAIYA Kids e.V. - a charity founded to support slum kids in Uganda. The artist answers questions about her work, what art means to her, what inspires her, how she got into art and what is behind her work.
GDG: What is your artistic concept / idea of art? How do you start your creative process, how do you hit a blank canvas/paper etc.?
VVG: The art love is something that runs in the blood, something that you can feel and enjoy, tightly connected to madness and the continuous need to search for yourself and find yourself. I think that art has the power of healing and is a perfect way to express ourselves.
There are moments, there are people, there are little details of everyday life that inspire me to create something, always following the same line of reflecting on life, time, and destiny. My whole artistic process starts with an idea that came from something that has motivated me, and according to what I want to represent, I look for the technique that best helps me to obtain the result I am looking for.
GDG: Why do you make this kind of art? Why is this topic appealing to you?
VVG: A radical shift in my work occurred after my mother’s tragic passing in 2014. Beset by grief and existential doubts, I was overcome by an overall sense of injustice about the cruel arbitrariness of life’s fragility. In an attempt to make sense of this new reality, I became exploring the inevitable transformations and evolution of the human body over time. I challenge the traditional canons of beauty, by painstakingly documenting signs of physical decay and revealing the grace and wisdom of those who are nearing the end.
GDG: What does your artwork represent?
VVG: My art reflects on the meaning of the ephemeral, the quality of time, the need for the body to deteriorate, and the inevitable loss we must face as human beings. My personal story is closely related to my paintings. They have a common denominator, the uninterrupted subject of life and death, its physical and psychological process, strongly joined with what we usually call "destiny".
I usually represent moments and people that have a high impact on me, a perfect example would be the following two artworks that I will be presenting in the exhibition of “Silent Dialogues” at Grace Denker Gallery.
“Art in Times of Crisis” (Picture 1 below)
I finished this oil painting in December 2021
This man-made me reflect on the moment I was living and that we all are living with this pandemic crisis.
I was traveling with my dad in Taxco, a small town in Mexico. This character was sitting with his hand outstretched asking for a bit of money, food, empathy, or maybe love. But everyone seemed oblivious to what was going on around them, they seemed so focused on satisfying their own needs without taking care of others ‘needs.
Once again that moment made me reflect on life and time. This man symbolizes humanity in decadence, affected by crisis and growing self-centeredness.
A humanity that has a lack of love, empathy, and sincerity. A humanity that reaches out for help, convinced that there will be someone who will give it. The help of a hand to take a breath, smile, and move on. We are all in the same situation of becoming old and vulnerable, just as we are all in the same time of pandemic crisis. The reflection of being empathetic with others and knowing that we all need to help and be helped somehow.
“Love in Times of Crisis” (picture 2 below)
Although the protagonists and techniques of these two artworks are very different, there is something that unites them, the theme of crisis interpreted in different ways.
This drawing, made with pencil colors and graphite, and finished in March 2022, is an allegory of what symbolically means to use a mouthguard. In this crisis that we have been living since 2019, we always relate this element with distance, care, empathy, love, and respect for others. Since using it is a way of being able to protect yourself and others from contracting a contagion.
However, also two naked bodies making love, without any distance but covered with a Facemask show an intimate and passionate scene.
A personal story comes close when I had to take distance for 7 months with my husband. The fact of being in different countries in such a difficult time was one of the toughest situations we have ever been in.
This drawing reflects when we finally got back together without giving up, and caring for each other. Little by little, we began to fill ourselves again with life and color by the simple fact of being together again.
This scene represents all those couples who had to find love and refuge in these times of crisis. Being so close and yet so far away from that special person because distance is relative when love and care are real.
Because there is always this need for empathy since you don't know what situations the other person had to face. Because everything is always interpreted in a personal way, but when there is empathy you can see beyond your constant egocentrism and think about the other person.
GDG: How did you get into art?
VVG: From a very young age I started to try different art techniques, at the age of 5 I had this teacher, who demanded too much from me in the first class, she even told me that I wasn't good at drawing. After that experience, I decided that it was not a good idea to continue on that path.
In high school, I had a few art workshops and it was much easier to get inspiration from a teacher who had no creative limits or prejudices as a barrier. Later, at the age of 13, I searched for some oil painting classes outside my school. I became a real fan of this technique and I remember helping many friends with their creative works.
In high school, I enrolled in art history classes and fell more and more in love with art. When it came the time to decide what my career path would be, there was no doubt that I wanted to dedicate my entire life to creating and admiring arts.
Now, although I am Mexican, I live and work in Germany. I received my BFA from Botticelli Institute in Mexico, later I specialized in Modern and Contemporary Art at Casa Lamm Cultural Center and last year in 2021 I achieved a Master's degree in "Art and culture management" at Rome Business School.
I also dedicate myself to performing arts, I love circus and I have been practicing aerial silks for 7 years now. This sport has helped me to understand my body and its capacity. It has helped me to understand the human body in movement and to admire its power and fragility. Since it is a high-risk sport, I found a connection with my paintings. Being suspended in the air depending on each person’s skills and strength is always a risk, so this makes me think about this thin line that exists between life and death as well as I try to capture in my paintings.
GDG: What are your main materials that you work with? What role do the materials play in the finished work of art?
VVG: I consider myself a traditional artist, but I am also interested in my contemporary time, which has led me to master several techniques in my work. Some examples of techniques I manage are: Oil, Acrylic, watercolor, charcoal, pencil Colors, pastels, Gouache, Tempera, Mixed Media, and digital art. Handling various materials allows me to decide the best artistic process for my work.
I decide on a specific technique according to the final work that I imagine at first sight. Despite the result often changes in the process. I think about how I would like it to look and what material would allow me to give it the finish I want.
Every time, I start a new painting, it's as if the work can talk to me. The painting guides me, and often I don't know if it's the right way but I'm not afraid to try. In the end, that's an incredible part of art, the freedom of expression, and being soul cured somehow in the process.
GDG: What does your color palette look like and what criteria do you use to select it?
VVG: My color palette tends to be very varied, although I have few works with light colors. In general, I like dark colors such as brown, blue or black.
I consider myself a real fan of the Baroque chiaroscuro, so I like to experiment a lot with contrasts and this is something that old human skin allows me to do a lot. I live admiring what many would consider "flaws or defects" such as wrinkles, folds, and moles. I consider wrinkles to be a perfect testimony to how time passes on our skin. As we age, new colors and spots appear on the skin, there are always discoveries on that, and that keeps me motivated.
GDG: What is the message behind your creative work? What impact do you think your art can have on the world?
VVG: I like to make people reflect on time, on life, and on how we perceive death.
My hope is for the viewer to pause and appreciate life as is happening now. Although I believe our soul is immortal, our physical existence is transient. We must learn to value those we love, surrendering to the infinity of the present moment. My mother's death changed my way of thinking and acting; it taught me to see life and death differently.
Nowadays we live in such a fast and technological world, glued and dependent on mobile phones or electronic devices, often ignoring the people we have in front of us. Now more than ever the theme of life, of valuing those little moments with people, seems even more important to me because once that person is no longer there, you will regret having preferred to focus your attention behind a screen instead of seeing that person.
About the Interviewer