“The digitized picture has broken the relationship between the picture and reality once and for all. We are entering an era when no one will be able to say whether a picture is true or false. They are all becoming beautiful and extraordinary, and with each passing day they belong increasingly to the world of advertising. Their beauty, like their truth, is slipping away from us. Soon they will really end up making us blind.”
As a studio art major in an American college, I had a professor of photography and film who told me there was a time when Da Vinci’s Mona Lisaexisted in only one place, and you had to travel a great distance to view it.
That one place was The Louvre in Paris.
Now, he said, the Mona Lisa exists everywhere, and all at once.
(Well, actually “now” was back then in 1998. He was referring to photographs and printed versions of the Mona Lisa at the time, when the internet was still just emerging, public content-wise. But I think his statement is only more true today.)
What is the difference between looking at an image of the Mona Lisa and traveling to the Louvre to see the real thing?
It’s not that one is wrong and the other is right.
But what is the difference?
And what are the possibilities or consequences of technology advancing further and further into the virtual?
What is the difference between pornography and a flesh-and-blood human relationship?
What is the difference between buying into a brand and creating your own?
What is the difference between accepting what you were taught and questioning the nature of reality?
The “Track Light” series serves to briefly introduce a number of individuals involved with the One World Artist Gallery (OWAG) from their various places around the globe.
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In this post, I talk with Spanish illustrator and painter Jesuso Ortiz.
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John: So where are you from and where do you call home these days, Jesuso?
Jesuso: I was born in the province of Córdoba, in the south of Spain… although I have been living in Málaga for almost twenty years now. I came to Málaga originally to study, and after finishing my university degree I stayed here for work. The weather and the people here are wonderful!
John: How did you first get into drawing or painting? What were your earliest influences?
Jesuso: I’ve always been interested in art. Since I was very young I liked to draw, and when I was fourteen years old I entered an art school in my hometown. My first artistic influences as a teenager were Monet and the Impressionists. What I liked about them was their use of color and the shape of the brushstrokes. I found their style very delicate and at the same time very free. A bit later my tastes changed, and I was quite inspired by the work of Andy Warhol when I found him.
John: Yeah, I think in your paintings (which I’ll ask you about later) those influences are reflected a bit. Matisse comes to mind for me.
Jesuso: Honestly, over the years I’ve been inspired by many contemporary artists. Nature also inspires me a lot. I think the world hides beauty in every corner; you just have to be awake to find it.
Jesuso: The idea of mixing illustration with photography arose spontaneously. One day I just came up with the idea of a picture and a drawing together, and when I posted it, it became very popular among my Instagram followers. So I kept experimenting on that line.
John: They’re very delicate and playful pieces. And you sell these illustrations online?
John: But your painting on the DrawBag is quite different from this. Recently you started sharing more paintings done in this style. Can you tell me more about that style of yours?
Jesuso: Yes, the painting I did on the DrawBag is totally different from the illustration we just spoke of. Actually, I only recently returned to painting in this way, and I thought it would work much better for this project.
I started out as a painter and not as an illustrator. And in my painting, I would experiment with flat and strong colors and the restraint of geometric shapes. The result was quite appealing. I recently created a new Instagram account for my paintings in this style, and I also have an upcoming exhibition.
John: I noticed a bit of writing by Alejandro Jodorowsky on your website’s homepage. I think he’s gained some wider appeal in recent years due to the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune, which isabout his pre-production work on what would have been an earlier film of the famous sci-fi novel by Frank Herbert. Has Jodorowsky been an influence to you as well?
Jesuso: Yes, Jodorowsky is an artist who I deeply admire. I’ve learned a lot listening to him and watching his movies. I like the message of awareness he sends to the world and the ways he transmits that. He uses his art to teach that problems are not outside of us… they are inside everyone. It’s the way in which you look at the world that determines what happens in your life. It’s not a good idea to blame others for everything negative that happens to us– it’s better to look at oneself and to change this.
John: Do you think that’s a message people are really receptive to these days?
Jesuso: Yes. I think that people are much more open to waking up. Many have already discovered that wealth and material well-being is very good, but it’s not enough to bring real peace to one’s life. When one starts to question many things they have previously believed to be true, it is through this that they can gain new awareness.
“In a certain sense the past is far more real, or at any rate more stable, more resilient than the present. The present slips and vanishes like sand between the fingers, acquiring material weight, only in its recollection.”
– Russian film-maker, Andrei Tarkovsky
Earlier this year I went to theMuseum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens and spent some time there trying to imagine what it was like to live in a time before the invention of film, or during a time while it was still evolving (as it still is).
It turns out that’s as difficult a trick as trying to remember what one’s experience was before acquiring language.
As I walked through the many exhibitions at the museum, I reflected on how the ubiquitous nature of film in modern culture has us forget how remarkable a trick film actually is:
When watching a film, our memory and connecting of individual images (proceeding rapidly before us) creates a perception (or illusion) of a coherent visual narrative and reality.
When the child was a child, it didn’t know that it was a child, everything was soulful, and all souls were one.
When the child was a child, it had no opinion about anything, had no habits, it often sat cross-legged, took off running, had a cowlick in its hair, and made no faces when photographed.
– from Song of Childhood by Peter Handke
Memories of our past are similar to film in that they allow for an illusion to be created as well. This is the illusion of coherence and meaning, when in reality our memories of the past are subjectively stitched together by our consciousness according to the fears, desires, biases, worldviews, beliefs, and such. accumulated in one’s lifetime.
Memories are given what meaning we assign them, which is then firmed up into our own unique and personal story… for better or for worse.
This is true for all of us, except for those rare individuals who cannot create or recall memories. Their experience is closer to a film-goer who is only able to remember the most recent ten seconds of the film.
Individual frames… images… stitched together become a film.
Individual moments… experiences… stitched together become a life.
This is the remarkable trick of human consciousness.
A song Bono wrote about after first seeing his then-deceased mother in an early home movie.
But instead what remains when there are no secrets remaining.
During my final year of graduate actor training at the University of Delaware’s former Professional Theatre Training Program, I took up brush and ink painting. During rehearsals, when not acting, I would quickly paint scenes from the production I was part of on cold-press watercolor paper no larger than a postcard.
Of the many hundreds of sketch-paintings I did, there were only two that painted themselves.
These two remain sacred to me, and reminders of the gateway before which I stood many times… never crossing the threshhold fully, though poking my head through unknowingly from time to time.