I find most artists I interview, but Lorenzo Belenguer is a London-based artist who found me on social media. He’s a true artist http://lorenzobelenguer.com/ in the sense that he creates timeless art out of found objects. I also love his minimal drawings where are luxuriously minimal. Here’s our cool chat …
“I'd like people to appreciate beauty where they thought there wasn't any, like in a piece of rusty metal. To rethink and re-question issues about the reality we're living in at the moment.”
MICHAEL: Lorenzo, You obviously love art from both the artistic and business sides. We'll cover it all. But first, I love your drawings. They're so minimal, deceptively simple and very elegant. What's the inspiration behind them?
LORENZO: Thank you. I'm glad you like them. The drawings are based on fashion ads from magazines. The model becomes part of the product, a commodity. The intention is seen as soon as the product is removed and the human side of the model is "recovered." One can see that they have a gaze and emotions and feelings attached to it. I try to draw with as few lines as possible in order to allow the figure to breathe. We are bombarded by images on a daily basis and I like leaving as much white space as possible to relax and to meditate. Drawing the gaze is very important to me as it is the door to the soul. Once the face has been drawn, I will throw some splashes of colour in primary colours, yellow and blue. I like part of my works to be uncontrolled, that's life in a way. Part of our existence is outside of our control and I want to reflect that on my oil drawings.
MICHAEL: The drawings also seem so contemporary yet timeless. It doesn't seem like they'll ever go out of style. How do you achieve this?
LORENZO: I think that's the power of minimalism. As soon as you remove what is not needed and only keep the basics, time becomes obsolete. It transgresses time, prejudices, emotional baggage, beyond any preconceptions. It's the constant challenge I face when I draw; how to make art that will remain fresh forever with as few lines as possible. If I manage to do that, I'm very satisfied.
MICHAEL: You also make cool sculptural objects from found items. Where do you find these things and why do you this?
LORENZO: I find these objects from anywhere and everywhere: a skip, a back garden, in the streets ... I feel more like a vulture searching for the next object. Once I've found it, I invest lots of time in how I'm going to present it. I find metal, particularly when it's rusty, exquisitely beautiful and love the contrast with the chunks of oil paint in primary colours. Also, I'm fascinated by objects with a history behind them. They were used before. Why did the owner decide to reject them at some point? At which moment had they become useless? Was the owner happy or unhappy? How and when was that scratch was made? The object contains a series of unanswered questions. It remains a mystery.
MICHAEL: What have you learned about using things that other people just throw out?
LORENZO: That we throw away far too much, far too often. My mother used to tell me that in a village of 6,500 inhabitants, there was no rubbish collection. Everything was re-used or recycled. Throwing away things was taboo. Although in today’s society, it's very difficult to reach 100%, we should reconsider many of the things we just throw away. I enjoy taking a piece of rusty metal from the streets that goes overlooked, adding bits of paint to it, presenting it in the best possible way in an art gallery and making people stop and appreciate the beauty of the material. In a way, the same object goes from being ignored to being appreciated and valued as it was before.
MICHAEL: Lorenzo, I'm a little concerned, but tell me about your so-called, “Cocaine” works. What's that all about?
LORENZO: The Cocaine Series started as a concern for a situation that is damaging and destroying whole societies in all parts of the globe. The trafficking of illegal drugs is making parts of cities and countries as “no-go” areas and killing innocent people. Although I don't support the consumption of cocaine, I'm aware that as a user of another drug (alcohol) I'm not in a position of judging other people. My great preoccupation is about the children and families that are unable to carry on normal lives because they live in areas where the drug is being trafficked. The total ban of drugs has not worked and there's a need to find an alternative way of dealing with it. The Cocaine Series is a way to raise awareness and to open up the debate that no one wants to talk about.
MICHAEL: I love your large, found, metal fence works. How do you get them to hold together and remain frozen as sculptures?
LORENZO: I use different methods to do so as I never weld them; I prefer to stick to the minimalist aesthetic. One of them is to use just one sheet of metal and to blend it several times like in Object 5. It creates a piece based on different layers of metal and void. On another occasions, I use a bit of wire, but as little as possible. Finally, I might use of white cement to hold it together and as white background like a painting to enhance the beauty of the metal.
MICHAEL: You were once an art dealer and operated an art gallery. Would you ever go back to doing that again? What are the ups and downs of running an art gallery? Did you enjoy it? I would think you were always worried about sales and money. I have a difficult time getting art dealers to be honest about this.
LORENZO: Rather than an art dealer, I was the director of an exhibition space run as a cooperative of artists in agreement with the local council in London. Although I was rather keen on the artists selling, because it allows them to make more art, there were no sales targets and no one felt pressured to buy. The artists paid a membership fee and we didn't take commissions on sales making the artworks more affordable. We could do that because the local council allows us to use the space for free. If you have to pay high rents and lots of employees, I understand that there's a huge pressure to make money. Running a gallery makes you understand the huge amount of time and money invested in each show. When I'm invited to exhibit, I always do my best to facilitate with the gallerist. I prefer to concentrate on my career as an artist, you can't do both well at the same time, but I wouldn't mind curating a show in the near future. I enjoyed it very much, although I prefer making art rather than the organizing and curating.
MICHAEL: How did you go from Spain to London? Do you come from an artistic family?
LORENZO: Before going to London, I had lived in Paris for a while. The main reason to come to London was initially to learn English and to visit another country. Then I fell in love with London and I'm very happy living here. You meet people from all nationalities, backgrounds, etc., and it's very enriching and stimulating. London is enjoying a Golden Age at this moment and I feel privileged to witness it from the inside. I don't come from an artistic family, but we all have great sensibility to beauty. I'm the one who has taken it further.
MICHAEL: London is enjoying a Golden Age? Do you feel and see that in the art world? What's happening over there?
LORENZO: I think three key figures helped to put London at the centre of the art world today: Damien Hirst and the Young British Artist group, Nicolas Serota as director of the four Tate Museums in London, especially Tate Modern (over 5 million visitors) and Charles Saatchi, the collector. London has managed to attract artists from across the European Union thanks in part to easy access and artists from all around the world. It's a city hungry for what’s new and is in constant transformation. I'm constantly attending and participating in events where we feel history is being made and it's very exciting.
MICHAEL: The art world is still a very tiny niche in the world. Most people in the world may not even visit a museum and certainly won't buy contemporary art. What do you think could or should be done to widen the audience for contemporary art?
LORENZO: I was invited to a similar debate by The Guardian during the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. It was exploring the huge success that sports enjoy in the media and with the general public. I think that perhaps the very best thing is that you don't need to have a degree in art history to enjoy a show even if it's contemporary. It's a visual experience and therefore, everybody is entitled to have an opinion and to be respected. I also think we need more media-friendly roles as you have in sports. Everybody knows David Beckham and many other sports stars. Hardly anybody knows about established artists or museum directors. I think we, the art professionals, need to be more accessible to the media and know how to talk to the camera in a friendly and easy-to-understand way.
MICHAEL: Finally Lorenzo, What's the purpose of art? Also, what do you want people to see and take away when they look at your work?
LORENZO: I believe that the purpose of art is to elevate people, to make them think in a different way, to question things, to contemplate life and to meditate about eternal issues. Other times, it’s just about having a good time. Or even both. The job of the artist is to point at things that the society might be missing.
I'd like people to appreciate beauty where they thought there wasn't any, like in a piece of rusty metal. To rethink and re-question issues about the reality we're living in at the moment. Also, to spend a relaxing time contemplating art and hopefully having some sort of dialogue with it.
MICHAEL: Thanks Lorenzo. Cool chat. Please keep in touch. I want to know how you're doing.
LORENZO: Thank you, Michael, for your time and such stimulating and thought-provoking conversation. I very much enjoyed it. I'll keep you informed and will send you information about my current show with Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and many of the established artists in the UK now.
Check out Lorenzo Belenguer at http://lorenzobelenguer.com/.