Figurative painting has always portrayed the individual, mostly focusing on the psychological aspects. But what if one wanted to paint the ideological part that moves humans as a whole? How does one depict the ideology hidden behind the large masses of human beings?
Graphic derives from the Greek graphikós, meaning "drawn" or "written." A graphic representation can be a drawing or picture that shows information. The graphic also relates to the use of graphs to display data. When one needs to depict immense scenes beyond the reach of our vision, such as our solar system or the universe, a way to do it is through graphic means. Through graphs, it is possible to display huge amounts of information that wouldn’t be able to be shown otherwise. Graphic descriptions can produce very clear, detailed, and powerful mental images.
Arrival to Mexico
When I arrived in Mexico, the artist Abel Galvan was waiting for me at the airport accompanied by his good old friend, whom I don’t remember his name, only that he had a big shaggy beard and a big old, bumped-up car in which we drove to Abel’s studio, downtown. After walking up a flight of stairs and Abel opening the door, I was surprised. There, with expressions of expectation, were all Guadalajara's artists, poets, musicians, and radio people, giving me a most hearty welcome. One by one, they introduced themselves, some reciting their poems with such emotion that they cried, others with dance steps, others pulling coins out of their pockets to show me what was worth what, and last but not least, the presenter of the city’s major cultural radio station, who came out of the kitchen wearing a chefs apron and handing me a large Tequila. I gladly accepted the drink, and when I tried to make a speech, I almost couldn't because of the overwhelming emotion. I was not used to such expressive and dramatic feelings; I had never experienced this in the places where I had lived. That night, before falling asleep, I decided I would live in Mexico.
Abel gave me a tour of the city, and then I looked for a place to rent. After a week or so, I found a place that seemed ideal for painting and living. Overall, I was struck by how Mexican architects treated the interior versus the exterior when designing homes. For example, when being outside in the street, as in any urban environment, I was surrounded by concrete, smog, telephone poles, electric cables, and the noises of buses, trucks, and so forth. Still, the minute I walked into a house, it was like walking out into the countryside. Inside there were trees, flowers, chickens, and waterfalls. Every home I visited in Guadalajara was like a little natural paradise.
I embarked on a quest to find new ways to incorporate text into my paintings. I started with a series of studies using stencils.
The bombing of Iraq began. Again! While I experimented with the stencils, I painted a series of oils about the sufferings of war.
After watching the news coverage of the bombing of Iraq and seeing how much power the media had in our perception of reality, I immersed myself in a series of paintings of people reading newspapers. The newspaper texts were painted by hand with a #0 brush. But if one looks at them closely, they are not actual words that can be read. They are painted in a way to suggest that they are real words. They are painted in an impressionistic style.
I met Pablo Guerrero of Pablo Guerrero Gallery, the son of Jesus Guerrero Santos, a well-known and established ceramist. Many of his pieces had been commissioned by the Vatican, including pieces made especially for Pope John Paul II during his visit to Mexico for the canonization of St. Juan Diego. Pablo offered to represent my work in Mexico. He organized an exhibition of my drawings. The morning before the opening, I received a call from an art dealer and picture framer. She told me that Pablo had handed her my drawings to be framed for the exhibition and that a client had just entered the shop and bought a couple of them ahead of the show. The name of the art dealer was Patricia. She offered to handle my art in Mexico, assuring me she could easily sell my work. I told her that I was already committed to Pablo Guerrero Gallery. Some years later, Patricia would become one of my most fervent and supportive art dealers.
Up until now, the texts of the newspapers in my paintings were not meant to be read. As I mentioned earlier, the texts were painted in such a way as to give the impression of being real. Now I wanted the texts to be readable. Being it almost impossible to paint such long, repetitive text using a brush, I found another way to do this, through silkscreen! Silkscreen printing is a stenciling method that involves forcing ink through a pattern cut into silk or other similar cloth, stretched across a frame, called a screen.
The Technique that I Used
I first created my text in photoshop. I took the text and printed it out onto a transparent acetate film that would be used to create the stencil. I coated the screen with a layer of light-reactive emulsion, which would harden when developed under bright light. I would then lay the acetate sheet featuring the text onto the emulsion-coated screen and expose the whole thing to bright light; I did this outdoors, under the sunlight. After the screen had been exposed for a set time, the areas of the screen not covered by the text would turn hard. Any unhardened emulsion, I then rinsed away. This left an imprint of the text on the net. I then placed the screen on top of the canvas, and I pulled the paint along the full length of the screen using a squeegee. This pressed the color through the open areas of the stencil, imprinting the text on the canvas underneath. I would then wash the canvas to remove any residue. The canvas was now ready to be painted on.