The creation of mystery in contemporary art captures my attention quicker than anything else. For this reason, I love Jorge Usan’s work www.jorgeusan.com. What I also love about him is the fact that while his work appears intimidating, he’s a friendly guy! Love that … see for yourself.
MICHAEL: Hey Jorge, I love your work. You've been working on a lot of projects with a staff of people. Are you in Beijing? What are you working on right now? What's inspiring you?
JORGE: I work in Beijing six months out of the year. It’s where apart from doing some paintings, I develop special projects that require collaboration with engineers, artisans and musicians like Benoit Granier. Over the last six years in Beijing, I have established a close relationship with a small group of people who understand my line of work which greatly facilitates the development of multidisciplinary projects. I spend the rest of the year in Mexico where I spend the time preparing on a theoretical and technical level new, upcoming projects and in Europe where I usually show my work. Right now, I am in Nagoya, Japan working on a new piece based on ultrasound with the help of a small group of absolutely great people who are part of the technology department of Nagoya University. We are trying to create a prototype using ultrasound where we can transform "paint" a surface area without physically touching it, but that's another story that I want to be quiet for now! That's what keeps me inspired now; to be able to create a "membrane" where the magic happens without touching - "painting without paint.” What keeps me inspired is always music playing - an important part of my work.
MICHAEL: Aren't you of Mexican descent? How does someone go from Mexico to Europe to Beijing to Nagoya? You get around! What has travel taught you?
JORGE: Well! I guess one thing leads to another. I was born in Zaragoza Spain and studied art in Barcelona and London, then when I finished the studies, I made a year trip around Asia. That’s how I ended up renting a studio in Beijing eight years ago. My first trip to Mexico was for an exhibition at the Museum of the City of Queretaro and another in the Gallery Arcaute Monterrey in 2009. That was when I met my wife and I fell in love with the place. Right now, I’m in Nagoya because the project I’m working on requires the technology that these guys at Nagoya University are developing. I think one of the most wonderful things in life is traveling and meeting people of different cultures as well as to infuse other universes into your own art.
MICHAEL: Your paintings are very minimal, yet elegant. It's almost as if you want to speak using very few words and the work also seems to be rustic and somewhat raw. What are you trying to say with your paintings?
JORGE: Let me get a little philosophical on this one, because more than the desire to express something, my predominant desire is to unify the macro-universal with the micro-elemental and create through abstract forms and interactions, small universes that may be populated by the spectator.
That formal minimalism you mention is the inherent result of filtering reality through the fine sieve of ideas. The process for creating my paintings is very slow and meditated almost like a stratification process by applying layer upon layer of acrylic - layers covering the previous layers - with the passage of time, formed often of organic matter that use to apply to the background. Perhaps is this process which gives a raw look. My longing as an artist is to be able to conduct new ideas and open new roads through experimentation so that maybe someday someone will feel inspired by any of my works.
MICHAEL: Is this process for creating paintings the same as it is for working on installations or do you have to shift gears in your mind? Also, does your work ever come from a soulful or spiritual place?
JORGE: Yes, I would definitely agree with your description. I will go further to define that the mental process of creating an idea is the exact same as the act of creating a painting, the art installations or the special projects. It all starts with an idea that needs to be clarified and take shape over a long period of time. A great example can be found in my latest project that I am currently developing in Nagoya where even if the work methodology is very different, the act of creation remains very similar. It goes through periods of absolute solitude, close to states of meditation where all ideas take shape and gradually make sense. The process of creating innovative works is a multidisciplinary team effort that can only work through intuition; the work is the result of the complex experience of each team member. It is the work of a group of artists, technicians and thinkers coming from diverse disciplines that reach and poetically materialize from the original idea. During the creative process, many ideas come to mind. Some are going against each other. Creation is a time when we look at every option and make choices. All works come from the filtration of these ideas, where we will organize them to make sense. It is through a process of somehow spirituality that we can capture the essence of what we want to represent.
MICHAEL: You are a consummate artist. Do you come from an artistic family? How did you become an artist? What's your first memory of art?
JORGE: No member of my family has anything to do with art. I belong to a business family tradition, so it was not easy to make them understand my vocation as an artist. The first time I realized this vocation was when I was eleven years old and on my first visit to the hall occupied by the work of Antonio Tapies at the Museo Reina Sofia in Madrid. I remember that I was there for hours looking at those huge pictures like watching a newly discovered planet. At that time, I started to feel that reality was not enough and that was the main reason that led me to walk slowly and deeply into the world of art.
MICHAEL: What was the inspiration behind your film, Exalatitte? It's currently on the opening page of your website. What does that mean?
JORGE: “Exalatitte" is a "sculpture" that I made last year with Rui Yi Bo, an engineering professor at the Chingua University of Beijing and French composer Benoit Granier. Both are regular contributors to my multidisciplinary projects. "Exalatitte" is a piece in continuous transformation, where different forms appear and disappear in the presence of the viewer learning with each visitor. Through sensors, controllers, actuators and a laborious programming system, the sculpture assimilates not ever to repeat the same sequence of movements which in turn transform each musical theme composed by Benoit for this work. Besides the technical work, the piece has 12 carved wood appliques that give it that organic look that I always seek in my work. This piece is not easy to explain as happens usually with art and particularly with sculpture which involves movement and sound. That's why I made the video.
MICHAEL: What are you feeling when you're creating your works?
JORGE: I feel a desire to transform reality through a slow and thoughtful creative process where work itself guides you to take the next step. What I intend is that the observer of the work of art can be "transported" to another reality, see new ways and new forms interactions and be a fundamental part of its transformation.
MICHAEL: Well Jorge, You’ve transformed me through our conversation. Thanks. I love your work and keep going!
Check out Jorge’s work at www.jorgeusan.com.