Antonio Llanas is a Spanish artist who creates fantastic paintings www.antoniollanas.com that are minimal, yet multi-layered and quite elegant. We had a little difficulty communicating, but Antonio insisted that we complete the interview and I’m glad that we did. Check it out …
MICHAEL: Antonio! I love your work. Your paintings and mixed media works seem to have quiet notes and maybe even secret messages in them. When I look at them, I feel like you are maybe whispering something to me and other to people who see them. It's maybe something that is just between us. Shhh! Am I right?
ANTONIO: Indeed. This is a way of artistic experimentation with the premise that every work is not always clearly visible, but still a self-portrait. The surface of the canvas sometimes mirrors the artist and their knowledge. Where you look speaks for them and for the world. With this concept, I do a series of self-portraits in which I show various items such as manuscripts on cool Eastern and Western philosophy. I use erased texts and transfer texts to the canvas by mechanical silkscreen.
MICHAEL: Some of your works seem to have layers.
ANTONIO: The first significant layers function as compositional elements and some have interwoven binary codes. These codes are copied from photographs taken through a microscope and I also use different photographs from different periods of life. These iconographic elements overlap and allude to the dimensions of life and different ways of representing reality. I pursue projects and create works that are ambiguous and open to possibilities and new arguments. My pictures are charged with emotion, opinion and lyrical intensity. Ultimately, what begins as an experiment based on this idea of self portrait becomes a picture of the spirit of the moment in which we live.
MICHAEL: When you are creating your work, are you in a very quiet, peaceful place or do you prefer music and television and activity and noise around you?
ANTONIO: Indeed my studio is small, quiet and less traveled. That allows me to isolate myself from everyday worries. I always use classical music background since it allows me to achieve a high degree of concentration. To give the best of myself, I must be fully integrated with the work and it can become an extension of myself.
MICHAEL: Where in Spain are you? Are you okay there? Should I be worried? I keep hearing about how so many young people in Spain do not have jobs. Can people who are not rich afford to buy art in Spain?
ANTONIO: I live in Almeria, a province at the end of Andalusia in Southern Spain. This place is far from everywhere and has an absolutely provincial cultural life, but its climate and scenery are great too. This is where I work for a living as an art teacher. In Spain, you cannot live on art especially if you live far from the centers of power.
Unfortunately, all of the talk is true. Our young people have to emigrate forcefully to survive. I'm talking about young researchers with masters degrees! The best educated generation in our history has to emigrate because of our rulers. In Spain, nobody is buying contemporary art and the rich buy established artists, preferably dead or about to die since this will raise your quote. The middle classes have lost a lot purchasing power.
Anyway, where I live I have never been able to live on art sold. I work from pure love of art, but seriously my professional expectations? My only hope is that after my death a portion is donated to the Spanish state and this is put it in value and from there my children can profit from my legacy. Maybe I will have become an established artist and dead, which a lot of wealthy collectors in this country like! Ha, ha, ha …
MICHAEL: What are your days like?
ANTONIO: I make my living working as an art teacher at a high school in the mornings. From five in the afternoon I start my work as an artist in the studio, my real passion.
MICHAEL: Why is art important? What do you try to teach your students about art? Do they listen?
ANTONIO: Art is important because it embodies the spirit of the time, but it is also a discipline of thought and philosophy and a mirror of knowledge. I attempt to convey the passion to students to know, to engage in dialogue with works of art and to unravel its mysteries and fully experience the aesthetic enjoyment.
MICHAEL: Finally Antonio, When people look at your work, what do you want them to see? Does your work have a message?
ANTONIO: Of course, with my work I have a message, but it’s a message that is to be contemplated amid silence; the paradox is one of the keys to my discourse in which I oppose various seemingly unrelated images to get the picture is a space of intimate reflection.
I wish that the people who see my paintings tune into the ideas that drive me to do them. I hope they enjoy the aesthetic configuration of the work and for a moment, their souls and mine connect and they feel what I have felt.
MICHAEL: Thanks Antonio. Cool chat.
Check out Antonio and his work at www.antoniollanas.com.