Fernando, congratulations for winning the Abstract Art award of the Artzine Prize 2018! Your abstract piece Animalia was the most voted by the prize jury in its category. What reasons took you to choose this piece to enter the prize?
I am currently working on a series of paintings that will be exhibited at David Lolly Gallery in May and this was the first large format of the series. I decided to submit it to the competition because I felt that it contains many aspects of my current practice, but more importantly, because I wanted people to experience this image in an international platform. I felt strongly that Animalia could contribute to the competition in a positive way
Animalia is part of your series “In the beginning”. Can you tell us the story behind this series, and the meaning of this particular piece?
This is a painting about a world before us, before words, it comes from an universe of creatures in an environment inhabited by shadows where light is emerging. Animalia aims to convey a sense of space, primeval sound and mystery. The painting started with a vague emotion of imagining a world before humans and developed to become a personal statement. I was searching for an image that could convey these ideas whilst creating some sort of beauty.
You started your artistic formation in the late 1980’s, spent some time in Los Angeles and San Francisco, then moved to London where you had your studio for four years, and finally settled in Dorset where you still live. How would you say each of those places and the way you experienced them have influenced the artist you are nowadays?
There are many kinds of artists but perhaps experiences are crucial and a common denominator for all of us. We travel through life with wide open eyes to see the world whilst also looking inside to find new territories to develop our individual vision. My experiences in California were intense and informative. I knew that I was starting a never ending journey and it was exciting to exhibit there. I will never forget the fear of riding a bicycle in the middle of the night around Venice beach, breaking an expensive jardinière in the house of a well known actor in Malibu or the sound of the sirens of the Golden Gate bridge during foggy nights. It was a world of possibilities, but I needed to come back to Europe.
My wife Ellen then open the doors of London for me where I balanced my life between going to see her playing with the best orchestras in the world in fashionable places and my low pay job in the trendy Brick Lane. The East End at that point was heaving with “soon to be famous” artists and it was always interesting to meet some of the most exciting people in town such as Tracy Emin, Gary Hume, Chis Ofili or even Gilbert & George. It was a true artistic centre where high culture, bagels and curries coexisted naturally. I loved having my studio in Hackney where I met many other artists and the gallerist Stephen Rosenberg from Rosenberg & Kaufman gallery in New York where soon I would present my series “Paintings of the Floating World” for a solo show.
However, I have always dreamt to live in the countryside and moving to Dorset was wonderful. This beautiful land makes more sense when we experience LA downtown, the Bay Area energy or the excitement and power of London. These fields are truly mysterious as they offer a timeless view of nature and the mystery of ancient life. My art is a combination of all this and the need to give form to the way I feel, from the inside to the outside of life itself.
“I truly believe in the immense power of painting to reveal the deepest mysteries of the human condition. I paint to understand the world around me, discovering unknown territories full of meaning. Painting gives me the opportunity to see reality with clean eyes. The distinction between abstraction and figurative art has no relevance for me; all art is real, based upon our physical dimension and the endless current of our imagination.”Fernando Velázquez
The motifs of your work revolve around subjects such as human condition and the landscapes of the mind, spirit and soul, light and shadows, and nature amongst others. What inspires you to create your work, and what is the ultimate purpose of your art?
Art in general and painting in particular is a reflection of what we are as people. Human condition fascinates me as it implies brutality, beauty and spirituality all at the same time. I feel extremely privileged to have been touched by art and I cannot imagine life without it. My ultimate aim as an artist is to move people, to inspire others through my work.
For me, art should be like a wave that travels through time and space, creating more waves as it moves throughout the world. Inspiring people is a powerful thing that comes from being inspired ourselves.
As an established and internationally recognised artist with an extense artistic career, what is your feeling about the current situation of the arts world and what do you think are the biggest challenges and artist has to face nowadays?
We live in a world where art has been contaminated by the markets, speculation and confusion. We don't know what is really art and what is not. Technology is changing the way we access and process information and new generations of artists are challenging the very limits of art, as it should be. I have seen throughout my career hard times for the fine arts and new waves of painters revendicating the power of painting as a valid contemporary way of expression. I have seen irony, repackaging of styles and a legion of followers of the latest fashion, but one thing has been consistent for me, the need to be true to our vision, to our inner truth, whatever that might be.
For me, art is transcendental. Paintings should contain life that ignites inside the viewer, it should ask questions more than answers, it should reflect our time and beyond. Artists face many challenges, they always have, as most people do. Many feel the weight of tradition, the pressure of being current, they suffer rejection and failure, like in many other paths of life, However, the true artist, as I see it, will never stop exploring the very essence of life, isolated or not, successful or not. The key for the future of painting resides in authenticity, emotion and technical ability to create a personal universe.
Fernando, you are from Sevilla (Spain) but live in Dorset (UK). What do you enjoy the most about living in Dorset and what do you miss the most from your hometown?
We live in a beautiful old house in West Dorset, a beautiful county with fascinating places. I love the countryside, the sound of the owl, the stars and the floating moon over the fields. I love the smell of the fire places, the sound of the trees in the garden and the deep dark nights of winter.
We lived in Alcala del Rio, a village 15 kilometres from the city but we left Andalucia when I was seven years old. I never lived there and when we go back to Seville to visit I am amazed by the beauty and energy of the place. I feel sometimes like a visitor but I also consider myself lucky to be able to rediscover Seville as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I am proud of being born in Seville and I never stop spreading our culture as much as I can!
If you could choose anywhere in the world to exhibit your art, where would that be and why?
I’ve recently had the fortune of exhibiting in Venice, Bogota, London and Krakow, providing me with wonderful opportunities to reach different audiences in different parts of the world, but my dream is to exhibit in contrasting places of calm and solitude, churches and caves, great modern cities and ancient temples. I would love to exhibit somewhere in the mountains outside Tokyo, hospitals and museums.
I want to see my work in permanent collections where many can experience the work. I want to contribute to art with a genuine sense of gratitude, just to be present in many different contexts and cultures. Ambitious, yes I know!
Which art currents do you find most inspiring and which artists would you point as artistic references?
There are two many to mention! I continuously study the History of Art, revising my own perception of things as I become older. I continue to learn from so many artists, periods and styles but music inspires me deeply, from the broken glass sound of Ligeti’s strings to the mysteries of Berg, Stockhausen and Ades. I love the unique universe of Bjorg and the power and light of traditional folk music from all over the world.
Some people have spoken about Turner as one of my masters, as well as the Spanish school of painting and the informalism of Zao-Wu-Ki as references to my work. I have been referred to as “a new classic painter” or a “lyrical abstract artist” whilst Fiona Robinson, Royal West Academician writes: “Velazquez’s paintings have echoes of Goya, Rembrandt and Francis Bacon in their uncompromising truthfulness to the process of painting and to the Baroque art of Caravaggio in the use of chiaroscuro…” So many references that inform who I am, but hopefully my own voice will shine through!
What projects are you immersed in at the moment?
I am working on a new series, exploring the way I approach each painting. In the past, I have immersed myself in the act of painting, entering every piece as someone will enter a cave with a torch, shining the way in as we explore the space ahead of us. The final results have been a combination of factors working together to achieve a painting that resonates within me.
Now, I am trying to focus upon the essence of ideas and emotions, aiming to create more precise representations of those ideas and emotions. I am creating spaces where light and shadows are suggesting form, movement and atmosphere and I am interesting to discover what is inside this universe of forms...
Where can we find Fernando Velázquez when not painting?
With my wife and my daughters Lili and Mina, at home. Playing cards with my mother in Seville, eating tapas in the mountains of Aracena in Huelva, at the National Gallery in London, teaching children about the wonders of art in Sherborne or looking at the sky at night. Life is everywhere.